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Oklahoma Sooners Football: Hello Again, Old Friend

Mike Leach can help propel the Sooners, once again, towards a national championship.

As the Sooners linger around that final open spot for the playoff, certain teams losing would provide Oklahoma a better chance to compete for the national championship in back to back seasons. According to FiveThirtyEight, with a Michigan win over Ohio State, the Sooners chances of making the playoff increase from 28 percent to 34 percent. If Wisconsin were to get upset by Minnesota this weekend, it would bump OU from 28 percent to a 36 percent chance of making the playoff. The highest percent chance of the Sooners making the playoff would occur if Clemson were to lose to South Carolina this weekend, giving Oklahoma a 45 percent chance. If Clemson wins, OU drops to a 28 percent chance of making the playoff. However, there is one game that affects the Sooners the greatest depending on the result: Washington vs. Washington State. If Washington were to win, OU's chances drop to 20 percent. However, if Washington State were to knock off the Huskies, the Sooners' chances increase to 38 percent. A difference of 18 percent is on the line in this matchup. Although Clemson is a difference of 18 percent as well, it does not affect OU as much in both directions. Who is leading the Washington State Cougars? None other than our old friend, Coach Mike Leach. He has a history of greatly helping out the Sooners.

The "Air Raid"

Leach plays a significant role in the effectiveness of OU's current offense. How? Back in 1999, when Bob Stoops stepped foot in Norman, he knew that this Oklahoma program needed a offensive revolution. The Oklahoma offense had just finished 11th in the Big 12 and 101st in the country. Leach, who worked along with Coach Hal Mumme at University of Kentucky and Valdosta State University, introduced an offense that him and Coach Mumme manufactured based on the concepts pushed forward by Coach Lavell Edwards: the "air raid." This passing attack style offense turned Oklahoma into an offensive monster, making them first in the conference and 11th in the country in the lone season Leach was with the Sooners. With his one season, he managed to recruit three QBs for OU: Nate Hybl, Josh Heupel and Jason White. Heupel won a national championship in 2000, went on to be the Sooners' offensive coordinator and ultimately guided Oklahoma to one of its' best offensive seasons ever in 2008 (as the QB coach) and played in the national championship. Jason White would go on to win a Heisman, and take the Sooners all the way to the championship. Leach's help does not stop there.

Texas Tech

Restarting OU's offense and helping them return to national prominence, Leach's name became well-known. He decided to take his skills and offensive schemes to the south, and help Texas Tech become the "Air Raiders." That's just what he did. In six out of 10 seasons, Tech lead the country in passing, and in three out of 10 seasons they had the most total yards. What ultimately has impacted Oklahoma is through two QB's that played under Leach at Tech: Lincoln Riley and Kliff Kingsbury.

Kingsbury was already playing at Tech when Leach arrived, but finished out his career under Leach. He made an attempt at playing in the NFL and in the Canadian Football League before returning to coach college football. He began at Houston, moved to Texas A&M with Kevin Sumlin, before he arrived back in Lubbock to be the head coach in 2012. The "Air Raiders" still exist, as Leach left his imprint on that program in Lubbock. Perhaps if Leach did not make this sort of impact on Kingsbury, Kliff may have not returned to Texas Tech, and maybe Baker Mayfield would never have a chance to shine as a walk-on QB for a Big 12 school. There is another walk-on QB that Leach influenced, and Sooner fans are very grateful: Lincoln Riley.

After growing up near Lubbock,Texas, Riley decided to go to his hometown college and try to play football. He was a walk-on for the Red Raiders in 2002,but shortly after became a student assistant for Mike Leach. He then became a graduate assistant before he was invited by Leach to be the wide receivers coach at Tech at age 23. 7 years at Texas Tech lead Riley to be hired on as the nation's youngest FBS coordinator at age 26 at Eastern Carolina. Is it surprising that a Leach heir would go on to set the top 5 single-season passing records in their school history? Not really. That's what Riley was able to accomplish at ECU. And now, Riley has brought OU back to national prominence with a playoff appearance last year and a late season surge to grab the last spot this season. John Rohde quoted Riley saying “I always assumed I would be a high school coach. That’s what my mind was set on." If not for Mike Leach, the Sooners may not be on the level they currently are, and Riley may be coaching at a high school somewhere.

November 1, 2008

Going into this weekend, the Sooners are eyeing the matchup between Washington and Washington State. Some are filled with hope, while others are pessimistic at the odds of the Cougars upending the Huskies' run. Let's remember one game similar to this one that Leach helped out the Sooners in a major way.

A 7th ranked Texas Tech team welcomed their in-state rivals, the no. 1 ranked Texas Longhorns, to their first College Gameday appearance and an enormous game. With national implications on the line, both teams had much to play for to solidify their argument for why they should be considered the best team in the country. OU, similar to this season, were looking from the outside and hoping for an upset especially since they already suffered a loss to Texas earlier in that season.

Despite Tech starting 19-0, the Longhorns managed to keep it a game. Halfway through the 3rd quarter, the Longhorns were down only nine with the ball on the 7-yard line. Colt McCoy then threw a pick-6, giving the Raiders a 16-point lead. However, McCoy and the Longhorns fought back, giving UT a lead with a minute and a half to play. This lead to an epic drive put together by Leach and Graham Harrell that would ultimately open the door for the Sooners to make a run at the national title. A Longhorns safety, Blake Gideon, had a chance to seal the win with an interception off a tipped-pass, but the ball bounced through his arms with eight seconds left. This left the Raiders with one play, which Harrell sailed a ball to Michael Crabtree along the sideline, where he broke free and ran it in to win the game. This allowed the Sooners to beat Texas Tech, and setup a three-way tie which OU ultimately got the upper hand.

This Weekend

As the Sooners look on this weekend with no game, OU fans should direct their eyes to this Washington vs. Washington State matchup. As the Huskies visit the up and rising Cougars, they should not overlook this team lead by the offensive guru. Oklahoma needs Mike Leach once again. Let's hope he can deliver like he has in the past.