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Mailbag: Sooners on the brain

I'll be making my way out to Arlington in a bit for tonight's Cotton Bowl between Texas A&M and LSU at Cowboys Stadium, but if you've missed it this week, here's a look at just about everything we've written about the game this week.

As for this week's mailbag, I was pretty surprised when I started digging in, even with the news of Broyles' return on Thursday evening: Most everyone wanted to talk/ask about the Sooners.

So....here you go.

Mike in Dallas, Texas writes: All the media could talk about was Oklahoma's 5 straight BCS bowl losses. Now they win one against an obviously outmatched UConn team and I still read that "some" media members claiming "Well this one really doesn't count" (I'm paraphrasing). You're in the media loop. What do you feel is the media's perspective on this win?

David Ubben: Well, I don't know that anyone is outspokenly claiming, "This one doesn't count!," but certainly, beating UConn wasn't all that impressive. But more than getting a win, Oklahoma's BCS troubles were more about just not playing well in a big game, which is why you saw and heard so much criticism surrounding Bob Stoops during the streak. Last time, it was the goal-line failures against Florida with an offensive line that had four NFL talents: Trent Williams, Jon Cooper, Duke Robinson and Phil Loadholt.

Before that, there was the no-show against West Virginia when the Sooners got run off the field. Before that, the Boise State debacle in which, regardless of how much the Sooners said they respected an experienced, senior-filled Broncos team, they didn't play like it.

After 2004, you had a 12-0 Oklahoma team get completely embarrassed by USC, 55-19. Before that was the national championship loss to LSU, which wasn't all that bad, 21-14, but the Sooners also got embarrassed by big underdog Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship weeks earlier, and a two-game losing streak to end a year (even if those losses are in Big 12 and national title games) will leave a bad taste in fans' mouths.

So, circling back to my original point, Oklahoma's BCS streak was more about the Sooners just playing terrible with a month between games than winning or losing.

And when OU beat Connecticut, it did it convincingly and played well. That's obviously a good sign. So while Oklahoma could have earned some additional street cred if it had beaten a more legitimate opponent, the way the Sooners played has to be encouraging and something to build on for next year.

(Side note: Both Sam Bradford and Andrew Luck missed last year's Sun Bowl with injuries, and though Luck is staying, is that the only game in college football history with two future No. 1 picks watching from the sideline? College football historians, get on this one.)


Matt in Stafford, Va. asks: DU, with no Big XII Championship what are the chances of a team that runs the table making it to the BCS Championship? Who has the best shot and why?

DU: You're seeing teams who want to compete for national titles beef up their nonconference schedules, most notably Texas and Oklahoma. Having a ninth conference game might keep fringe teams from making bowl games eventually, but it definitely helps strength of schedule. It's possible in the future that an undefeated team from the Big 12 gets left out, but with Oklahoma playing games against Florida State and Texas scheduling a future series with USC, they're doing their part to make sure they don't get left out.

Even still, three teams from BCS conferences going undefeated has only happened once, so I wouldn't lose too much sleep about it if I were you.


Tommy B in Austin, Texas writes: Could Ryan Broyles' decision to stay another year affect Justin Blackmon's decision whether to stay or go?

DU: Maybe. Blackmon is projected as a mid-first round pick and has the size Broyles doesn't, so unlike Luck's decision helping Blaine Gabbert's stock, that doesn't have much effect on Blackmon. What it might affect is this: If Broyles and Lewis had gone, there'd still be a bit of doubt on top of the Big 12. Not anymore. Heading into next season, Oklahoma might be a close-to-unanimous pick to win the Big 12. Those two coming back significantly lowers the chances of Oklahoma State getting the Big 12 title that narrowly eluded it this year; Oklahoma should be a lot better in 2011 than it was in 2010. So maybe that has an effect on Blackmon's decision. Maybe he sees it as a challenge and tells Brandon Weeden, "Let's come back and go after them again."

Neither of them have had a lot to say since the season ended.

Every player has to make an independent decision when it comes to their future, and I'm not sure Broyles' decision has a ton of effect on Blackmon's, but that's really the only way it would.


Terence in New York asks: David, Happy New year. With Ryan Broyles and Travis Lewis returning, as well as all those freshman that played so well, you have to figure OU is the front runner in the conference again. With 7 Conf championships over the past 11 years, and the team they have returning, why is Texas automatically a better job? Clearly you are able to win at the highest level at OU and have been a better overall program this decade.

DU: Well, it's close, but really, it comes down to resources. Oklahoma has done just fine for itself, but it's a bit easier for UT to recruit Texas than it is for Oklahoma. Again, not a huge gap there, but it takes a little less effort for Texas to get that top-tier talent in Austin than it does for Oklahoma.

Additionally, don't ever underestimate the dollar. Texas has more money than any other program in the country, and they're not afraid to use it. More than anything else, that's what separates them. Texas was paying Will Muschamp almost $1 million to be its defensive coordinator last year, and offensive coordinator Greg Davis was making just under $500,000. Being able to keep assistants happy helps a lot, too. Muschamp was making almost $150,000 more than any other assistant in the country.

Granted, in the Big 12, Oklahoma's coordinators were Nos. 3 and 4 on the pay scale, so it's not like they're slacking, but when it comes to paychecks, life as a Longhorn is good.

It's not like the Texas job is completely on a different level than Oklahoma. They're really pretty close. But when you start trying to go down the list and compare, you have to give the edge to Austin.


Shawn in Afghanistan asks: With the news of Travis Lewis and Ryan Broyles coming back for another season, what do you think of Oklahoma's chances of making a National Title run next year?

DU: The Sooners should be on that level, but they're helped by a tough, but not brutal nonconference schedule. They'll play at Florida State (minus Christian Ponder, remember), a difficult but very winnable game, and then have Ball State and Tulsa. Then it just comes down to getting it done in Big 12 play. It won't be easy, and there's plenty of teams capable of knocking the Sooners off their stoop. All it takes is playing badly on one Saturday.