Its still early, but…  

Like most OU fans I find myself wishing for the Sugar Bowl bliss days…The top of the mountain feelings that came with the biggest Sooner win in years that culminated in one of the strongest recruiting season finishes in years was oh so sweet.   Making matters even better was the fact that the strong 2014 finish paved the way for best early commitment recruiting season in years.    

Traditionally, OU is not part of the early commitment craze, choosing instead to bide its time through the evaluation and offer phase.  Even with the rest of the world getting on board with the fad, the Sooners have hung tight.   With the euphoria of the Sugar Bowl dripping like honey, Sooners prospects could not help themselves as one after made their commitment to the Sooners.   Almost overnight OU had lined up top flight recruits for the 2015 class.    Life was good…

Sooner fans were ecstatic as this was unchartered territory for a Bob Stoops coached team.   Leading the way was home-grown and four-star product Josh Wariboko.  Buoyed by early returns  Sooner fans saw the start of something big as more high profile commitments were expected in-and-around the spring game.   With a record crowd accentuating the positive tone of spring game, Sooner fans hit the recruiting wire services expecting word of an avalanche of new commitments.  This anticipation was quickly disposed of as the Sooners hit the recruiting skids. 

Unfortunately, the avalanche of spring game recruits never materialized …Adding insult to injury was the news that Josh Wariboko had de-committed.  Then things went from bad to worse as OU lost four-star defensive lineman Du’Vonta Lampkin.  While Lampkin is saying all the right things about still keep OU on his radar, that dog won’t hunt.  Once the SEC/A&M bug bites a player, it is pretty much over.    Wariboko may be a different story with his proximity to Norman and his parent connection to the school.   He may still end up a Sooner regardless of his brother’s situation.  Only time will tell in both cases, but regardless it appears that the Sugar Bowl highlight reel may have lost its luster with recruits.     

For Sooner fans this can be frustrating.   At the same time it is important to keep in mind that this is business as usual for Stoops recruiting.   There is no need to panic as the Sooners traditionally start slow only to pick up steam during the season and tend to surge at season’s end.    Last year the Sooners were languishing in the 30/40 range early in the recruiting season.   With a late season surge accentuated by the Sugar Bowl the Sooners signed the likes of five star recruits Michiah Quick and Joe Mixon, and shot to a top ten finish.   All of the sudden the Sooners were back both on the field and on the recruiting trails. 

Don’t get me wrong putting early commitment hay into the barn would be nice, but that would not be the Bob Stoops way.   Bottom line is this…Being the conservative coach that he is, he prefers to line up potential signees and then secure them with a great season.  This process does not always work to perfection as the Sooners slipped both on the field and in recruiting wars a few years back.  Last year the Stoops strategy worked to perfection and this year OU and Stoops have a chance to use this tact to its advantage again.    Many times early season commitments don’t pan out…Recent Texas recruiting classes are prime examples of this fact.   Same goes for being too patient… The Stoops way is the later and sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. 

In 2014, the Sooners will apparently take the wait and see approach as they attempt to hang on to top tier prospects in hopes that as an undefeated season followed by a final four appearance will create an end of recruiting season surge.   As usual Bob has left himself and Sooner fans little wiggle room in the recruiting matter.   So be it, the ball is in Bob’s court to make it happen.  Armed with the best team in years and a ready-made schedule, a continuation of last year’s end of year recruiting surge is in the works..

At the same time it will be important for Stoops to keep in mind that anything less than a playoff run will not get it done.   An appearance in the so-called Champions Bowl against the SEC runner up will not impress the likes of Quick and Mixon.   Just like Oklahoma, there is only one Alabama and last year’s Sugar Bowl win reflected that magic.   Beating a Georgia in the Champions Bowl will not be the same as beating an Alabama.  

I second guessed Stoops last time around and so this time I will give the coach the benefit of the doubt.  A playoff season capped by a national championship game appearance will land the Sooners another top ten class.

The fun part will be to check back next February to see if the Stoops strategy holds up. 

 

Rivals national top Ten and Big 12 recruiting rankings… commitments in parenthesis…

  1. Alabama (15)
  2. Penn State (12)
  3. Clemson (11)
  4. Tennessee (11)
  5. Texas A&M (8)
  6. LSU (9)
  7. Florida State (9)
  8. Auburn (12)
  9. Nebraska (10)
  10. Miami (11)

 

14. Texas (8)

16. Baylor (8)

19. TCU (9)

20. West Virginia (10)

30. Texas Tech (6)

31. Oklahoma (3)

43. Oklahoma State (4)

59. Kansas State (1)

 

 

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Red White game = Stadium Expansion

 

In case anyone needed to be reminded as to what football program owns this state one need to look to the attendance figures in Norman and Stillwater the past two Saturdays.  In Stillwater, 2500 fans compared to 43,500 in Norman.  While many will suggest the momentum that is captivating the Sooner Nation can be traced to the Bedlam magic of last November or the Bourbon Street miracle, I suggest it is much deeper than that.

I suggest the momentum that the football program is experiencing began two years ago when Bob Stoops reset the start button by booting several players from the team.  This move hurt for a while possibly causing the program to take a temporary step back, but over time the move paid off with improved player attitude and work ethic.  Stoops followed that move with an even tougher one as he made personnel changes that impacted long time friendships.   Eventually, the moves paid off and manifested themselves in the form of upset wins over OSU and Alabama.

For those of us who have seen the dark days of OU football, last Saturday’s performance on the field and in the stands was reassuring for a number of reasons.  The fact that the Sooners appear to be back is the first reason. The second piece of good news is that with this kind of fan success, it will be harder and harder for university regents to put off the inevitable, a stadium expansion.  I suspect that many of the fans at the Red-White game on Saturday are probably newbies or fans that have come on board in recent months. It is possible, for many of the fans present on Saturday, this may have been their first time to see the Sooners in person.  OU needs to capture the moment and get these fans on the season ticket wait list.  By promising stadium expansion and additional seats, thousands of fans can be added to the list.   

Why expand an 80,000 seat stadium, you may ask…First off, we need to keep up with the Jones’.  Every Big 12 team, with the exception of Kansas, has had major renovation projects in the last ten years.  OSU, TCU, and Baylor have built new stadiums and recruiting rival, Texas A&M, is in the midst of a $450 million project to create a 110,000 seat monstrosity.   For clear evidence of the value of a building program one must simply look at the Kansas and Baylor football programs, one is flourishing with its new on-campus stadium while the other is dying on the vine.

Recruits take notice of these things.  It can be certain that OU coaches made recruits aware of stadium expansion rumors during the most recent recruiting season.  Rumors need to be replaced by action.

One last thing on this topic.  Historically, OU stadium expansions have coincided with national championship seasons.  Given the make-up of this team, its coaching staff and a made for national championship  schedule, history may repeat itself as the Sooners capture another national championship and embark on another stadium expansion.   An eighth national championship followed by an announcement of a $300 million stadium renovation project, would make Owen Field the premier stadium in America…it would be awfully sweet. 

Below are national championship years accompanied by stadium expansions–

  • National Championship years – 1950/1955/1956 = seating expansion from 32,000 to 55,647
  • National Championship years – 1974/1975 = seating expansion from 61,836 to 71,187
  • National Championship year –   1985 = seating expansion from 71,187 to 75,004
  • National Championship year –   2000 = seating expansion from 72,765 to 81,207
  • National Championship year –   2014 = seating expansion from 82,112 to  ?????

 

2014 Preseason Rankings…

It is never too early for preseason list and Scout.com has released this one that coincides with spring football practices.   Preseason rankings always create interest for OU fans, but this year is extra special.    With the taste of Bedlam and Sugar Bowl wins still in the mouths of OU fans 2014 cannot get here quick enough. 

 

I suggest that there is another reason for OU fans to emphasize preseason rankings.   The Sooners will not only be carrying the OU banner this year, the Sooners will be carrying the banner for the long term prognosis for the Big 12 Conference.  if the Sooners take care of business, a top five preseason start will likely guarantee a top five finish for the Sooners.   With an undefeated season, the Sooners can expect to edge out one of the power conferences for one of the four playoff spots.  

 

The Scout rankings give us both good news and bad news.    Actually, there is a double dose of good news in the form of OU’s #2 ranking.  The other piece of good news from the Scout preseason rankings is that it appears that the Big 12 is down again that should allow the Sooners to run the table.  The bad news is that the Big 12 appears to be down again.  This message may sound like a double entendre or a mixes message.   The truth of the matter is that with the Big 12 being down again, the Sooners will be hard pressed to muster RPI respect with wins over mustering respect for OU wins over weak opponents.  

 

Breaking down the preseason rankings finds the highest ranked opponent on the OU schedule as #20 Texas.   From there the schedule goes from weak to really weak with team’s ranked #’s 25, 27, 28, 32, 44, 45, 62, 76, 91, 96, and 107.    Again beating up on these teams will not help the Sooner strength of schedule rating (RPI).   At the same time pollsters will not care about opponent ratings if the Sooners run the table.

 

Win them all and OU will be in the final four playoff team.   Adding to the pressure will be the fact that an undefeated season will invariably ensure a top two seed that will likely ensure a championship game appearance. Lose a game along the way with this schedule and the Sooners and the Big 12 could be toast for an appearance in the final dance.  

 

Looking at the schedule two games jump out…The OU-Texas game in Dallas and the Texas Tech game in Lubbock in mid-November.   The Lubbock factor scares me, particularly if the Red Raiders enter this game with momentum.   Kliff Kingsbury has had a season and off season to retool the Rid Raiders and it can be assumed that he has circled this game on his calendar as break out game for Tech.

 

Unfortunately, by creating a watered down conference Big 12 and OU officials leaders have left OU little wiggle room in this matter.   With Sooner Magic in vogue once again, my money is on a Sooner win in Lubbock, running the table and National Championship #8.

 

Below are the Scout’s thumbnail highlights of the nation’s top five team.   Next, you will see the Big 12 rankings and finally the nation’s top 50.

  1. AlabamaThe 2014 Team Is Trending … grouchy. Nick Saban lost three in a row – There won’t be a sense of entitlement with this team, which could make it uh-oh time for the rest of college football.
  2. OklahomaThe 2014 Team Is Trending … fired up.   However, it’s Oklahoma. You know there will be at least one meltdown. Could the Sugar Bowl win be the springboard back to true national title superpower status?   If nothing else, it showed that the program could still turn on the talent with athleticism and speed.
  3.  Florida StateThe 2014 Team Is Trending … up.    Even after beating Auburn for the national championship, there’s no let-up from the Seminoles. The program is talent-rich and experienced. 
  4. OregonThe 2014 Team Is Trending … steady.   The Ducks will begin this season much the way they began the last five—favored to win the Pac-12 and contend for national honors.   There’s plenty of promise and potential to get into the tournament and make some noise.  
  5. UCLAThe 2014 Team Is Trending …up.    Mora has a good thing going at UCLA, and he caught a huge break when Hundley came back for his junior season. This could be the breakout year the Bruins have been after for more than a decade.

 

Big 12 teams ranked in the top 30 according to Scout…

 

20.  TexasThe 2014 Team Is Trending … impatient. Texas should’ve won the Big 12 title last year, and it should’ve been far stronger in key games other than Oklahoma. Every coach in America would dream about the team, facilities and potential that Strong now has, and he needs to win a national title yesterday.

25.  Oklahoma StateThe 2014 Team Is Trending … under the radar.  Many made Oklahoma State the preseason favorite to with the Big 12 title last year, but now it’ll be all about Oklahoma, Texas and Baylor. OSU might be able to sneak up on everyone.

27.  Baylor…The 2014 Team Is Trending … “it.” This is one of the cool programs going, and the latest recruiting class is reflecting it. Losing to UCF certainly wasn’t anything positive, but Briles is still the head coach – he’s not wearing burnt orange and living in Austin – and the offense is turning into one that everyone seems to want to be a part of.

28.   Kansas StateThe 2014 Team Is Trending … even. We pretty much know what we’re going to get from the Wildcats at this point. They might not be good enough to win the Big 12 title, but they’ll over-deliver on their way to another strong season in an even league.

 

The rest of the Big 12 (national rankings in parenthesis)..

 

  1. Oklahoma (2)
  2. Texas (20)
  3. OSU (25)
  4. Baylor (27)
  5. Kansas State (28)
  6. TCU (44)
  7. Texas Tech (45)
  8. West Virginia (62)
  9. Iowa State (76 )
  10. Kansas (91)