Sky-high expectations for the Sooners
OU has ‘chance to do something really good’ in 2021
NORMAN – Oklahoma is focusing on the Sooner rather than the Later.
High expectations come with every season for OU, although something feels different about the one that’s about to kick off on Saturday with a game against Tulane.
The Sooners’ 2021 campaign has been stamped by many with the “championship or bust” label. It’s not hard to see why when looking at the roster, but a rundown of the squad isn’t necessary at this point.
As far as head coach Lincoln Riley is concerned, that would just be adding to the chatter.
“Talking season’s getting ready to be over,” Riley said. “It’s time to put the pads on and go play, and that’s gonna be the story here… It’s our job to stay focused on the task at hand.”
Doing that is easier said than done, though.
There’s an inherent contradiction that comes with a championship-orbust season.
While the plan is to take it game-by-game and not overlook any opponent, it’s also no secret that the Sooners are going into this season with their sights already set on the end goal of winning a national championship.
That tendency to look at the finish
line rather than the hurdle right in front of you has tripped up countless championship-caliber teams in the past, but Riley knows how to keep his squad on track.
“We never shy away from our goals and what we think we are capable of,” Riley said. “If we’re focused on what the goal is, then we’re taking away from what we should be doing and could be doing to give ourselves a chance to accomplish that in the first place… I don’t think it hurts to define it but we have to understand the priority list.”
It’s this ability to not look too far ahead that has helped Riley succeed during his time at OU.
There’s pressure every season in Norman, but Riley enters his fifth campaign at the helm of the Sooners with a 45-8 coaching record. His win percentage of 84.9% is the highest of any coach in program history.
“When people talk about it like pressure, it doesn’t ever feel that way,” Riley said. “It feels like we have the chance to do something really good... The pressure to me is to make sure I’m doing right by every person within these walls... That’s the pressure I feel.”
OU is the No. 2-ranked team in the preseason AP Top 25 coaches poll, but that’s old news for Riley and company.
The Sooners are focused on what’s right in front of them, which is an opportunity to do something special this season.
“Part of our expectation is to be able to block out any outside noise and remain focused on us being at our best,” Riley said. “I do think there is an excitement and confidence about this team that if we can get the best out of them we have a chance to play ball at a high level.”