Column: Oklahoma not up to par with college football elites

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Stoops’ dismissal not warranted, but program starting to lack luster of other blue bloods

Why hasn’t Oklahoma been able to hold its own against the elites in college football?

That’s the question most Sooners fans are asking after a blowout loss to Ohio State in Norman Saturday. A game that like OU, left folks wondering what could have been leading into the weekend.

Bob Stoops’ squad now has three losses to top-5 opponents in its last four games, including the Buckeyes, Houston in the season-opener and Clemson in the 2015 Orange Bowl. Not to mention a loss to Texas in the Cotton Bowl last October.

The problem was clear Saturday. Oklahoma either doesn’t have the caliber of athletes other blue bloods have recruited or the player development just isn’t there.

Joe Mixon seemed like the only player on the same level as Ohio State. Baker Mayfield, Samaje Perine, DeDe Westbrook and the entire defense looked a step slow. Overall the point was made. Urban Meyer has recruited, developed and for one night coached at a higher level than Stoops. And he’s not the only one.

Alabama is obvious, but programs like Ohio State, Michigan, Clemson, Florida State and others are shining while Oklahoma is losing its luster. Meyer, Nick Saban, Jim Harbaugh, Dabo Swinney and Jimbo Fisher are quickly becoming the popular choices for not just recruits, but NFL-caliber recruits. They are great coaches, but more importantly players are developing more and more for the next level inside those programs. A position Stoops once had OU in.

Just look at the NFL. Three players come to mind; Adrian Peterson, Sam Bradford and DeMarco Murray. Sure, there are more Sooners in the league, but when you look at the overall picture as far as success, that’s about it. And they all played for Stoops at a peak in his tenure.

But where is the development now? Of course, it’s in the SEC, but it doesn’t stop there. NFL players are coming out of every conference. It’s not limited to the southeast, but it’s been somewhat limited in Norman.

Firing Stoops is not an option and it’s not smart or realistic. He’s an elite coach, but now he is in a rut OU fans aren’t pleased with. And it’s been 15 years since his lone national title. The doubters are looming and when doubters loom, problems need to be fixed.

It’s not as easy as it sounds, but it’s not as hard as coaches perceive. Fans can do without comments Mike Stoops made after the loss Saturday, basically saying normal people don’t get what goes on during a game. No, normal folks don’t always get the Xs and Os, but for the most part it’s simple to see Oklahoma players are not as good as Ohio State, Clemson and Houston players.

The problems are manageable. Some will wonder if a move to a different conference could make a difference. Some will question whether a new coach is the answer. Both are dark roads Oklahoma doesn’t want to go down.  A move to the SEC could present problems in the win-loss column and a coaching change could lead to instability – the last thing OU needs at this point.

It comes down to recruiting better talent and developing it. Period.

Stoops may be racking up Big 12 championships, but until he fills the talent void lurking in Norman, Oklahoma will not be an elite program. And sooner or later it will catch up to him.

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