After Bob Stoops brought Sooner football back to national prominence with the 2000 national championship, OU became the sport’s most dependable property.
You almost always knew what you were going to get out of the Sooners.
In the eight seasons after that 2000 title, seven times in the final AP poll OU placed no more than three spots away from where it was projected in the preseason AP poll.
Think about that. Virtually every season, the Sooners finished in the neighborhood of where a panel of observers figured they would finish.
2001, picked third, finished sixth. 2002, picked second, finished fifth. 2003, picked first, finished third. 2004, picked second, finished third. 2006, picked 10th, finished 11th. 2007, picked eighth, finished eighth. 2008, picked fourth, finished fifth.
That’s a remarkable run of consistency. You knew what you were getting with the Stoops Sooners. Only in 2005 (picked seventh, finished 22nd) were the Sooners nowhere near their projection.
That was then. Now, the opposite is true. In the previous five seasons, only once has OU finished within 10 slots of its preseason poll placing.
The good news is that the Sooners were way better than their projection in 2013. Picked 16th, finished sixth. In 2012, OU was picked fourth and finished 15th. In 2011, picked first, finished 16th. In 2009, picked third, finished 26th.
Only in 2010 were the Sooners close to what the experts thought — picked seventh, finished sixth.
All of which is a little ominous in 2014. OU again is picked in the high-rent district. Top five at least. Top three by most. Top one by some.
In the early Stoops years, that generally meant the Sooners would be in contention. In the later Stoops years, that could mean most anything.
In 2009, injuries wrecked OU. In 2011, the Sooners were blindsided by never-thought-I’d-see-the-day events — Baylor’s Robert Griffin won the Heisman and OSU won the Big 12, both at OU’s expense. In 2012, the Sooner defense went belly-up to historic proportions.
So while 2014 arrives with great expectations, it also comes with great trepidation. The wheels have come off before.
And Stoops knows that. In Tulsa for the OU caravan two weeks ago, Stoops was asked about his squad considering it was projected as Big 12 champion and projected as a national title contender.
“You’re doing a lot of projecting; so is a lot of other people,” Stoops said. “But I don’t look at it that way.”
Maybe so. But even while dismissing projections, Stoops couldn’t help but praise his Sooners.
“I feel great about our team,” Stoops said. “I love the chemistry, the work ethic. The way they worked through the winter and spring. We have great potential.”
But Stoops accurately points out that OU is depending on a lot of young players. A quarterback who has started and completed three games. A new set of tailbacks. A new receiving corps outside of Sterling Shepard. A reworked secondary. Linebacker depth concerns. The Sooners are solid on the lines, but otherwise, this is in many ways a new generation of ballplayers.
“We’re going to have to have some young people really make a difference,” Stoops said. “That has to happen yet. We need to have a great summer here in the way we train. We need to have a great two-a-days for all that to come to fruition. So it’s early. I have a great feeling about the team. But again, we’ve got a lot of work to do to get it done.”
Including reversing the recent trend of completely fooling projections.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.