2013 = A Fun Year for Sooner Fans…

2013 = A Fun Year for Sooner Fans…

Every Sooner fan begins the season believing that the Sooners will be playing for another national championship. Unfortunately the ugly truth of the matter is that 2013 is not likely to be one of those years.    While OU fans with crimson colored glasses may not want to hear this, a 10-2 regular season for the Sooners in 2013 should be considered a smashing success.    A 10-2 year would also put the Sooners on course in 2014 for a return to the days of being in the national title hunt.    For all OU fans it will be important for us to sit back and enjoy the ride.   While 2013 will be a rebuilding year, rebuilding years can also be a lot of fun.     Keeping this fact in its proper perspective, rebuilding years are critical to the long term success of any program.  Another 9-3/8-4 season would be tolerable, but to be honest another one of those years will put the Sooners further behind the SEC and the College Football Playoff (CFP) 8-ball.   It will be much easier to convince top notch recruits to make the move to Norman with a 10-2 year that finishes on an upswing. 

Possibly, a history lesson will help OU Sooner fans deal with this issue.   Fans must keep in mind that even at a football crazy place like OU there have been lean years coached by legendary coaches.  A program with OU’s status can even endure two lean years in a row, as long as there is light at the end of the tunnel.    Even the legendary Bud Wilkinson has his off years.    After putting together winning streaks of 31 and 47 games Bud had down years in 1960, and 1961.  The Sooners bounced back in ’62 to win the conference title.   Same goes for Barry Switzer who suffered through down years in ’81,’82, and ’83 with four loss seasons each of those years only to see the program rebound in ’84 with a conference title and a national title in 1985. After last season’s down year, a solid season in 2013 can go a long way in providing a spring board into the playoff era that begins in 2014.  At the same time, this team will be a work in progress and patience on the part of fans will be necessary.   

Speaking of rebuilding, Phil Steele has OU ranked #7 out of the 10 Big 12 teams and #95 in the country in terms of returning starters.   Adding to OU’s dilemma is the fact that OU will be breaking in a new quarterback for the first time in years.   While talent abounds at the quarterback position in the likes of Blake Bell, Kendal Thompson, and Trevor Knight, these guys will still lack real game experience.   This lack of experience is likely to be evident against formidable road foes early in the season.    I know OU has had the Horns number for a while, but Texas is loaded this year, enough so that the Horns are likely to overcome the Mack factor in this early season game.    Fans should not be disappointed if the Sooners stub their toe at South Bend and/or Dallas.   The key on these days will not be who wins the game, but instead the manner in which the Sooners handle themselves in a hostile environment.      The September/October games will allow one the three aspiring quarterbacks to separate himself from the pack and take the leadership role for the remainder of the season.    With momentum peaking at the just the right time, successful forays into Waco and Manhattan will be just what the doctor ordered as the Sooners move toward that pivotal final game in Stillwater.  The overrated Cowboys will be prime for an upset and the Blake Bell-led Sooners will retake command of this series win a resounding win in Stillwater.       

There are numerous encouraging signs in Norman these days including positive reviews from coaching changes.   Changes were badly needed as the Sooners had become complacent and fat under the old regime.   The players have bought into the changes and evidence of this fact will show more and more as the season moves along.    Recruiting has improved as well as 24 of the Rivals100 list still have the Sooners on their list.   This number is substantially higher than in previous years and could spell a major break-through for the Sooners if OU can show program momentum this year.  More importantly, the talent on hand will be inexperienced, but solid as the Sooners have harvested a top 15 class two of the past three years.   Granted a top 15 class is not the OU standard, but it is still an excellent starting point.      

My suggestion for OU fans is to stay positive in spite of early season challenges.   The Sooners will end up the mid October swing no less than 6-2.   With Blake Bell getting more and more reps. the team will take off over the last half of the season heading into its Stillwater showdown.   In anticipation of a big win on December 7, I would suggest that OU fans go online and buy up the remaining OSU season tickets in 302 and 333.   Sell the extra single tickets to the fans from K-State, TCU, and Baylor and keep the tickets to the OSU game.  For a Sooner fan, this move will end up being a bargain as the Blake Bell-led Sooners will crush the Cowboys on their home field.   The Sooners will be follow up the Bedlam win with an impressive bowl win and be back on track for the 2014 College Football Playoff (CFP) year.

Buckle up Sooner fans for a fun run in 2013…

Be Careful What You Ask For…OSU Elevated in Status…

Two years ago as college football as we had come to know it was at the height of its conference realignment fervor.   Oklahoma and Texas leaders had several options to choose from. 

  • Join the SEC conference…  
  • Petition for membership to the Big 10
  • Create a western district of the Pac 12 with OSU and Texas schools.   
  • Expand the Big 12 Conference by taking Clemson and Florida State from  the ACC.  
  • Stay put and create a third viable conference program to go along with OU and Texas. 

Here is what happened.   

Joining the SEC conference was not seen as an attractive move by OU and UT, but both programs shied away from the competition.   With both schools tending to play soft non-conference schedules with the exception of one marquee game, the need to play tough games week in and week out was not attractive to school officials.   Both Mack and Bob saw their $5 million dollar paychecks disappearing before their eyes with the SEC scenario so they lobbied hard against the move.   With the SEC wanting nothing to do with the Longhorn Network and the Texas ego, the SEC deal was dead. 

Next up for Oklahoma and Texas was a possible move to the Big 10.  Texas with its membership in the academically prestigious Association of American Universities, its multi-billion dollar endowment and research bank accounts, was considered a shoe-in for Big 10 membership, OU not so much.   While David Boren has improved the academic standing of the university over the last couple of decades, the starting point for the university from the dark ages was hard to overcome.   With no AAU in the near future for the university, OU was at the mercy of Texas convincing snooty Big 10 presidents to bring their little brother along with them.   Making matters worse was what to do with OU’s little brother, OSU.    The Big 10 wanted nothing to do with Oklahoma State, its poor academic rating, its lack of football tradition and of course Boone Pickens.    At this point OU and UT were forced to look elsewhere. 

Then, the Pac 12 came calling.  While the Pac 12 has some of the highest academically ranked universities in the country in Stanford, California, USC, UCLA, and Washington, it also has a number of universities that range in the tier two schools more in line OSU, and Texas Tech.   Commissioner Larry Scott put out strong feelers about including not only Texas and Oklahoma in the conference’s future plans, but also taking the rest of the Oklahoma and Texas teams.   The Pac 12 salivated over the possibility of creating a western division of the Pac 12 mega conference.  With the 2014 College Football Playoffs on the horizon this alignment would allow the Pac 12 to go toe to toe with the SEC.  Everything appeared to be progressing quite nicely until Texas ego represented by the Longhorn Network broke this deal.   The Pac 12 deal was dead.  

Finally, possibly the best of all possibilities came calling.   The Big 12 could consolidate forces with the two ACC malcontents Florida State and Clemson.   At the time, the ACC was on life-support and prime for the picking. The move to add Florida State and Clemson to the Big 12 along with Louisville, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh made perfect sense.   With these additions, the conference would have its eastern division teams to play alongside West Virginia.  The move would also create a mega conference to go up against the Big 10, SEC and Pac 12.  Again as conference officials fiddled, the idea burned and the move was lost.   The ACC made it to its feet and got stronger by adding Louisville, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame on a part time basis.  This sin of inactivity was possibly the worst of all. With all other options off the table, conference officials became desperate and embraced the stay put option that will make OSU a conference and national player on a yearly basis.  

According to the local newspaper and multiple preseason football magazines, the covert mission conjured a few years back by Big 12 leaders is well on its way to fruition.  Big 12 Conference officials realizing that the Big 12 would not survive without additional marquee teams decided that Oklahoma State with its mega donor was in the best position to make this happen.   With the support of OU’s David Boren and UT’s DeLoss Dodds, the fix was in.   OSU would join OU and Texas as the third leg of the Big 12’s Triple Crown.   Apparently, the move is ahead of schedule as the Cowboys are picked by many to win the Big 12 in 2013.  Athlon magazine picks the Cowboys to represent the conference in its BCS Fiesta bowl with OU and Texas fighting it out for 2nd and the Alamo Bowl.  What a difference a decade makes.   The thought of OSU standing atop the Big 12 would have been laughable just a short time ago. 

With chief negotiator Boone Pickens doing his best corporate raider impression, the Cowboys are well on their way to national prominence.   While the Pickens involvement was to be expected, few would have believed that the OU and UT’s brain thrust would become a party to such goings on. 

A look back to the days of the Nebraska and Texas A&M exit from the conference is needed.   The loss of these name teams plunged as the conference reputation and RPI rating began a free fall.  With no contingency plan in place, conference leaders were in desperation mode.    OU officials had one interest in mind, that of keeping Texas and Oklahoma State as conference opponents.    Various options were vetted but in the end, the powers that be decided that the best bet for the future of the conference was to make OSU a legitimate player.  

Upon closer scrutiny, the decision by OU and UT officials was a fairly easy one to make.   A third power team could not come from the northern conference teams of Kansas, Kansas State and Iowa State.  In Texas, Baylor and Texas Tech were not viable candidates either.   No one was certain about the long term staying power of newbies West Virginia and TCU, so the choice was clear.   Oklahoma State was the obvious choice due to its location between two population centers and proximity to the fertile Texas recruiting fields.   With billionaire oilman Boone Pickens underwriting the venture, the deal was struck to make it happen.  Pickens saw the move as a win-win proposition for him and for OSU.   Given the surge in OSU football over the past decade it appears that conference leaders, OSU and yes, OU and UT appear to have struck gold.  At the same time it might be fun to see what might have been. 

While the Big 12 conference was saved, the remedy may prove worse than the disease for OU fans in the long run. In the end it will be important for Cowboy and Sooners fans to give credit where credit is due.    Thanks to the outstanding leadership at OU, life in the Big 12 and in Oklahoma will be much more interesting over the next decade.  The Big 12 will have its third power team, OU and Texas will have a natural rival and the conference will survive.    In the end moves like this one do not survive the best interest of Oklahoma sports and the OU fan.    OU leaders should be more careful about
what they ask for, they may just get it.