Oklahoma had a so-so year in 2012. For most teams, a 10-2 regular season record would be considered a helluva season. Yet, for Oklahoma, it was just so-so.
You have to like the high standards that have been set in Norman, Oklahoma. Win or go home, Boomer Sooner. No invite to a BCS bowl? Bummer of a season. Lose to Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl Classic? Damn.
Time to regroup and make Phil Steele look like the genius we all know he is.
Oklahoma has had to deal with defections from its Big 12 conference (how dare they?), a humiliating loss to Notre Dame in Norman (how dare they?) and an even more humiliating loss to Texas A&M, the team that thumbed its nose at the Big 12 and implied it wanted greener pastures.
How dare they?
Despite all "the sky is falling" doomsday predictions for the Big 12, here it is, better than ever. Only one team in the Big 12 (Kansas) did NOT go bowling last season. That's impressive—just ask the SEC.
And Oklahoma, despite all of the preseason hype, usual drum-beating and over-the-top fanfare, didn't really do so badly last season. In terms of typical Oklahoma standards, it did. But compared to most teams, they played well, and that's important.
Despite the two—well, three if you count the postseason—high-profile losses last season, Oklahoma was the most balanced team in the Big 12.
Balance equals both the offense and the defense playing well along with a nice bowl paycheck. Balance.
Last season, Oklahoma finished fourth in total offense and fourth in total defense in the Big 12. Why is this important? That is because there is no weak link in the chain. Sure, Oklahoma didn't play well in every game, but it was consistently balanced on both sides of the ball. That 2012 stat isn't a fluke—in 2011 Oklahoma finished fourth in total offense and second in total defense.
Not many teams can make that claim.
We all expected Baylor and West Virginia to light up the scoreboards every game, but we also expected their opponents to light up the scoreboards as well.The final score between Baylor and West Virginia last season was 70-63. Does it even matter who won?
Oklahoma did hold both teams to under 50 points—no small feat—but the Sooners are still more remembered for those awful losses to Kansas State, Notre Dame and Texas A&M.
It stinks to be such a high profile team, but it's the price you pay for consistent success. Michigan, USC, Auburn and Nebraska know all too well how high expectations, year in and year out, can leave a fan base disappointed.
But think about this: If your team is consistently balanced and consistently in the BCS conversation, how is that a bad thing?
Every year, Oklahoma is mentioned as a title contender. The worst win-total that Bob Stoops has had as the Sooners' head coach is 7-5 during his first year in 1999. Since he's been head coach at Oklahoma, the Sooners have been in a bowl every season.
Balance. That's the key to success.
This year will be a big test for Oklahoma. The offense is loaded but the defense lost seven starters. It's not a reloading year, it's a rebuilding year. Despite returning seven starters on offense, the Sooners are without school-record holding quarterback Landry Jones.
So is it time to panic? Not in Norman.
Yeah, the Sooners might not make a preseason Top 10 ranking. It's just too dicey at this point to go all-in on the Sooners, even though their prospects at quarterback could approach Johnny Manziel-type entertainment—go ahead, you may quote me on that. But somehow, Bob Stoops will pull it all together by late August.
Oklahoma's schedule this fall is full of landmines. One three-game stretch includes TCU, Notre Dame and Texas. Then, at the end of its regular season schedule, Oklahoma closes at Kansas State and at Oklahoma State. Yikes.
Every Big 12 team will have Oklahoma circled on its schedule because every Big 12 team knows that Oklahoma competes at a high level on both offense and defense.
Oklahoma is the most balanced team in the Big 12.
And it's not even close.