Sooners have a lot to look forward to in 2014

OU wraps up Alabama, 12-2 record

1/9/14 in NCAAF   |   andrewgilman   |   20 respect

NORMAN, Okla. - This may be the best offseason in school history.
 
Well, at least since Bob Stoops came to town before the 1999 season, anyway, because this spring, Oklahoma fans, coaches and players are going to be thinking about a 2014 national title.
 
That's what beating Alabama will do for you. That's what having a returning quarterback will do, too.
 
Trevor Knight is coming off the best game in his short career and Oklahoma is coming off its best win since the 2000 Orange Bowl BCS clincher against Florida State.
 
The combination gives OU a lot of hope heading into 2014.
 
Here are a few things to look forward to:
 
1. The roster is loaded, experienced and impressive
Aside from losing running backs Roy Finch and Brennan Clay as well as receiver Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma will be better in just about every spot.
 
The defensive line, which shook Alabama for seven sacks, returns Charles Tapper and Chuka Ndulue as well as Jordan Phillips and Geneo Grissom. 
 
Linebackers Frank Shannon, Eric Striker and Frank Shannon.
 
Jan 2, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Oklahoma Sooners head coach Bob Stoops hoists the Sugar Bowl trophy at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. After their 45-31 win over the Alabama Crimson Tide. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY SportsOf course, there's Knight at quarterback. The running back position will be bolstered by five-star recruit Joe Mixon, who will have a chance to play immediately, as will Keith Ford and Alex Ross.
 
Sterling Shepard will lead the receivers.
 
2. The schedule is better
OU will be in a lot better shape in 2014 than they were in 2013. The Sooners have home games against Baylor, OSU and Kansas State among the Big 12 powers. They open the season with a pair of home games against Louisiana Tech and then Tennessee and finish the season with a pair of home games. The tough spot will be against Texas in Dallas and at Texas Tech. Past that, everything else is manageable.
 
3. OU won't have to rely on other teams
The Sooners won't have to worry about leapfrogging a bunch of teams in 2014. They'll start the season either No. 2 or No. 3, behind defending champ Florida State and maybe Ohio State. Auburn and Alabama will be in the top-five as well. 
 
Meanwhile, 2014 is the first year there will be a playoff, so as long as the Sooners are in the top four at the end of the season, they'll be in good shape. Even a one-loss Oklahoma team might have a shot, thanks to what will likely be a lofty preseason ranking.
 
3. The momentum is at an all-time high
Since the 45-31 victory in the Sugar Bowl, OU has received three verbal commitments. Sure, that's just high school players, but the win over Alabama created a buzz.
 
Not only did OU topple one of the giants, they looked like the better team. The result was a focused and dynamic game plan that manifested itself in a great win and has led to soaring confidence.
 
Coach Bob Stoops regained some big-game reputation and now will head into the offseason as the team who gained the most from the bowl season. Obviously, Florida State held the hardware when it was all over, but no one gained more than OU did with its late-season run with wins over Kansas State, Oklahoma State and then Alabama.
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