No matter what Bob Stoops, his assistant coaches or players say, Oklahoma enters the 2014 football season carrying a good deal of momentum from its Sugar Bowl upset of Alabama nearly eight months ago.
Maybe they’re right that it doesn’t affect those inside the program, but the stunning victory in New Orleans absolutely catapulted the Sooners into the national spotlight again. Oklahoma is a top-five team in the preseason after beginning the 2013 campaign ranked No. 16 in both major polls.
OU finished the season ranked 10 spots higher than that, but only after an up-and-down campaign that included extreme highs — like the Sugar Bowl, Bedlam and Notre Dame — and dreary lows in embarrassing losses to Texas and Baylor.
Which version of the Sooners are we most likely to see in 2014? Most indications point to a team much more similar with the one that finished the season last year.
The Oklahoma team that lost to Texas and Baylor didn’t really have an offensive identity, and in Blake Bell, had a quarterback without absolute job security. Trevor Knight solves both of those problems entering 2014.
Unlike the 2013 Sooners, though, Oklahoma has only one solid, experienced offensive playmaker in junior receiver Sterling Shepard. Even throughout the quarterback turmoil last year, OU had three strong senior running backs and a solid group of wide receivers.
The Sooner defense in those two losses returns many of its best players, who all have much more experience in Mike Stoops’ scheme that was implemented during the 2013 preseason.
“I think we learned a lot about ourselves, good things and bad things,” Mike Stoops said. “It takes a year to really go through the season and see kinda the strengths, the weaknesses and how people wanna attack the blocking of it. There’s little different angles with teams and different schemes with teams that were implemented each week.”