ESPN Writer Bill Connelly: What on Earth has happened to Oklahoma

The college football world is in shock at the last three weeks of football put on display by the Sooners. It’s an indictment of the level of consistency and steady play the rest of college football has come to expect from the Oklahoma Sooners.

The losses have piled up as Oklahoma welcomes the No. 20 Kansas Jayhawks to Norman for Homecoming weekend. Everyone’s trying to figure out what’s gone wrong with the Oklahoma Sooners.

ESPN’s Bill Connelly, a senior staff writer is equally as curious in his Week 6 takeaways. In the piece for ESPN+, Connelly asks, “What on earth has happened to Oklahoma?”

Having posted SP+ projections against the lines for about a decade now, I can confidently say that the books are smarter than they’ve ever been. The lines are extraordinarily hard to beat in volume, even compared to just a few years ago. And they have not been able to keep up with the velocity of Oklahoma’s collapse. Just three weeks ago, Brent Venables’ first Sooners team was 3-0 and coming off of a rousing rivalry win at Nebraska. Favored by 10.5 points, the Sooners had won by a 49-14 margin, and they were 13.5-point home favorites against a Kansas State team that had just lost to Tulane.

We can tell how uniquely bad this stretch has been from the company OU is currently keeping. In the past three decades, only four once-ranked teams have underachieved by more over a three-game span. Two of them fired their coaches (1997 Texas, 2005 Colorado), and the other two probably should have. Bob Toledo survived a 4-7 collapse at UCLA in 1999 because he was coming off back-to-back top-10 finishes. But he went just 20-15 over the next three seasons and was fired. Tommy Tuberville and Texas Tech, meanwhile, pulled the same act the following season: The Red Raiders started 6-1, then lost four of five before Tuberville left for Cincinnati. In all four of these instances, the coaches had been in their jobs for a while, and the sudden collapses were signs of an ending, either soon or on the horizon. If we focus specifically on teams that collapse in their head coach’s first seasons, things get much, much darker. – Connelly, ESPN

Bill Connelly’s explanation paints a picture of unprecedented happenings for Oklahoma, and the fact that it is happening for a first-year head coach makes it that much more alarming. Only three coaches in the last thirty years have performed worse against the spread in a three-game stretch than Venables and the Oklahoma Sooners.

The five names surrounding Venables’ are five of the least successful hires college football has seen in that time span. Those coaches went a combined 38-170 — the equivalent of 2-10 seasons ad infinitum. None won more than four games in a season.

Granted, none of these men were coaching Oklahoma, either. Those five poor individuals were taking on some of the hardest jobs in the country, and while they performed terribly, the floor in Norman — where the Sooners have finished under .500 just five times since World War II — is quite a bit higher. – Connelly, ESPN

There’s a conversation to be had about the media’s projections and predictions of Oklahoma heading into the season and even the general pulse of the Oklahoma fan base as well. Most thought the best-case scenario for this team was a Big 12 Championship Game.

While that is all but mathematically off the table, the next best case for Oklahoma is to show resiliency and improvement and scrap for a bowl game and probably an 8-4 record.

It’s a stark contrast, but in hindsight, this was more likely a realistic scenario. Oklahoma’s losses over the winter from a head coach to the players lost via the transfer portal and to the NFL were seismic, and the returns never leveled out. Add that to a staff led by a first-year head coach in a conference that also got better in the same time frame, and look at what you have in front of you.

All is not lost in Oklahoma, and there’s no reason to think they can’t bounce back. They will, but it will take time.


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Story originally appeared on Sooners Wire

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