Thursday, January 3, 2008

Stooping To A New Level

What's become of Bob Stoops? After his Sooners won the national championship in 2000, he became one of the biggest coaching names on the college circuit. He followed that championship year by advancing the Sooners to the Rose Bowl in 2003, where they dismantled Washington State. Everything was great in Norman, and they appreciated their lead man. But since that Rose Bowl victory, the Sooners have participated in 4 BCS games, losing each. In 2 of the 4, they played for the National title, falling to LSU and USC. In 3 0f 4, they lost to the underdog, with the most shocking loss coming against Boise State in last year's Fiesta Bowl.

This time around, they fell to West Virginia, a program that was using an interim coach and undersold tickets for the game. They fell to a team referenced with turmoil, and not with any projection to win the battle. The West Virginia talk was of a ship jumping coach and lawsuits, and not of Pat White and player performances. The Fiesta Bowl talk wasn't about if Oklahoma would win, but how they would win. Oklahoma was the third ranked team, sitting with 2 losses and feeling a possible BCS championship game snub. But it was that other 2 loss team from Morgantown, that was one weekend away from New Orleans, who now poses the bigger argument.

With an annual salary of over $3.4 million, and losing 48-28 to a special teams coach, you have to wonder how much longer before Stoops is on the hotseat. It's one thing to lose big games against Nick Saban and Pete Carroll, but when Chris Peterson and this other guy's(Bill Stewart) teams are better prepared, and they are outcoaching you on the field, it has to turn up the heat just a little. If the Sooners are content with just winning the Big 12 crown and leaving it at that, I guess there won't be much of a buzz from Norman. But I think the expectations are higher, especially considering the programs history, and the amount of money being dished out to build on it.

I can pinpoint one noticeable difference in OU's BCS success and failures. Two Stoops are better than one. Mike Stoops departed after the 2003 season, coordinating the Sooners defense for the final time in a championship game loss to LSU. Though they lost a close one in the Superdome, the Sooners defense only surrendered 21 points. Since then, the defense has given up 55*, 43, and now 48 in BCS bowl games. If the Sooners are looking for a quick fix, and an end to the BCS skid, my suggestion would be to start by evaluating the performance and game preparations of the defensive coordinator(Brent Venables), and then going from there.

It's another feel good story, with the Mountaineers pulling this upset. First, Michigan's Lloyd Carr enjoys his final ride, and now Bill Stewart rides on his players shoulders. The two programs had a sudden connection with the coaching change, and both managed to end on a high note. There's only one piece left to this love triangle, and that would be the "should I stay or go" Les Miles. If Miles and his LSU Tigers are defeated in the BCS championship game by Jim Tressel, all that would be left to say is, "Wow, what an ending".

*Note: LSU's Bo Pelini was the Co-Defensive Coordinator when the Sooners gave up 55 points to USC in the National Championship game.

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