No one can disrespect what Bob Stoops has done for the Sooner program. He has an outstanding win-loss percentage, a multitude of Big 12 Titles, and a phenomenal number of appearances in BCS bowls. In 11 years, Oklahoma has only lost two games at Gaylord Family - Oklahoma Memorial Stadium by a combined 6 points (to TCU and Oklahoma State, respectively). Bob Stoops will likely go down as one of the greatest coaches in college football history. I don't know how many coaches have had as much success in their entire life as Bob did from 2000-2010, but I'm guessing probably only a select few. He has restored greatness to a proud program that has again become a breeding ground for NFL talent.
Boomer Sooners Already Peaked? (downside of the pinnacle, summit, apex, golden climax)
The question I bring up today is, have we seen the best already? For a coach who has already been to the top, is there any way to go up? Or is it all down hill from here?
As much as OU has dominated the Big 12 since Coach Stoops' arrival, their record when matching up with other conferences in bowl games over the last 7 years has been . . . well, dismal. Yes they've been playing in big games against high ranked opponents and it is an accomplishment just getting that far, but has anyone else fared as poorly in big games recently? I don't know if I've ever heard as much hate for a conference as the Big 10 or as much disdain for a team as I did for Ohio State for their miserable performances in consecutive national championship games, but have they been any worse than the Big 12 champs?
The Mike Stoops Factor
Late in 2003, Bob's brother and defensive coordinator Mike left Oklahoma to become the head man for the University of Arizona Wildcats. Following the younger Stoops' departure, the Sooners were utterly dominated in the Big 12 Championship by Kansas State. Despite the pounding they took in the conference championship, OU was still selected over USC to play in the B(C)S Championship, and then lost to LSU.
Over the next 6 years Oklahoma won 2 bowl games. Two.
The first win was a 3 point victory gained over the Oregon Ducks off a Brady Leaf interception. The other was a come-from-behind 4 point win over Stanford in the Holiday Bowl. Yes that is the same Stanford that hadn't been to a bowl game since 2001. Sure the Cardinal had a nice season going 6-3 in conference play in a down year for the PAC-10, but this was hardly a program defining victory for Oklahoma. Ok, I get that Sam Bradford and Jermaine Gresham were out for that game and were replaced by their 5 star recruit backups who had played the whole season in their places, but why couldn't a team that had 2 of the top 4 picks of the NFL Draft playing in their last college game display a little more dominance?
I digress, a win is a win and I won't scrutinize the Sooners any more for the times they took care of business. But let's talk a little about the losses. Three and a half years later, OU apologists are still throwing out excuses for the loss to Boise State, but never mention the performance in the BCS bowls the year before or the year after. Out of all the BCS bowls, most experts expected the biggest blowout in January 2008 to be Oklahoma over West Virginia. The Sooners were one of the most sure fire bets for college pick 'em that year. The result? West Virginia 48, Oklahoma 28, a 20-point loss.
It's not only the performance in bowl games that has taken a dive in since Mike Stoops left town. OU owned Texas in the Red River Shootout from 2000-2004, but has only beat the Longhorns once since then. I'm not going to definitely say that Mike is the reason, but if Arizona is able to win a couple of PAC-10 titles in the next few years, that may become the universally accepted theory.
So . . .
What's going on? Has Oklahoma become the San Diego Chargers of college football? Great regular seasons, but not able to get it done when it counts? Is Bob going to gain back the "Big Game" title? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.