Tuesday, July 8, 2014

5 Football Questions for Sooners Fans

It's time.  No more hiding.  Football season is right around the corner.  We've made it through the agonizing wait to get onto the roller coaster and now we slowly climb for two months until...the freefall, the loops and everything in between.  In the old days I could speed these two months along by transitioning into baseball, but since I am boycotting the Padres there is no more denying the imminence of the football season.  The NBA has given me some needed distraction with some compelling free agency dilemmas, but until July 10th, things look to be pretty quiet.  So, here we go.  Strap in and keep all body parts inside the ride.

1. Why hasn't the Big XII changed its name?

On July 1, the Big XII announced a rebranding of the conference logo and the conference website.  See if you can pick out the humor in this sentence from the press release discussing some of the new changes.

"A re-designed website at Big12Sports.com has also debuted, containing information on each of the league’s 10 member institutions"

The new logo is supported with the catchy tagline, "One True Champion."  Recently, BYU tried to beg their way into the conference and were met with staunch resistance from the league's athletic directors. Oliver Luck, one of the NCAA's most respected AD's and the Big XII's representative on the playoff voting committee said (paraphrasing), "the Big XII is happy with a ten team setup and the one topic no one has discussed is expansion."

So why keep the name Big XII for a ten team league?  If you want a ten team league, that's fine.  But, why keep the name Big XII and revamp the logo?  I understand the Big Ten (which has 12 members) has not changed its conference name, but they at least had the sense to take the Ten out of their official logo.  Just because the Big XII conference includes Oklahoma State as a member doesn't mean it has to employ their hillbilly sensibility.

As for the tagline, "One True Champion," I'm not sure that makes more sense than the logo.  While the SEC, Big Ten and Pac10 chose to expand, the Big XII got smaller eliminating the need for the championship game.  The problem that ten team leagues have had in the past has been presenting one true champion because of the tie scenarios that have to be figured out through a series of tie-breaking stipulations, not through a game on the field.  While I understand a ten team league means everyone plays each other rather than splitting the conference into divisions, the chance for several teams to finish with the same record is very real without a game to determine the one true champion.

If the Big XII still plans to expand they aren't in any hurry.  Adding BYU and another school would be easy and make the conference moniker apropos.  If they are truly happy with the ten team set up, then they should change the name.  It's ludicrous.  With the new four team playoff system, I like not having a conference championship game.  While the rest of major conferences will have to play 15 games to win it all, Oklahoma the Big XII will only require 14.  It sets up beautifully unless the playoff voters hold that against the Big XII.  So, bottom line, change the damn name.

By the way, the correct way to refer to the Big XII in print is actually, the Big 12 Conference, despite the use of Roman numerals in the new and old logo.  That's not confusing or idiotic at all.  I will admit the color choice for the logo is top notch though.

2.  Who will be included in the inaugural four team playoff?

Florida State

Florida State is a mandatory pick for one of the four teams.  They are the defending national champions and return talent everywhere including Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Jameis Winston.  They literally have no weaknesses on paper and they play in the ACC making their path to the playoff easier than any other contender.  Their biggest test might be the first game of the season when they play Oklahoma State in Arlington, but OSU looks to be weaker than last season after replacing the majority of their starters.  OSU won't be ready to compete with national champs that early in the season.  FSU might be tested in their final game of the season against in-state rival Florida who is sure to be better than last year's squad that went 4-8, losing their final seven games.  But, the game is in Tallahassee so the chances of an upset are slim.  FSU might not have a tough game until the playoffs, and will be given the benefit of the doubt as reigning champs.


The schedule worked against the Sooners last year and they still managed to win 11 games.  This season, they get Baylor and Oklahoma State at home and will have revenge on their minds against Texas.  They return the bulk of their contributors on both sides of the ball and should boast one of the best defenses in the conference.  Eric Striker, Charles Tapper, Frank Shannon, Geneo Grissom, Chuka Ndulue, Jordan Phillips and Dominique Alexander create one of the most formidable front sevens OU has had in years.  Quarterback Trevor Knight had a year to develop and we all saw his potential in last year's Sugar Bowl when he undressed Alabama, the supposed best team in the country.  He will have the most experienced and deep offensive line in the country to protect him and a stable of highly touted young backs to carry the ball.  Incoming multi-purpose weapon Joe Mixon is expected to bring big play ability and if the waiver for Dorial Green-Beckham clears, they will be loaded with weapons at receiver.

Road games against TCU and Tulsa might be overlooked by fans, but have the potential to be very difficult.  Phil Steele has TCU pegged as the most improved team in the country, while Tulsa is also improved and will bring much more motivation than the Goliath Sooners in their home stadium.

It still feels like a bizarro world when you have to consider Baylor to be the Sooners biggest challenge on the schedule.  Baylor will most likely start the season ranked higher and will once again lead the NCAA in offense.  The fact that they play in Norman is the reason the Sooners should beat out Baylor for the conference championship.  A single loss for any Big XII team will eliminate them from playoff consideration, so OU will have to go undefeated to win the national championship. 


I'm not really going out on a limb with any of these picks, but I don't see how you can pick anyone else in the SEC and truly believe it.  Auburn had a dream season last year and used no less than three miracles to pull out wins against Alabama and Georgia.  Georgia and South Carolina have a fighting chance, and you can never underestimate the talent of LSU, but when you boil down, Alabama is still coached by Nick Saban and he has a stable full of five star players, and unlike Texas, knows how to use them.  The Tide will be breaking in a new starting quarterback, but two of their recent national championships have come with first year starting QB's.  Someone from the SEC is going to be in the final four, Alabama is the odds on favorite.


They play one of the toughest schedules in the country, but just like Oklahoma nearly all of their tough games are played at home.  They have to play Texas in Arlington on a (sort of) neutral field and travel to Tempe to play Arizona State.  After that, all the big boys have to come through Pasadena.  If UCLA is able to beat Stanford, Oregon, USC and Arizona at home they might own the most accomplished resume of any of the four playoff teams.  They have one of the best quarterbacks in the country and it is Jim Mora's third season at head coach so he has hand picked talent at all positions.  They have capitalized on USC's troubles and this could be the season they put it all together.  Admittedly, Ohio State has a much easier road to an undefeated season and might be the smarter pick, but they are not as complete of a team as UCLA.

3.  Will a four team playoff satisfy college football fans?

It better, because it's not changing for 12 years.  There is no perfect system, and a four team playoff certainly isn't perfect.  Teams that finish 5-8 in the voting will be upset that they weren't included in the final four, while others will feel four teams simply isn't enough.  It was always funny to me how much people hated the BCS.  I think when we get to the end of the season there will be several fan bases that miss it.

For starters, any team not included in the "power 5" conferences are automatically disqualified.  There will be no more Cinderella teams like Boise State playing spoiler against traditional powers.  If you're not in a major conference, you have no chance to play in the playoff.  It will also be a much more subjective way of voting.  Rather than a computer formula, there will be actual people making the decision.  That probably sounds good to some, but the one thing computers aren't, is biased.  Some might argue that the computers were biased based on weighting and certain rankings that didn't make sense to common sense humans, but that is why they used eight computer formulas to determine an overall ranking.  Of course it was flawed, but if you don't think humans voting for a final four will be flawed, you are naive.

I am already dreading the conspiracy conversations that come with getting snubbed from a panel of humans that inevitably will be swayed by biases.  At least with the BCS, there was no one to get mad at.  This year, Condoleezza Rice might become the most hated person in the South.  For Oklahoma fans, the computers were very kind.  Under Stoops, the Sooners had a history of playing a strong non-conference schedule and the computers always rewarded Oklahoma.  A panel of humans will not place as much weight on margin of victory, which is a good thing, but there will be problems we can't even think of until the time to vote comes up.

The other possible casualty is the rest of the bowl season.  Will anyone care about making a bowl if they aren't in the final four.  At least with the BCS there were ten teams that played in major bowls, and eight others that felt good about their situation.  Now, it will be a championship or bust mentality.  For the major schools, that might not seem like a drastic change, but Oklahoma would not have had the chance to play Alabama if there was a playoff.  The BCS was actually more giving to more teams that were not in the top four.  Don't get me wrong, I am excited about the playoff because the opportunity to win a national championship is extended to two more teams, but outside of the national championship, what are the top schools going to be playing for?  Every other bowl will seem like a consolation prize with the devalued prestige.  Just like replay in baseball, we should be careful what we wish for.  And save your breath on an eight team playoff, it ain't happening for over a decade.

4.  What should Oklahoma fans be worried about entering the 2014 season?

One of the best parts of being a Sooners fan since Stoops took over is the frequency in which the Sooners have national championship aspirations before the season starts.  Stoops is entering his 16th season and this will be the eighth time the Sooners are considered title contenders.  As a fan, you really can't ask for more than that.  But we do.  Sooners fans are some of the most impatient and cantankerous fans in the country.  Somehow we feel like we deserve a winner.  We pack the stadium full of nearly 90,000 fans, then sit on our hands unless the Sooners are dominating.  We go to the game waiting to be entertained rather than cheering as a weapon.  We have called for Bob Stoops' job when we don't win a conference championship two straight seasons.  There is truly no pleasing us short of a championship.  It is the reason I can't talk to half of my friends or family during the season.  The Sooners appear to have their most complete team since 2010.  So what are we going to get worked up about this season?

  • Josh Heupel: Before the reemergence of Trevor Knight, he captained some of the most frustrating offenses under Bob Stoops.  They have been absolutely loaded on offense and it seemed he never played to the team's strengths.  It's things like the Belldozer that drive me crazy.  I absolutely loathed it and we saw its flaws clearly last season.  Shuffling units on and off the field played a major role in the beat down by Baylor last season.  Heupel has also wasted the careers of several talented running backs by being completely inflexible on how he calls plays.  He quarterbacked under Mike Leach and brings that same mentality to the offense despite having incredible runners every year.  This season, he once again has access to four highly touted running backs and a veteran offensive line.  Refusal to run the ball and control the clock will be extremely frustrating.  With a mobile quarterback added to the mix, the Sooners should average 250 yards on the ground, setting up the pass, and not the other way around.  The first time Heupel decides to pass on 2nd and 5 or 3rd and 1 will remind fans of past annoyances.
  • Trevor Knight: The overreaction to the sophomore quarterback began the moment he led the Sooners to a victory against Alabama.  He was amazing.  Sooners fans had hope, but not a single person outside of his parents could have imagined how well he played in the Sugar Bowl.  There was nothing to indicate he had that type of game in him.  To expect him to be that guy week in and week out this season is asinine.  He is a sophomore.  He will struggle and he will make mistakes.  It's easy to forget that he lost his job to Blake Bell last season, and that he was injured on two occasions which kept him out of action.  Knight's progression was obvious in the second half of the season and he really showed his potential against Kansas State.  But, it was still Bell who had to save the day against Oklahoma State after Knight was knocked out of the game.  Bell saved the season on more than one occasion, and he will not be there to back up Knight this season.  If Knight has similar injury issues, his absence could be the difference between a playoff appearance and an Insight.com bowl appearance.
  •  Conference Bias: Like it or not, the Big XII has been relegated to the fourth out of five conferences in the "power five."  It seems a little unfair considering Baylor will be the best offensive team in the country, Texas still has as much talent as anyone, TCU will be healthy and ready to resume their winning ways, Oklahoma State has been consistently tough, Texas Tech is coming off a nice season and bowl win, and Kansas State is back to winning under Bill Snyder.  Regardless of what seems like seven tough teams (discounting West Virginia who has a solid history) out of ten, the Big XII just doesn't carry the same respect that it once did.  Oklahoma and Baylor are thought to be the only good teams in the conference which will definitely hurt public perception and might influence their spot in a four team playoff.  Losing one game will eliminate any chance of a Big XII team to make the final four.  Oklahoma will have to win impressively to keep the voters on their side.  Squeaking by will not be an option.  Fans should get ready to listen to prognosticators denigrating the conference and subsequent Sooners resume.

5.  How do you feel about the new alternate uniforms?

As a rule, I think most Sooners fans over the age of 25 are against changing the classic look of Oklahoma uniforms.  In a perfect world, there would be no need for alternate uniforms.  But, in today's landscape of college football, uniform variations have become a useful tool in recruiting.  It also gives the team a boost when they get to change it up.

Luckily, Oklahoma has not gone the way of Oregon or Oklahoma State with 10,000 combinations.  For the Sooners, it's only two games a year and this season they have gone pretty unique with wood grain helmets and jerseys that highlight past achievements.  The most prominent being "47 Straight" written across the neckline.  The uniforms also come along with a built in twitter tagline #BRINGTHEWOOD.

As far as alternate uniforms go, I like these.  They are definitely unique to Oklahoma and still have a throwback/classic look mixed with something fresh for the kids.  I don't love the crimson pants and I would rather see the helmets monochromatic with the jerseys, but if these uniforms help the Sooners bring the wood and the recruits, then I'm all for them.  I would like to roll them out against Tulsa and Kansas rather than Texas, but that's just a little superstition.  Regardless of the rest of the uniforms, I would be a fan of keeping the helmets in rotation.

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff! Although I have not completely closed the door on the Pads, I am ready for football! At the end of the day it will come down to the hunger of the players for success and the coaching staff. Now, about those uniforms...I'm in the "over 25" group! Great article!! Boomer Sooner!!



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