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College football: Have the Sooners fallen from the elite? Depends on how you define it

COMMENTARY — After OU's loss to Kansas State, Sooner fans believed their team could no longer be considered elite. The answer clearly depends on how you define elite. Make the club exclusive, and OU is on the outside looking in.
by Berry Tramel Published: December 15, 2012

The world wide web crashed in the wee morning hours of Sept. 23. OU had lost to Kansas State, and Sooner fans vented the new-fashioned way. They tweeted and Facebooked and emailed. Some were rational. Some were not.

Some were resigned. Some were outraged.

But all were of the same belief. The Sooners had slipped. Oklahoma football no longer could be considered elite.

Three months later, OU awaits a Cotton Bowl showdown with old foe Texas A&M. October, November and December brought glorious and thrilling victories (Texas, West Virginia, OSU) and another debilitating defeat (Notre Dame).

For the first time in the Bob Stoops era, the Sooners have gone two straight seasons without an outright Big 12 title or a BCS bowl berth. So is the sackcloth crowd right? Have the Sooners fallen from elite status?

The answer clearly depends on how you define elite.

Make the club exclusive, and OU is on the outside looking in. The Sooners over the past few seasons are not at the same table as Alabama or LSU or Oregon. Maybe not even Wisconsin, which despite five losses is in the Rose Bowl for the third straight season.

Loosen the requirements a tad, and the Sooners are in with both cleats.

Is Ohio State elite? The Buckeyes went 12-0 this season and have won 51 games the last five years. OU's resume over the last three and five seasons is slightly better than the Buckeyes.'

Is Florida elite? The Gators went 11-1 this season and beat the Sooners for the 2008 national title. OU and Florida have the exact same record, 52-14, over the last five years.

The problem is, in the early part of this century, the Sooners were elite no matter how tight you squeezed the restrictions. The first five seasons of the 2000s, OU won a national title and played for two more.

But in the last eight years, OU has played in only one Big Bowl, that loss to Florida. The Sooners remain the Big 12's premier program — outright championships in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010, plus a co-championship with K-State this autumn — but has fallen on the college football food chain, though not necessarily far.

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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