Oklahoma looks to pass for more Big 12 titles


Stephen Hawkins - AP Sports Writer



DALLAS — Bob Stoops is bringing back the kind of pass-happy offense to Oklahoma that he introduced to the Big 12.

The Sooners hope that will help them win some more conference championships after a two-year drought that is the longest in Stoops’ 16 seasons.

“A lot gives me optimism, a 17-year background,” Stoops said Tuesday, the second day of Big 12 media days. “We’re just a year removed from being in the top 10 and winning the Sugar Bowl.”

But the Sooners are coming off an 8-5 season capped by a 40-6 loss to Clemson in the Orange Bowl. They were 5-4 in Big 12 play, their most conference losses since going 3-5 in 1998, the year before Stoops arrived. They won the 2000 national championship in his second season.

“I look around the country. We’re probably not the only team that’s 8-5 or 7-6 and on and on and on. And I look at a track record of 12 of the last 15 years, we’ve had 10 or more wins,” Stoops said. “I don’t think anyone else has done that in the country with that kind of consistency, and that doesn’t dissipate in a year.”

Still, Oklahoma and Texas — which won the league’s last national championship a decade ago — are now chasing TCU and Baylor, the Big 12 co-champs from a year ago with their big-play ways and picked 1-2 in the league’s preseason poll this season.

Stoops hired offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley to bring back the Air Raid offense that the Sooners used primarily while winning eight Big 12 titles from 2000-12.

“I believe in the offense. It’s what we started with,” Stoops said. “We kind of made it popular when I hired Mike (Leach) from Kentucky from Hal Mumme, and then it spread.”

Now the Sooners just have to determine who their starting quarterback will be: returning starter Trevor Knight or transfer Baker Mayfield, who sat out last season after running a similar offense at Texas Tech.

Baylor, which won the Big 12 title outright in 2013 and shared it last season even after beating the Horned Frogs, piled up 581 total yards per game last year — the second consecutive season the Bears led the NCAA and their fourth year in a row in the top two. They also had the nation’s top-scoring offense the past two years, 48.2 points per game last season after 52.4 in 2013.

“We’ve kind of been on a mission, and our mission has been to create an atmosphere of excellence, of championships,” Bears coach Art Briles said. “We just maintained a fence around our program, and we haven’t looked at anybody else.”

The Bears have a new quarterback after the graduation of two-year starter Bryce Petty, though junior Seth Russell threw for 438 yards and five touchdowns in just one half in his only start last season. Baylor still returns eight offensive starters, including 1,000-yard receivers Corey Coleman and KD Cannon, along with nine defensive starters.

Baylor and TCU were both left out of the first major college football playoff last season when both lost only one regular-season game. Briles knows a sure way to avoid another snub.

“If we’d have gone 12-0, there’s no doubt we’re in there, and we’re rolling,” Briles said. “If we line up and win 12 games this year, we’re going to be in the final four. I think you can put that in ink right now.”

Oklahoma State is coming off a 7-6 season with one of the most inexperienced teams in the country, but coach Mike Gundy feels that Cowboys go into his 11th season with good young players and some depth.

Charlie Strong knows that his 6-7 debut with the Longhorns last season “is not good enough. It will never be good enough at the University of Texas.” The Longhorns, who open the season Sept. 5 at Notre Dame, won three games in a row before a 48-10 loss to TCU in the regular-season finale and a 31-7 Texas Bowl loss to Arkansas.

Iowa State was the only Big 12 team that failed to win a conference game last season, though the Cyclones are picked in the media preseason poll to finish ahead of Kansas.

Stephen Hawkins

AP Sports Writer

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