Oklahoma football: Underestimating Sooner Team 129 will be big mistake

Oklahoma's Jaren Kanak (7) during a practice for the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) football team in Norman, Okla., Friday, Aug. 4, 2023.
Oklahoma's Jaren Kanak (7) during a practice for the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) football team in Norman, Okla., Friday, Aug. 4, 2023. /

No one who bleeds crimson and cream was pleased with the 2022 Oklahoma football season, and the Sooners to the man, players and coaches alike, want to make sure they end their time in the Big 12 with their heads held high.

Brent Venables wants his team to focus on the immediate task at hand, and that’s finishing out its final season in the Big 12 strong. In many respects, the other teams in the Big 12 will probably be happy to see Oklahoma gone. Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark indicated as much when he said recently that the league had to move OU and Texas out so it could get on with its business.

Speaking at a Texas Tech Red Raider Club kickoff luncheon last week, Yormark said, “Candidly, we were able to get Texas and Oklahoma out (of the Big 12) a year early. That was a big deal for us, and I think all of you.”

That certainly applies a fresh-painted big target on the backs of the Sooners and Longhorns entering their final season of Big 12 play, but what the commissioner may not have realized, it also serves as added incentive for the two departing schools to kick some rear ends on their way out the door.

The Sooners’ 6-7 losing record from a year ago is more than enough motivation to turn things around and finish strong in 2023.

Oklahoma offered a preview of what the 2023 edition of Sooner football could look like with a 73-0 annihilation of hapless Arkansas State on opening weekend. OU will have a sterner test in Week 2 against SMU. By Sunday, we will have a much better perspective on how good this OU team can be this season, as will the other teams in the Big 12

Fair warning to those Big 12 teams who think Oklahoma is ripe for the picking after a number of years of Big 12 football dominance. The 2023 edition of Sooner football is going to be better, if for no other reason than the fact that at least half the squad has a full year under Venables and in his system, philosophy and a new culture. And the Sooners have added more experience and elite talent through recruiting and the transfer portal.

Upgrades have taken place at all three levels of the defense, and despite some key losses on the offensive side, Oklahoma may actually be better on offense than they were last season. The fact that Dillon Gabriel is back for what will be his fifth college season adds immensely to that prospect.

"“We’ve (still) got a lot of work to do,” Venables told reporters after practice one day last week, including OU beat reporter Ryan Aber of The Oklahoman.“But our guys are putting the work in, and we’ll be there if they keep their head down and us as a staff continue to be honest with ourselves and find ways to constantly get better.”"

Oklahoma is not entitled to win, Venables says. The Sooners don’t have a monopoly on winning, despite winning 14 of the 27 conference championships since the Big 12 was formed in 1996. No other Big 12 team has won more than three conference titles during that time.

"“The program is all about us,” Venables said. “We stand on our own two feet as a (football) program, and we’re focused on how we can be our best, how we can improve and get better in the areas we have to improve.“That’s what it’s all about — building in the right way, regardless of what conference we’re in.”"