Monday, July 8, 2013
Best- and worst-case scenario: Oklahoma
By David Ubben
Time for the next in our series on the best- and worst-case scenarios for each team in the Big 12.
Oklahoma will have one of the least-hyped preseasons in recent Sooners history, but still have a deeper talent pool than most of the Big 12. Let's have a closer look.
Other best- and worst-case scenarios.
NORMAN, Okla. -- Make it nine.
Bob Stoops' 15th season wasn't easy, but it ended with a ninth Big 12 title and another trip to the BCS.
A trio of home games to open the season provided little resistance for the red-hot Sooners, who rolled over Louisiana-Monroe, West Virginia and Tulsa before taking a week off to prep for Notre Dame.
It worked. Oklahoma picked off Tommy Rees three times -- twice in the red zone -- and left South Bend 4-0 after a 21-17 win.
Wins over TCU and Texas sent the Sooners to 6-0 and a top-5 ranking, impressing voters with a three-touchdown beating of the Longhorns in Dallas. National title talk naturally surfaced with major speed bumps out of the way and four of Oklahoma's wins falling in the "quality" category. The Sooners survived a scare against Texas Tech at home with a late touchdown pass from Blake Bell, who rushed for 704 yards and threw for 3,200 yards, accounting for 37 touchdowns on the season.
Oklahoma got another week off, but traveled to Waco as the nation's No. 2 team for a hyped Thursday night game. Oops, the Bears did it again. Another national audience, another monumental upset, popping the Sooners' national title balloon but still allowing them to control their destiny on the way to the Big 12 title and a BCS bid. OU bounced back with a 30-point home win against Iowa State and survived a scare against a relentless Kansas State team, whose game-winning touchdown run was erased by a holding penalty.
Thanksgiving Week off served the Sooners well, who looked fresh in Stillwater on Championship Week, once again meeting with the Big 12 title on the line. Just like 2010, an offensive shootout went the way of the Sooners with two fourth-quarter touchdown passes longer than 40 yards from Bell, who earned a spot in Sooner lore with the legendary performance with another title on the line. There's no national title appearance in the cards for OU, but it beat both of its chief rivals for the second consecutive season, earning one final trip to the Fiesta Bowl in the Big 12's last year of affiliation with the game.
Final record: 11-1
NORMAN, Okla. -- The warning signs were there when Oklahoma needed some fourth-quarter heroics to beat West Virginia and trailed in the second half of games against Tulsa and Louisiana-Monroe before securing double-digit victories in both.
Notre Dame finally exposed Oklahoma's offense and defense with a dominant 34-13 win in South Bend. Blake Bell struggled with decision-making and accuracy all season long, and TCU's defense exploited both in a 27-17 win. Losing to Texas in any way is bad enough, but doing so while the Longhorns throw eight passes is even worse. Texas' offensive line dominated the Sooners' young front four in a Red River the Sooners would love to forget, sending them to 3-3 at the season's midpoint.
Oklahoma bounced back with a 34-21 win over Kansas the next week and played its best game of the year in a win over Texas Tech a week later, but the same issues stopping the run were too much for the Sooners in an ugly road loss to Baylor. The offense clearly showed progress in that game and it was enough to earn them wins over Iowa State and Kansas State, but Oklahoma State brought the Sooners' regular season to a merciful end. At no point did they look like a Big 12 contender, middling for most of the season and equaling Bob Stoops' worst two in Norman -- 1999 and 2009. That buys Oklahoma a ticket to the Holiday Bowl.
Final record: 7-5