By John Shinn
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — An annual Big 12 Conference tradition has been for Oklahoma to enter the season as the favorite to win the league. It’s been that way more often than not since the 2001 season.
However, OU will enter the 2013 season as part of the pack, so to speak. The 10-team league appears to be the most balanced it’s ever been.
That doesn’t seem to change the Sooners’ outlook on the 2013 season.
“Win the Big 12 and play for the national championship; it’s the same thing every year,” center Gabe Ikard said Tuesday at Big 12 Football Media Days in Dallas.
The one thing that has changed for OU is that the rest of the country isn’t on board with the typical goals.
The Sooners average ranking in the Associated Press Preseason Top 25 is 6.37 since the poll began in 1936. Over the last 12 years, its average starting point has been No. 4.
Next month, OU will be lucky to crack the top 15 when the 2013 version is released.
The lack of returning starters, a new starting quarterback and the performance in the 41-13 loss to Texas A&M in last season’s Cotton Bowl Classic has left the impression OU isn’t ready to compete at a national championship level.
OU coach Bob Stoops admitted going 10-3 the last two years and sharing the Big 12 title with Kansas State last season hasn’t reached the bar.
“We needed to win 12 or 13 games instead of 10. Ten isn’t good enough and co-champs isn’t good enough,” Stoops said. “We’re trying to, overall, do everything in our program a little better. Hopefully we’ll coach better. Hopefully our players have worked harder in the offseason to be more prepared to make plays when they can make them. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
All programs have transitional seasons. OU had them under Stoops in 2005 and 2009. But those teams were rebuilding from teams that played for national championships the previous year.
The Sooners were a long way from that level when it last took the field. Hard to believe an offseason and one recruiting class can put it back there so quickly.
However, the one thing the Sooners have that few of Stoops’ teams enjoyed was the chance to fly under the radar.
“I feel like we have a chip on our shoulder. At the end of the day, I feel like it’s a little insulting because we are Oklahoma, and we have the talent to step up every year and fill those voided holes,” cornerback Aaron Colvin said. “I know we’ll do it this year. Guys have been working to do that, and we’re gonna shock a lot of people.”
It was apparent after Big 12 media days the Sooners have lost their status as the team to beat in the Big 12 Conference. They’re fine with that. That belief has no outcome on winning or losing games.
OU still believes it has what it takes to set the same goals it has for every season.
“Undefeated and a national championship. To have no regrets,” fullback Trey Millard said on the mindset heading into the season. “You can have a one-loss national championship and Big 12 championship as well. To be completely happy, you want the national championship. That’s what we expect.”
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