Is Bob Stoops on the hot seat?
I don’t know exactly how many times I’ve been asked that question this offseason, but it’s somewhere in the range of “a lot.” I don’t really know how to answer it, either.
I cannot envision a scenario in which the axe swings on OU’s head coach in the next four or five months. Even if the Sooners were to go winless this year, Stoops has had way too much success at OU – from winning to fundraising to helping raise the school’s national profile – to go out that way.
On the other hand, to say Stoops is facing a critical juncture in his coaching tenure would be an understatement. The Sooners haven’t won an outright conference title since 2010, which is a problem in and of itself, but it goes beyond the lack of hardware. The way OU has lost lately has only added to his headaches. In the last four seasons, OU has suffered two horrendous bowl blowouts to go along with back-to-back thrashings from the Big 12’s former laughingstock, Baylor. There were also ass-kickings from Texas and OSU in that span for good measure.
You can put a happy face on the last four years and remind everyone ad nauseam that you beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl not that long ago, but denying the team’s erosion just sounds delusional.
The hard truth for Stoops is that you can trace much of the decay in the program to his office, whether it be from lax oversight of recruiting or hiring assistants who were in over their heads. As a result, his teams have lacked the depth of talent seen in the earlier stages of his tenure in Norman. Meanwhile, they’ve squandered more than their fair share of games as a result of garden variety numbskullery that is characteristic of poor coaching.
Frankly, I can’t argue with any of the moves that Stoops made this offseason to get the program back on track. Rather than retrofitting a shift in offensive scheme on top of his existing staff, he hired an up-and-comer in Lincoln Riley to do the installation. On the other side of the ball, I have no qualms with bringing Mike Stoops back for another season – he has taken way too much heat for shortcomings foisted upon him by lackluster recruiting in the years leading up to his return to Norman. He now has more than enough talent at all three levels this season to build a respectable D.
Importantly, I’m expecting the Sooners’ passing game and pass defense, which were the 2014 squad’s biggest shortcomings, to be orders of magnitude better this year. So why am I so iffy about the relatively optimistic prediction for OU’s 2015 record that you’ll find below?
The first law of college football thermodynamics is that momentum can be a bitch. Sure, programs benefit from the positive feedback loops of wins and recruits on the way up. Yet, when things turn for the worse, they generally pick up speed on the way down.
If Stoops can reverse the course of the Sooner-sized boulder sliding down college football’s mountaintop, it would rank as his greatest coaching achievement. In the bigger picture, I don’t know if this season will ultimately represent a temporary pause in the program’s trajectory or a turning point. I am confident, however, that fans will feel better about the state of the Sooners in January 2016 than they did 12 months earlier.
Prediction: 10-2 regular season with losses to Baylor and Tennessee; tied for first in Big 12 standings with Baylor.