*Sorting through even more discourse on conference realignment in the last week, it seems that we tend to get it backwards when sorting out motivations behind the moves on the chessboard. We should be thinking more in terms of defense than offense.
About 10 years ago, Jason Belzer wrote one of the more interesting articles on the last round of conference wheeling and dealing, Belzer primarily assessed the situation through the eyes of Jim Delany, the Big Ten’s influential former commissioner. Admittedly, the piece has its fair share of obnoxious MBA jargon about leadership and decision theory, but the thrust was that Delany believed passing on the chance to bring valuable new programs into the B1G fold would allow competitors to strengthen themselves by adding those schools instead.
Now imagine you’re SEC commissioner Greg Sankey in 2021, and you just learned that the Red River rivals are itching to leave the Big 12. For the members of your conference, the case for inviting them to join is far from self-evident. They’re already receiving mountains of money without the Sooners and the Longhorns. Do the Alabamas and Georgias of the league really want to give OU and UT an opportunity to strengthen their football programs by trading on the SEC brand? And why would the lower-tier teams welcome the chance to compete against two more of the sport’s highest-profile squads?
The best response to those objections: If we don’t take them, somebody else will. Better for the SEC schools to count OU and UT among their numbers than to give the B1G or the ACC a chance to scoop them up.
*On a related note, I don’t see anything else happening in realignment for the B1G or SEC anytime soon unless Notre Dame wants to join a conference.
*Now that we have a firm date on UT and OU joining the SEC, talk has turned to scheduling. I long believed the league would actually hold at eight conference games in the regular season. It sounds as though all the momentum is building behind a nine-game slate, with three permanent opponents and six that rotate. So who will the Sooners draw as their trio of annual games?
Texas at the Cotton Bowl is a given in one slot. A game against another Big 12 defector, Missouri, seems logical. That leaves the third spot up for grabs.
Arkansas apparently wants a piece of the Sooners every year, and I doubt OU would object to playing the Razorbacks. Fayetteville makes for a relatively easy road trip, especially for Sooner fans and recruits. OU’s historical talent profile also compares favorably against the Hogs, meaning that the Sooners should win those matchups more often than not.
The problem is that the SEC league office would have a difficult time justifying that threesome for the Sooners when other teams of comparable strength will draw two or three heavyweights every year. For example, if Alabama is playing Auburn, LSU and Tennessee every year, it doesn’t feel fair to give OU annual matchups against Texas, Arkansas and Mizzou.
For that reason, I’ll hold firm on my bet from last June: OU will draw Texas, Missouri and Florida. I can see why the Gators would balk at that arrangement, but it makes for the most equitable solution for the conference.
Is Florida a better result for OU than the Hogs? It certainly couldn’t hurt the Sooners’ recruiting efforts in the South to play a game in Gainesville every other year.
*By now, you’ve probably seen this tidbit from Eddie Radosevich of SoonerScoop.com on the makeup of OU’s roster.
Biggest takeaway: There’s a massive roster turnover happening at Oklahoma. 56 of the 71 players that played in the Alamo Bowl are no longer a part of the program.— Eddie Radosevich (@Eddie_Rado) February 16, 2023
Brent Venables era already began but now it’s begun — sort of.
I counted 17 players from the 2021 squad still with the team, but the takeaway is the same. Venables has executed a controlled burn on the roster. On balance, I don’t view this as a bad thing for the program – the majority of the 29 scholarship players who transferred out in the last two years weren’t contributing on the field in a meaningful way.
On the other hand, it won’t do much to alleviate concerns about what we’ll see from OU in the coming year. The attrition has left the Sooners dependent on transfers at so many positions that it’s easy to envision all the new faces failing to mesh right away.