I will just be honest with my readers. This is only a jaded opinion of how I see the OU football team as it enters week one vs. Akron on Saturday.
I realize that OSU opens on Thursday, and I am intending to put something together for the Cowboy fans in Tuesday’s paper. I have been a Sooner fan since I began attending games on my father’s heels when I was seven years old.
This is the first year I can remember ever entering a season with this much confusion. Normally at this time of the year, my crimson shades are on, and even though I might not have thought the Sooners were great, I still found a way to talk myself into believing the hype. I could lay out every scenario for you as to why the Sooners would win the title that year.
Don’t get me wrong. I still think the Sooners will go undefeated and win the title. That is just something that gets instilled into Sooner fans’ brains at an early age. Sooner fans have been spoiled by 65 years of dominant football. The statistical proof of this is, that in the modern era of football (since World War II), The University of Oklahoma has been ranked number one more weeks than any other NCAA school. So, it’s easy to see why Sooner fans carry the confidence/arrogance around with them. It’s hard to be humble when you’re a Sooner fan.
Having said that, I must have misplaced my crimson shades, because this season I am not seeing things as I used to. Or maybe, my sportswriting job has made me a little more aware of reality.
Here are a few observations I have made about the 2015 version of OU football:
1. This week, Soonernation was all excited about the announcement of Baker Mayfield as the starting quarterback. This is the only choice the staff could make. If Trevor Knight was named the starter, you would have heard a collective gasp. We have seen what Trevor is capable of. He will either look like a world beater (reference the Alabama show) or he will do what he did last year (reference all of 2014), which is panic, throw without checking defenses, and show no signs of understanding that not every pass has to be thrown like a Nolan Ryan fastball. Knight was recruited to run a style (Read-Option) that OU no longer wants to run. Knight has shown no signs of either a willingness or ability to change.
Fact: The starting quarterback for OU was a non-scholarship athlete before transferring to OU from Texas Tech. Mayfield was a starter at Tech before eventually losing his position due to the amount of interceptions thrown. Mayfield’s Spring Red/White scrimmage back in April was more evidence of a tendency to throw interceptions. Accuracy is paramount in the Air Raid offense. It is the single most important factor for the offense to be successful.
2. Lincoln Riley, OU’s new offensive coordinator, was hired to replace Josh Heupel and bring in the Air Raid offense. Mayfield is familiar with this offense from his Tech days, but again, he lost his starting job at Tech because in this system. He threw too many picks. I don’t pretend to know all of what happened with the departure of Heupel. I do know that he won OU’s last National Championship in 2000 as the OU quarterback in the Air Raid offense. Heupel still holds the coordinator’s record for most points in a season by an offense with Sam Bradford as quarterback. I believe that 30 points should be enough to win college football games. Scoring was never the issue for the Sooners with Heupel at coordinator. I am not wishing for Heupel to return. I don’t mind the Riley hire. However, let’s all be clear where the losses came from a year ago. Again, 30 points or more should be enough to win games.
3. OU has Samaje Perine, who as a freshman, now holds the single-game NCAA record for yardage. However, some experts and many Sooner fans, are clamoring for a glimpse of Joe Mixon. Some even claim that Perine will have to share the spotlight with Mixon. Mixon, fresh off of year suspension for punching a girl in a nightclub, was the nation’s #1 RB recruit a year ago. Both of these backs need to be in offenses that feature them with linemen that are in 3-point stances, and charge forward to create holes for running space. In the Air Raid offense, linemen are up in 2-point stances, and back peddle almost every snap.
4. OU’s defense was an embarrassment last year. In the bowl game versus Clemson, and other games toward the end of the year, defenders can be seen yelling at the coaching staff. This is unacceptable for any team at any level. Personally, I have never seen that from an OU player before. I am sure it must happen. However, I haven’t ever seen it. Anyone who saw the Clemson bowl game, saw an OU defense and team for that matter, quit. Again, this was something I had never witnessed before.
I will stop here. I felt the need to vent a little. It’s the time of year when my friends call me up and want to talk about how great the Sooners are. I can’t bring myself to answer the phone when it rings. How quickly people forget the efforts put forth on the field just eight months ago.
I guess reality gets blurred if you still have crimson shades on. We will see.
Reach Brad Gilbert at 482-1221 ext. 2076