Where Does Oklahoma Belong in the SEC Hierarchy?

With the summer months finally here, the world of Oklahoma football should remain mostly quiet until training camps begin in August. Arguably the most important news to look out for this summer revolves around EA’s College Football 25, which will be released on July 19. To keep you sated in the meantime, you can find a projection of who Oklahoma’s best players in the video game might be.

The 2024-2025 football season is a monumental one for the OU Sooners. After being a member of the Big 12 since 1996, Oklahoma has relocated to the Southeastern Conference and will be welcomed with an incredibly difficult schedule that includes games against Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss, and Texas. As Oklahoma joins to SEC, it’s important to take stock of how the program fits into the hierarchy of its new conference and what fans should expect going forward.

How important is 2024 for Oklahoma in the SEC?

Regardless of how the games go and what OU’s record is at the end of the year, next season will at least be valuable for the Sooners. The coaches and players will get a feel for what it’s like to play in the best conference, against the most passionate fans, and in some of the loudest stadiums in the country. That’s not to say that the Big 12 doesn’t also include some of those things, but the SEC is a different beast altogether.

Oklahoma’s win total is currently at 7.5 wins. Prior to Brent Venables’ first season at the helm in 2022, the last time the Sooners won seven games was in 1999. It might be beneficial for OU fans to temper their expectations for next season. Now, this is a very talented Oklahoma team, and if they were still in the Big 12, they would be one of the favorites to win the conference and make the College Football Playoff.

But, Oklahoma has a very hard schedule and they’ll be trotting out a young quarterback, Jackson Arnold, who attempted 69 passes in his career. Arnold has immense potential, but expecting him to lead OU to a 10+ win season in the team’s first SEC season is a bit unfair. 2024 should be about learning and growing for this Oklahoma team. It would be wonderful if they could pull off a few upsets and grab an at-large bid for the Playoff, but above all, this Oklahoma team needs to soak in the experience of playing in the SEC. Laying a good foundation will set the stage for OU to continue its dominance as a powerhouse program in a new conference.

Can Oklahoma recruit with the big boys?

By all measures, yes, Oklahoma should be more than capable of recruiting with the other SEC powerhouses. Their 2024 recruiting class ranked eighth nationally and fifth in the SEC, behind Georgia, Alabama, Texas, and LSU. Those four schools ahead of OU will probably be their primary competition every year, and it might take a few years of solid work on the recruiting trail to really push those schools.

Given the extra physical play in the Southeastern Conference, the Sooners will really need to excel in attracting offensive and defensive linemen. Their signings of defensive linemen David Stone, Nigel Smith, and Jayden Jackson present major recruiting wins for the Sooners already. Offensive linemen can be a bit harder to recruit, but with Bill Bedenbaugh, one of the best offensive line coaches in the country, in the fold, OU always seems to produce great offensive linemen.

All things considered, Oklahoma should consistently produce top-10 classes each year, and that’s great because they’re going to need all the talent and depth they can muster in the SEC.

How competitive should OU expect to be year-to-year?

As mentioned earlier, Sooner fans may want to temper expectations a bit as their team moves to its new conference. Unlike the Big 12, there aren’t any pushovers in the SEC, and it’s going to take OU’s absolute best, week in and week out, to continue its winning ways against new opponents. But even if it takes a year or two for the Sooners to adjust to the type of football that teams play in the Southeastern Conference, there is no reason why OU can’t be a perennial College Football Playoff contender and make runs at SEC titles.

With the new Playoff format, OU can probably afford to lose two games every year and still make it to the postseason just based on their schedule and conference. But racking up conference championships like they did in the Big 12 won’t be so easy now. Alabama and Georgia are going to be juggernauts every year and it appears as though Texas is trending that way too, depending on how well Steve Sarkisian can hold his program together. Over the last few seasons, OU has had a tendency to play down to its competition, leading to bad losses against subpar and less talented teams. They’ll need to clean up those flukey games and play more consistent football. But there’s arguably no better coach to help Oklahoma do that in the SEC than Brent Venables. He is a defensive-minded, discipline-first coach, who should keep his players’ heads on straight. 

The bottom line is that Oklahoma is one of the premier programs in the country and anything less than a few College Football Playoff wins and maybe an SEC title in the next five years will be seen as a disappointment.


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