Sooners Football 2015: Flying Under the Radar Could Be Blessing in Disguise


It’s just 92 days until the opening kickoff of the 2015 college football seasons, and the Oklahoma Sooners find themselves in a much different position than at most times at this point in the year in the Bob Stoops era.

A year ago at this time, the Sooners were ranked No. 1 in the preseason poll published by the Sporting News and in the top 5 in most preseason polls. OU hardly lived up to those high expectations.

OU held strong for the first six weeks of the season, but dropped to 11th in the weekly Associated Press poll after losing to TCU, then to 17th after losing at home to Kansas State, and after getting humiliated in a 34-point home loss to Baylor, the Sooners were completely out of the top 25.

Oct 18, 2014; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Sterling Shepard (3) during the game against the Kansas State Wildcats at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

And to put an even more stunning capper on a season that quickly spiraled downward after getting off to a 4-0 start, the seven-time Big 12 champions were a no-show in the Russell Athletic Bowl against Clemson and former defensive coordinator Brent Venables, now donning the purple and orange colors of the Tigers. Clemson completely throttled the Sooners 40-6, and had OU not managed to push across a meaningless score late in the game, it would have been a shutout – any way you look at it, one of the worst losses by an Oklahoma team in the 16 season Stoops has been head coach.

So here we are, a little more than four months after that uninspiring performance in Orlando’s Citrus Bowl, and there are many questions surrounding the 2015 edition of Oklahoma football.

The Sooners are coming off the second or third worst season in Stoops’ time in Norman. Their 8-5 season mark was only the third time since 1999 that OU has lost as many as five games in a season. The one positive spin out of this is that the past two times Oklahoma lost as many as five games in a season the team rebounded with four or more wins the following year.

The preseason pollsters and preview magazines aren’t showing much love for Stoops’ troops in 2015. And you can’t really blame them the way the Sooners ended up the 2014 campaign.

Only one time since 2002 has Oklahoma started the season outside of the top 10 teams in the preseason Associated Press college football poll. The Sooners began the season in 2013 ranked No. 16 in the AP poll to kickoff that season. They ended the season going 11-2 overall and 7-2 in Big 12 play, good enough for a second-place tie with archrival Oklahoma State. That season is best remembered for the dramatic Sugar Bowl win over two-time defending national champion Alabama.

Sporting News has the Sooners at No. 20 and Athlon Sports’ 2015 college football preview publication has OU positioned at 16 heading into the coming season, To be honest, those rankings may be generous, when you read and hear what others in the know about college football are saying about Oklahoma looking ahead to 2015.

Steven Lassan, a college football writer for Athlon Sports

“Oklahoma will be a tough team to rank next season, as there’s reason to believe this team will rebound – and also plenty of room to doubt this squad,” Lassan writes.

Oh, and by the way, Athlon has TCU at No. 4 and Baylor at No. 6 in the same preseason projection.

The Sooners have questions at practically ever position on the field, with the exception perhaps a running back. Most notably, Stoops and his coaches have yet to designate a starting quarterback for 2015.

“There’s reason to believe OU will rebound – and also plenty of reason to doubt this squad (coming into the new season)” – Athlon Sports

Stoops made a number of coaching changes in the offseason, including bringing in Lincoln Riley as the new offensive coordinator and changing the responsibilities for longtime OU assistant Cale Gundy and brother Mike Stoops. The Sooners also have replaced defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery, who left to take a job in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers.

Gundy, who had coached the running backs since the beginning of the Stoops’ era at OU in 1999, has taken over responsibility for the Sooner wide receivers. Mike Stoops will continue as the team’s defensive coordinator, but has relinquished responsibilities for the defensive backs. Former NFL assistant Diron Reynolds is the Oklahoma’s new defensive line coach.

It has been a while since the Sooners have been able to fly under the radar a little bit and climb upward through the national rankings, building momentum and confidence as the season progressed. Starting out high on the ladder and stumbling backward has been their fate a good part of the time over the past four seasons.

No one in Sooner Nation  wants to think that OU could fall as far and as hard as the Texas Longhorns have the last five seasons. Hard to imagine something like that could happen under Bob Stoops. But that’s why the 2015 season looms so important for OU and its tradition-rich football program.

The way the 2015 schedule is structured, we will get a good glimpse at what next season’s team is made of when the Sooners go to Tennessee the second weekend of the 2015 college season. But it won’t be until the final three games of the season – at Baylor, TCU and at Oklahoma State – that we will know how the 17th season in the Bob Stoops era of Oklahoma football will ultimately unfold.

There won’t be a more difficult three-game stretch in all of college football next season.

Something to ponder in the forthcoming days leading up to the opening kickoff of the 2015 season: The last two times Oklahoma won just five conference games, the following season, the Sooners went undefeated and won the national championship (2000) and finished 12-2 and tied for first in the Big 12’s South Division with a 6-2 league mark.

Will history repeat itself in 2015?

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