Never too early rankings…

Porter Moser’s bunch appears to be finding their footing and as such may make the tournament after all.  On the women’s side, making the tournament appears to be a given…Coach B. was really a good hire. 

In softball Patty Gasso will welcome a team that may go down as the best college softball team of all time and baseball has recruited well and may be headed to Omaha again. Women’s gymnastics and men’s golf will be outstanding as well.  Brent Venables appears to be finding his footing as he recruits his type players. 

The Sooners currently rank #6 in the country in the combined high school and transfer portal rankings. We lacked talent and most importantly depth last year so these reinforcements will go a long way in returning the Sooners to the top of the football world. 

As you know, it is never too early to start thinking ahead for 2023.  Football magazines are already putting out their “way too early” rankings for next year.  Athlon Magazine has the Sooners ranked #21 in their rankings.  While the Sooners are ranked below other Big 12 teams in most preseason rankings, this fact can only be attributable to the 2022 end of season rankings.  I expect OU to be at the top of the Big 12 heap next year when everything is said and done.  

Below I have listed Athlon’s“way too early” Big 12 ranked teams for 2023…first by conference and then nationally. 

Boomer Sooner…

2023 12 preseason rankings…

1. Texas (14)

2. TCU (15)

3. Kansas State (20)

4. OU (21)

5. Texas Tech (31)

Kansas (top 50)

Baylor (top 50)

BYU (top 50)

Cincinnati (top 50)

UCF (top 50)

Houston (unranked)

OSU (unranked)

Iowa State (unranked)

West Virginia (unranked)

Athlon’s “way too early” national rankings…

1. Georgia

2. Michigan

3. Ohio State

4. USC

5. Alabama

6. Florida State

7. LSU

8. Penn State

9. Tennessee

10. Washington

11. Oregon

12.Notre Dame

13. Clemson

14. Texas

15. TCU

16. Utah

17. Oregon State

18. Tulane

19. North Carolina

20. Kansas State

21. Oklahoma

22. Ole Miss

23. Arkansas

24. Wisconsin

25. South Carolina

26. Boise State

27. UTSA

28. UCLA

29. Troy

30. Texas Tech

31. Louisville

32. Mississippi State

Best of the rest alphabetically…

Air Force

Baylor

BYU

Cincinnati

Coastal Carolina

Duke

Fresno State

Illinois

Iowa

Kansas

Kentucky

Marshall

Maryland

Miami

Minnesota

NC State

Pitt

South Carolina

Texas A&M

UCF

Embarrassing

Let’s call it like it is…that game on Monday night was downright embarrassing for the Big 12 Conference.  Seriously, how can a team lose a National Championship game by fifty-eight points. The good news is that the Sooners had already made exit plans to get out from under this mess.  

The TCU debacle puts into perspective how far the once proud Big 12 has fallen.  Back in 1971, the conference had Nebraska, Oklahoma and Colorado finish the season 1, 2, and 3 in the final AP rankings.  Starting that year, the Big 12 hoisted ten (10) National Championship trophies, five by Nebraska, four by the Sooners and one by Texas.  In 2012 the conference imploded with four heavy weights leaving the conference for higher ground and things have never been the same since.

This year, the Big 12 played 29 non-conference games with only one win coming against a solid opponent (Michigan) in the CFP semi-final game.  The conference was 2-9 during bowl season.  The Sooners will have to put up with this stink of a league for one, possibly two more years and then we can throw this rag of a conference to the side of the street. 

In the end, OU and Texas will come out of this smelling like a rose.  It will be tough sledding at times in the SEC, but in the long run it will be worth it.  The Sooners and Horns decided to get out while the gettin’ was good.  Left in the ashes of a once proud conference will be the Little 12. 

Boomer Sooner…

Happy New Year…

Out with the old and in with the new should be our motto these days…we have lost a ton of players from the 2022 team, some of which were planned and some of which were encouraged to leave.  This team needed a retooling job from the Lincoln Riley days in the worst way, and we got just that.  The good news is that we will be better in the new year…

Joining this group will be a top of the line recruiting class and transfer group that will transform this team into a winner.  Consider this…the 2022 team was all so close to turning the corner.  We lost four games by three points and one game by seven.  Turn those games around and we are talking about a great first season under Brent Venables.  Even with the losses, the end is in sight for the Sooners to turn things around. 

Finally, you have to love the manner in which the Sooners competed against Florida State.  Flash back to the day that bowl game was announced and the pit in your stomach that it created.  I was simply hoping to hang with those guys for as long as possible.  We did that and then some. 

Florida State had athletes all over the field and we knew it was going to be a long night. As the night wore on, we realized that this makeshift lineup was not going to back down. We got a bad draw, but we made the best of a bad situation. 

Eat your black-eyed peas for good luck and have faith in the Sooner future.

Boomer Sooner…

Bad news…

What we felt would be a good thing regarding our move to the SEC may not happen after all.  The Bedlam game that cuts only one way, toward OSU, may happen after all.  The latest rumor is that OU and Texas may be joining the SEC a year early, but in order to make that happen the Big 12 will want more than just money.  The Big 12 is negotiating with Fox and ESPN to keep some of the games with OU and Texas long term. 

ESPN and to a lesser extent Fox own college football these days and they do not want to lose the big paydays that OU and Texas bring to the table as they try to save the beleaguered Big 12.  Even with the new teams coming to the Big 12, Big 12 conference revenue without OU and Texas will be cut in half. The football networks want to keep the rivalry games to make up for this financial loss.

Texas won’t be hurt by this move as they will probably play Texas Tech on a home and home basis, but OU will likely be forced to play OSU in a Bedlam game as part of its non-conference schedule.  With SEC teams playing four non-conference games each year, making this happen would be an easy fix. 

The most likely spot in the schedule will be the final regular season game of the year as other SEC teams play non-conference rivalry games that weekend…South Carolina/Clemson, Kentucky/Louisville, Georgia/Georgia Tech, and Florida/Florida State for example. 

About the time, we think we can say sayonara to the sheep herders, the Big 12 pulls the rug out from under us once again.  Here’s the problem…let’s say, the Bedlam game is indeed scheduled at the end of the year, it would be played the week prior to the SEC championship game which hopefully we will be a part of at some point.  That move would create a perfect trap game for the Sooners as it will appear between a tough SEC schedule and the SEC championship game.   Bedlam could also negatively impact our college playoff chances. 

My answer to all of this is simple…if we cannot afford to pony up the extra money for an early move to the SEC, let’s simply stay an extra year.  We are stuck through the 2023 season so one more year won’t kill us.  As a matter of fact, we could use the extra year to add SEC-type players as we prepare for trench warfare in the SEC. 

Unfortunately, Fox and ESPN may not give us a say in the matter, but we can always hope.  I’ve been counting the days until Bedlam becomes history. This decision will be made over the next month as 2024 schedules are set to be made sooner rather than later.  Let’s hope the football gods are on our side in this one. 

Boomer Sooner…

Proper perspective…

You saw many of the same issues that dogged OU in its previous 11 games – the kind of things 6-6 teams do. An 18 point lead melted away during a stretch in the final seven minutes of the first half in which the Sooners had two possessions that lasted a total of 93 seconds. Defenders missed countless tackles. Receivers dropped passes that would have produced big gains. Veterans committed timely penalties. There were gaffes on special teams.

And that’s only a partial list. Once again, the Sooners looked hell-bent on sabotaging themselves. The end result was another frustrating defeat in an easily winnable game. It capped off a campaign that even OU’s first-year head coach Brent Venables would have to admit qualified as an unequivocal failure by the program’s historical standards.

Interestingly, though, nothing about the way Venables approached this season betrayed a sense of urgency or desperation over a lackluster start to his tenure. He coached like someone who believes he has plenty of rope with the OU administration.

Take a look at the starting lineups and personnel rotations, for example. Unless a player went down with an injury, they rarely changed. Even after goals like a conference championship went down in flames, the coaching staff stayed the course with holdovers from the previous regime instead of going with a youth movement.

This is much to the chagrin of fans who were ready for a head start on the future. Yet, no one could accuse Venables of casting off the players left in the lurch by Lincoln Riley’s abrupt departure last year. It also gave newcomers and young players more time to develop without pressing them into early service.

Meanwhile, Venables avoided shortcuts when it came to game-planning. OU’s coaches didn’t try to mold schemes to fit the squad’s personnel, especially on defense. The Sooners schemed to their opponents instead and used multiple alignments.

That approach produced some ugly outings, such as the Baylor offensive line making mincemeat out of OU’s undersized defensive front. On the flip side, it gave the coaches a more thorough evaluation of the players they inherited without sacrificing the process of teaching the newcomers who will make up the core of the program in the future.

That all sounds more like a coach focused on trying to set up the program for the long haul than one worried about his team’s record in year one.  So how should we grade the performance of Venables and his coaching staff this season?

If we’re talking about winning games, they clearly don’t deserve high marks. The Sooners are going bowling for something like the billionth consecutive year, but that’s a low bar for OU. All things being equal, this team had enough quality players to win more than six games.

In fact, a record of 0-4 in matchups decided by seven points or fewer speaks to just how close this edition of the Sooners came to a much prettier season. It also suggests that Venables himself made enough critical mistakes on the margins in his first season as a head coach to flip some games away from OU. That warrants thorough self-evaluation – and some outside feedback on his performance – in the offseason. (Every coach should do that anyway.)

When it comes to Venables’ performance as a program builder, we don’t have the same kind of hard performance data at our fingertips. But there’s reason for optimism about what’s to come under his leadership. The Big 12 got better all around the Sooners as they were starting over with new schemes on both sides of the ball. For his part, Venables held fast to implementing his vision for the program. And even if it felt that way at times to fans, the team didn’t completely fall apart.

That’s cold comfort to people who want wins now, but Venables is charting a different course to sustainable success for OU’s program. We’ll know in a few seasons if it worked. Settle in for the long haul.

Finally…

ESPN just rated their best student sections of the week, and the Sooner student section was rated 4th in the country. I mention this because the crowd on Saturday night was electric.  Most student sections and crowd bases would have gone south after what we have been through this year, but not ours. 

This fact was not lost on the team as they fed off this energy to bolt to a 28-0 lead and if the truth were known, we were never threatened after that start.  It can also be assured that the intense crowd noise was not lost on multitude of high-ranking prospects that were in town for the game. 

The next time your Aggie friends go on a rant about their fan support being more loyal than ours, remind them of this poll.  Not lost in the shuffle has to be Mike Gundy’s decision to go for field goals instead of touchdowns and to punt late in the game. He basically waved the white flag of surrender for his team. 

One must wonder how the guy gets paid $7.5 million dollars for this stuff. Can you imagine OU paying someone that kind of money for a guy who has beaten his in-state rival only three times in the span of 40 years as a player and coach. That’s right the OSU regents waved the white flag years ago against OU.

Finally, what a huge win for the Sooners…not only did we hammer the Ags, we also did it front of recruits and became bowl eligible. This coaching staff can now use the extra bowl practices to prepare our young team for next season.  Regardless of what happens in Lubbock and the bowl game, this team is on the road to recovery…

Boomer Sooner…

Two steps forward…one step back…

We took two steps forward with wins over Kansas and Iowa State only to take one step back with a loss to Baylor.  Oh well, we knew it was going to be a long season after the Texas game so here we are…hoping to become bowl eligible. 

No sense rehashing the Baylor game…simply put, we were outmanned.  I would like to blame the coaches, but in reality our coaches are playing with a short stick as we try to create roster numbers to play D-I football.  The good news is that we have a bunch of young players getting a lot of playing time.

As we know bowl games have become a meaningless ritual these days, but there is one innumerable benefit to bowl games.  The teams that qualify for bowl games get 30 days for twenty extra practices.  We are at the point of looking for any silver lining to this dark cloud and this is one of those times.  We desperately need those practices to prepare for next year. 

We said that the Kansas and Iowa State games were huge, and we were right.  The West Virginia game is in the same boat.  Winning this game will not only will make us bowl eligible, winning this game will also create needed momentum going into the OSU game.    

Morgantown is a tough place to play, but at least it is not a night game…the hillbillies won’t have all day to get liquored up for the game.  With any coaching at all this week we should be able to go in there and take care of business, and yes, become bowl eligible.

Boomer Sooner…

So far so good…

I’m reminded of the guy who fell out of a ten-story building…on the way down someone asked how it was going…he yelled back, so far so good.  It is the same story for our Sooners, so far so good.

As we said earlier, the Kansas game was huge…we took care of business and then we said the same about the Iowa State game.  Mission has been accomplished on both counts, but we need more.  Now, we have some momentum and need to take down Baylor at home and West Virginia on the road. Won’t be easy, but this team can do it.  

What has become obvious about the Sooners is that having a healthy Dillon Gabriel makes all the difference in the world. We have also found that the bye week helped us immensely in getting our players back from injury.  Finally, we are finding that BV and company can actually coach. 

As fans, no one wants to hear this, but it has been fun having to get up for a Kansas and Iowa State.  I was much more into these games given the enormity of the outcomes.  Granted, I don’t want to make worrying about these teams a habit, but still, it’s been fun. 

Take care of Baylor at home and we will get to 6-3 and then we can go to Morgantown with the wind at our backs.  Next, we can come back to Norman and open up a can of butt kickin’ revenge on the Aggies. I know I am getting ahead of myself, but then again after what we have been through, we owe it to ourselves to get ahead of ourselves from time to time.

Boomer Sooner…

It ain’t over ‘till the fat lady sings…

The Texas game was ugly…but the outcome was never in doubt.  Because of Lincoln Riley, we had only one quarterback and no backup quarterbacks for the game and when Dillon Gabriel did not appear for the first snap, that game was over.  The only issue at that point was by how much.  The good news is that Dillon is back, and we can breathe again.  The bad news is that we have no backup quarterback so we will have to make do with Dillon until next year. 

I know that Kansas is still Kansas but trust me this year’s Kansas team on Saturday was light years better than previous teams.  A win on Saturday against the Jayhawks was critical to this season and beyond.   While the outcome did not impress fans and pollsters, this was solid performance by the good guys.

With a win over “bye” next week, we will be on our way to Ames with a two-game winning streak (okay, we can’t count the bye week, but I’m desperate).  At this point in time, every win is critical to our cause and now we must, and I mean must win in Ames. Unfortunately, Iowa State showed last Saturday that they are a pretty good team as they almost beat Texas in Austin. 

Here’s the good news…OU has played the upper crust of the conference during its losing streak.   Now we can focus on the teams in the bottom portion of the league.  Get hot at the right time and we will have a shot at taking down Baylor and OSU at home. 

All the more reason to believe that the Iowa State game could define not only this season, but seasons to come.  As we said earlier, 2022 was going to be a transitional and challenging season.  The rest of the season will not be for the faint of heart. Beating Iowa State will be another step in the right direction.     

Boomer Sooner…

What the heck…

Not since the John Blake era have we experienced anything like this.  Our defense has given up 41, 55 and 49 points in three straight losses. Making matters worse is the inability to decide who to blame. The offense is just as bad as the defense. Yes, we knew it would take some time for BV to settle in, but no one expected this. 

Of course, much of the blame can be placed at the feet of Lincoln Riley, but I suggest that the problem is bigger than that.  BV was hit with the perfect storm of Mule Shoe, the new transfer portal, and the NIL.  Then again, as I tell my students, don’t waste time agonizing over things you cannot change, spend that energy focusing on positive solutions.   

This weekend, we must beat a Kansas Jayhawk team that has used the transfer portal to move from a bottom feeder in the nation team to a top twenty-five ranked team in the country.  Believe it or not, our focus must now be on beating the Jayhawks.  I would have laughed myself sick five years ago at the thought of this proposition, but then again, this is the new age of college football that we now live in. 

Here’s the deal…someone needs to bribe the OU training staff to allow Dillon Gabriel to be removed from his concussion protocol isolation.  If not, General Booty has to be the answer on Saturday.  Yes, our defense sucks, but part of the blame lies with the offense.  If the offense can move the ball just a bit and our defense can create stops, we will have a winning proposition.  Enough of these combinations and we will leave the stadium on Saturday happy campers.  I don’t want to think about that ride home on Saturday without a win. 

With that win and a bye week win the following week, we will be on our way to a decent season. Then, BV can replicate Bob Stoops’ first year in Norman where he found himself in the same predicament after losing to Texas.  He rallied the forces, and we ended the season in the Independence Bowl. Doesn’t seem like much considering how we felt after the Nebraska game but trust me we will need that bowl game at the end of the year in the worst way for recruiting purposes.   

At this point, we need to learn how to walk before we start running again…a big part of this formula will start with a win over Kansas on Saturday. 

Boomer Sooner…