Dean's List: An Oklahoma Win Over TCU Would Be A Big Deal For Rebuilding Sooners

News 9 Sports Director Dean Blevins has some thoughts on OU-TCU, the Sooners' 2024 SEC schedule, where Oklahoma might play in a bowl this year -- and fond memories of Sonny Dykes' father, Spike.

Wednesday, November 22nd 2023, 6:49 pm


If you’re a good college football team, then you should not expect a pushover in a bowl matchup. With a closing triumph at home over an improving five-win TCU team Friday, a 10-win bounce-back season would qualify as a success for Brent Venables in Year 2.

Thus making it “a good college football team.” 

But it’s worth noting that the 2023 schedule was one of the softest in memory … and that, per norm, the University of Oklahoma was favored in all but the Texas game. That important and luxurious fact was earned, but dissolves after Friday.

Oklahoma's 2024 SEC Football Schedule

Eyeballing the 2024 schedule will provide a wake-up call -- one that will tempt some of OU’s avid, thirsty, and socially active fans to begin their day with a tequila shot in lieu of a thermos full of hot java. 

You’ve got a scary-good Tulane team along with the typical murderers’ row in OU’s first fling in the Southeastern Conference. The Sooners deserve respect for improving, but not to the degree that some have been led to believe. 

I almost drove my car into a ditch after recently listening to radio guys speculating about how on Day 1 of becoming a member of the SEC that OU’s talent is better than everyone except Georgia and Alabama. Brent Venables is clearly upgrading OU’s talent level. But he’d tell you that there’s a gap that doesn’t close overnight. And he’s got a running start with some of the blue-chippers he’s signed and is in on.

If OU plays like it did against Texas, they’ll win SEC games. But week in and week out, fans should not expect the Sooners to out-talent most everyone in the SEC. They’ve had several more games like Saturday’s BYU escape than the Texas masterpiece.

Oklahoma’s ’24 SEC schedule includes 'Bama, Tennessee, LSU, Ole Miss, Missouri, Auburn, South Carolina, and expected playoff-bound Texas.

I respectfully ask how many on that list are on par with teams OU faced this season? Cincy, BYU, UCF, ISU, West Virginia, etc. And with all due respect, the KU and OSU teams that beat OU would be big double-digit 'dogs to most of OU’s SEC opponents.

Is there a reason for optimism? Absolutely. But perspective must always ride companion.

If OU beats TCU, finishes off another sterling recruiting haul in December, adds meaningful transfers, buys an elite kicker and punter, and can convince key pieces like Danny Stutsman and Billy Bowman to postpone moves to the NFL, the improvement from what BV inherited would be rightfully heralded. Still not enough to enter as the equal of the third-best SEC team. 

Venables – with Ruthian home-run recruiting prowess -- has OU’s roster dotted with uncommonly gifted newcomers.

True freshmen Jackson Arnold, Peyton Bowen, PJ Adebawore & Cayden Green are difference-makers. Can play for anybody. But in the most physical league outside the NFL, this foursome must be accompanied by other standouts. Take 20 minutes to evaluate roster talent in Athens, Tuscaloosa, Baton Rouge, and frankly College Station, and others.

OU’s oft-mentioned competitive depth is well behind many SEC teams. Particularly up front. On both sides of the ball. It is indeed competitive. But not enough truly outstanding depth of winning SEC talent. Need more of a Stutsman backed up by Kip Lewis. Or Dillon Gabriel backed up by Jackson Arnold. 

Friday’s Breakfast on the Prairie kickoff with TCU is especially important. There’s a big difference in 10-2 and 9-3, my preseason projection. A 10-2 record is a lost easier sell than losing three of its final five league games, including barely escaping downtrodden newbies UCF and BYU.

Competing recruiters will tell mommas and daddies that "OU backed up a seven-loss first year with three league losses to teams who wouldn’t finish in the top half to two-thirds of the final team standings of the SEC."

The only good thing coming off of a TCU loss would be that OU would go from facing a tough bowl opponent to playing one much more winnable.

Sonny Dykes & TCU

Just talking with Sonny Dykes and seeing his smile brings back so many fond memories of the times I spent with his father, Spike. One of a kind, Spike treated me like a million bucks -- partly I’m sure at the suggestion of our mutual friend Pat Jones! With his drawl, depth of knowledge, unique storytelling, and sense of humor, listening to Spike was a treat. Occasionally for hours at a time. And at his house. Be it his game-plan for his Texas Tech Red Raider game the following day or talking golf, mutual friends or politics, those times with him were beautiful. And he loved him some Sonny Dykes. 

Seeing Sonny at Big 12 Media Days allowed just enough time for one more story about his Pops. Sonny learned from a dandy and has succeeded in part because of all the time spent with Spike. 

Back to bowl talk.

Who Might The Oklahoma Sooners Play In A Bowl Game?

Many bowl projections have the Sooners facing Alabama or Arizona. Each would present a substantial challenge. The Tide is currently playing as well as any team in America. The physical matchup favors Alabama by a wide margin (see the past two College Football Playoff semifinal meetings). And if you don’t know much about Arizona, Sooner fans would soon learn that they’re suddenly tough as nails.

If OU meets Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl, the Cats will have the home-field advantage. Just like so many of OU’s BCS title game or now CFB Playoff game opponents. Nothing like a roadie when you’re playing for all the marbles! No marbles in a bowl game this time, but a reminder that games aren’t played in OKC or Ardmore or Burns Flat. For some reason, the preferred spots are Miami, New Orleans Pasadena and Glendale. And unlike championship Oklahoma teams, this one has had monumental struggles on the road.

Believe it or not, beating this Arizona team would be impressive. Jedd Fisch may be the least known, red-hot coach in the game. All he’s done is go from 1-11 in his first year 2021, to 5-7 last season, to now - when all three of the Wildcats' losses were tight fits; 31-24 at Mississippi State in OT, 31-24 against Washington and 43-41 at USC in three OTs. With a 'Zona win over light-in-the-britches Arizona State and an Oregon State win at Oregon, the Cats would clinch a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

Alabama’s backups would beat most teams. Ascending play from the incredibly athletic and dual-threat QB Jalen Milroe would create run-pass problems for an OU defense now ranked 64th nationally. And that Sooners defense that impressed everyone with its goal line stand against Texas, is coming off allowing BYU’s heretofore anemic 90-run yards per game bunch to a mere 217 rush yards.

Methinks OU would be much better off if its next game against the 'Tide is next season in Norman. Yes, Bob Stoops stunned 'Bama in a non-playoff bowl, a game Nick Saban would later blame on his team not taking seriously. But for one, that was Bob’s team. And it was as prepared for Saban & Co. as any team in my OU memory. Executed like a Bill Walsh '49er offense with Joe Montana. And trust me, Saban would remind his team of that embarrassing stunner and have them prepared to make a pre-SEC first-season statement. 

Predictions For OU-TCU

Finally, regardless of whether Gabriel is healthy enough to start or if OU goes with previously redshirting Arnold, I’ve got OU beating TCU. But if they don’t come to play and play well, it’ll be another one-possession game, with the distinct possibility of losing. It would be a loss that would be make OU’s Texas win and 7-0 start feel like it never happened. But we know BV can motivate and sell (although wasn’t much selling or buying in Provo), that it’s at home, that Big 12 title implications exist, and that a hit-and-miss secondary gets the outstanding corner Gentry Williams back.

Book it. Sooners prevail.

I’ve got Oklahoma State beating BYU. But Mike Gundy would tell you this is not one of his best teams. And if they don’t contain the QB run and scramble game better than OU, they’ll have problems. I’ve got Gundy winning and headed for a shot at a second Big 12 title.

Have a great Thanksgiving. Keep your head on a swivel. Your feet on the ground. And your heart full of kindness and mercy – except when it comes to Big 12 officiating.


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