There's no denying Saturday's game vs Tulane was a monumental disappointment. Tulane may be an okay football team, and they played/coached an excellent game, but if this team is remotely serious about competing for a national title this year, that game was utterly unacceptable.
Because I'm naturally an optimist, I'll start with the optimism.
1.) The playmakers are legit
With time and chemistry with Rattler, the offense will likely be a lot better than last year. Mims, Williams, Haselwood, Stogner, Woods, even Darby and Hall (and potentially Stoops) represent a dynamic and deep crew of pass catchers and route runners. They are also very young. They are going to give teams fits.
2.) Most of what went wrong is easily fixable.
Poor pursuit angles, blown coverages, poor throws/decisions by Rattler at key moments, poor offensive line play, too many defensive rotations not allowing starters to settle in- All of these are things that are almost guaranteed to improve. Fixes should be crystal clear to both coaches and players. A minor improvement on any one of the above and we'd be talking about a 51-21, cover the spread type game, not a game that came down to the wire. The OU defense had only given up 200 yards of offense to Tulane heading into the 4th. They were up 37-14 at the half, even with a terrible start.
3.) This was the floor for this team, the ceiling for their opponent, and it still ended in an OU W.
This one may not provide a lot of comfort to fans expecting the moon this year, but it still DOES matter that it was a win. It could have very well been a loss. Last year, it was a loss in a similar circumstance. Tulane schemed an excellent game, and frankly, they simply wanted it more. I don't know whether it was the hurricane or what, but they played lights out. Their QB Pratt also made some excellent throws into tight windows. I won't be surprised to see Tulane win 8-10 games this year and finish in the top 25. It doesn't change the nature of the disappointment about the OU performance, but it ultimately still registers as a number on the left side of the record column.
And now the path of pessimism.
1.) Lack of Killer instinct is clearly a pattern with Lincoln Riley coached teams, and it's a big problem.
We have become all too familiar with this by now, and it's not good. It started in the Rose Bowl vs Georgia, and it continues 4 years later. Riley simply doesn't do well with big leads. Some of it is conservative play calling, some of it is player focus, but ultimately- this falls on the head coach. This is a systemic problem that has to improve from the top down or else we're not winning #8 anytime soon. It should be glaring enough at this point to Riley, that there shouldn't be any avoiding focusing on it. Does he have what it takes to improve it?
2.) The offensive line is a problem to start the year....Again.
Bill Bedenbaugh has been an award winning coach for years now. He recruits lights out, and he's been able to assemble some elite O-lines. The problem is, they NEVER seem to start the year in gear, or even close to it. It's 3-5 games every year they look discombobulated. What gives? They usually figure it out by mid-season. Will they this year?
3.) The Sooners are not on the level of Bama talent or coaching-wise, period. No team is.
Bama is used as a comparison so much, that it's probably redundant. No team in college football right now can beat Bama in my opinion. I'm not sure very many can come close. They are better than they have ever been, and they keep getting better year after year. They are rotating in 5 star players, 2 and 3 deep all across the field on both sides of the ball. They finally run a more spread offense that's basically impossible to stop. If the Sooners want to win #8, the path is almost certainly going through Bama, and that is a daunting task.
The prognosis is mixed at this point. I'm a believer in "not too high, not too low" type of thinking particularly after week 1. No doubt, it was a disappointment and some trend lines are worrisome. However, it may have been a good slice of humble pie for a very young and talented team to get its act together. Let's see what happens.