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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

I ranked the best college football programs of the last three years, the last five years and the last 10 years.

I've got the Sooners sixth since 2010, fifth since 2008 and fifth since 2003. That's remarkable consistency.

But OU has not returned to the throne since its 2000 national title. And thus the rub.

Big Bowl defeats to LSU, Southern Cal and Florida left the Sooners branded as a program that couldn't quite close the deal. And now that OU has gone a fourth straight season without reaching the national title game, a sense of dread mixes in with a sense of reality, fostering a belief that OU might not return soon.

The truth is, the Sooners need a talent upgrade to get back to the inner-circle elite. Not a huge upgrade, but an upgrade.

OU was not that far off in 2012. A play or two from beating both K-State and Notre Dame. But also a solitary play from losing to West Virginia and OSU.

Every championship team needs fortune to stand alone at the end. Alabama got it from a K-State loss at Baylor this year and an OSU loss at Iowa State last year. Notre Dame got it from the officials vs. Stanford. OU got it in 2000 from Torrance Marshall's unlikely interception.

But everyone knows the 2012 Sooners weren't unlucky. They just weren't quite good enough. The offense was the strength of the team, but in the two OU defeats, the offense withered. The defense played alternately inspired and awful.

The answer for Bob Stoops is not an overhaul. The answer is perseverance and dedication. Keep working hard. Keep believing in the things you know work. Developing great players, which is just as important as recruiting great players.

The Sooners aren't that far off, even if they don't meet certain standards of elite.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@opubco.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
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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