Earlier this year, I told you, faithful BH reader, that the number crunchers would lean more toward the bullish side on Oklahoma in 2015. Lo and behold, Bill Connelly, the Godfather of College Football Advanced Stats, is calling OU a contender in the Big 12 this season.
As always, Bill’s preseason preview of OU is stellar, so take the time to read it through. A few observations:
*Look at the split in the weekly performance grades from 2014 up to the Iowa State game and afterward.
I’ve heard any number of theories as to what went wrong for the Sooners last fall. Most seem to center around poor quarterback play and porous pass defense. Bill’s preview provides ammo for my explanation: Sterling Shepard’s injury sunk the season.
Trevor Knight didn’t have a great year, and Cody Thomas wasn’t much better when No. 9 was sidelined. Yet, the reality is that they were set up to fail by the generally abysmal play of OU’s receiving corps outside of Shepard. For all intents and purposes, the junior standout couldn’t contribute in the last six games of the year, and it showed. OU averaged 8.2 yards per passing attempt in the season’s first seven contests and 4.8 in the final six.
Fixing the problems with the pass catchers will go a long way toward alleviating all the worries about the pass throwers.
*Bill’s profile of the defense last season jibes with my assessment. Specifically, the aggregate numbers against the pass are leading observers to overstate the issues with the D as a whole.
Mike Stoops is tinkering with OU's scheme yet again. If the problems on D from last year are fixable, the tweaks best not go too far.
*I figured that the turnover gods turned against the Crimson and Cream a year ago. I had no clue how dramatic their about-face really was.
*All in all, Bill's preview crystallized for me that '14 was a "soundbite" season in Norman. Extreme examples of numbskullery – a baffling pick-six, a defensive paralysis, a dumb re-punt – got the attention, but they overshadowed some good work in other areas.
So my question about Mike's efforts to rehab the defense really apply to Bob Stoops' entire project. While there's no doubt that changes needed to be made after last season, it is possible to take the overhaul too far.
Let's face it: Bob doesn't really have time for a rebuild. Whatever he does to correct OU's course needs to be done in the context of keeping the team in contention for conference titles and more. How much change on the fly is too much for a college football program? Given what's taking place, in Norman I expect we'll find out in the fall.