Oklahoma football: Slowly, believers in OU’s 2023 turnabout are coming on board

Oklahoma's head coach Brent Venables claps during the teamÕs warmup before the Texas Tech Big 12 football game, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022, Jones AT&T Stadium.
Oklahoma's head coach Brent Venables claps during the teamÕs warmup before the Texas Tech Big 12 football game, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022, Jones AT&T Stadium. /

The jury of college football experts is mixed so far on what to expect from the Oklahoma football Sooners come this fall, most everyone, however, believes there should be some improvement.

The question is: How much and how quickly can Brent Venables get things turned around as he prepares for his second season as head coach of the Sooners?

The way-too-early college football top-25 projections for the 2023 season — which has become an annual rite of passage immediately following the final whistle in the College Football Playoff national championship game — are showing a vote of confidence that Oklahoma in year two of the Venables era will find its way back into the top 25, but just barely.

The consensus among the way-too-early prognosticators is the Sooners are good enough to crack the top 25 to begin the 2023 season, but only marginally, placing among the final five.

No one really expected the OU team to replicate the 11 wins it achieved in 2021 and which Lincoln Riley bailed on, taking several players and assistant coaches with him on the way out the door headed to USC. But neither did they presume that the Sooners would lose more games than they won, including six of nine in a conference Oklahoma had dominated for two decades.

At least two college football analysts, however, believe the Sooners will be better next season than most people expect. “They’re a team that could climb very easily,” Klatt said recently on his weekly college football podcast, “The Joel Klatt Show.”

“They were like the direct opposite of what TCU was this year,” Klatt said. He has the Sooners, TCU, Oregon, Notre Dame and Clemson right on the cusp of making his way-too-early preseason college football top 10 for 2023.

"“TCU was a team that when they got into a close game, they ended up winning that close game,” he said. “And here’s Oklahoma 0-5 in one-score games; so here’s an Oklahoma team that won six games, and then they were 0-5 in one-score games. That easily flips.”"

That’s one national expert on the Sooners’ bandwagon for next season. Another is 247Sports’ Josh Pate. Pate does a podcast for 247Sports titled “The Late Kick.” He says the Sooners are one of a few teams poised to make the biggest jump next season.

"“It obviously went really bad in year one for Brent Venables at Oklahoma,” Pate said on a recent program. “They were sub-.500 for the first time this millenium…“…They’re well on their way to replenishing their roster. They’ve done a really good job of balancing traditional recruiting and the transfer portal…I’m interested in the fact that they have a top-five recruiting class and a top-10 portal class”"

Oklahoma fans are among the most passionate and devoted in all of college football. And with good reason when you consider the enormous success the program has experienced historically. Losing seasons in football are few and far between in Norman, Oklahoma. Since the Bud Wilkinson era, which began in 1947, the Sooners have endured just six losing seasons. That’s over a span of 76 seasons.

Venables is a fan favorite and a respected member of the extended OU football family. He was considered one of their own having spent 13 seasons previously on the coaching staff of Bob Stoops. After one year at the helm as the man in charge, however, Venables began to draw the ire of disgruntled and frustrated Sooner faithful who aren’t used to seasons like this past one.

As far as the outlook of the Oklahoma fan base for year two of the Venables era, the time-worn expression “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me” comes to mind. A better outcome is clearly expected, and it’s good to know that some people in the know outside of Sooner Nation are starting to support that notion.