Oklahoma quarterback-turned-tight end Blake Bell has seen a steady rise in bowl prominence since his redshirt freshman season in 2011. He's gone from the Insight Bowl to the Cotton Bowl to the Sugar Bowl, and in 2014—his final season with the Sooners—he expects that progression to continue.
He didn't even hesitate before answering.
It's not crazy for Bell to think OU can win it all. The Sooners return quarterback Trevor Knight, whose presence helped force Bell to tight end, and almost every meaningful piece from the defensive front seven that dominated Alabama in the 45-31 Sugar Bowl victory.
They also have the benefit of an easy-to-navigate schedule. Tulsa, West Virginia, TCU, Iowa State and Texas Tech are the only true road games OU has to play next season, which is why I ranked it No. 1 in terms of easiest road schedules among power conference teams.
According to B/R's Adam Kramer—writing at his blog, Kegs 'N Eggs—the Sooners were listed as 2-5 favorites to win the Big 12 this season, better odds than any other team in any other power conference. Winning the league would likely (but not definitely) put them into the College Football Playoff, and from there they would just be two wins away from the title.
Maybe Bell is not so crazy after all.
Still, in college football, "Championship or Bust" is a romantic but ultimately impractical mantra. For any team.
There are 125 full FBS members, and 15 or 20 of them can realistically hope to make the College Football Playoff and win the national title. The talent that separates those teams is often minimal, and the deciding factors between who does and who doesn't reach their goal are often hard things to predict: a tipped pass at the line, an oddly bouncing fumble, an egregiously bad call, a 109-yard field goal return.
Oklahoma is set up well for a run at the championship but so were Ohio State and Alabama in 2013. Both of those teams subscribed to the "Championship or Bust" mentality, began the season 11-0, lost their final non-bowl game and were unable to rebound in the Orange Bowl and Sugar Bowl, respectively.
Now, despite each winning their first 11 games, Ohio State and Alabama look back on 2013 and consider it a failure. Perception is a matter of context, and the context they viewed the season through was "we expect to win the national championship." That is a lot to ask.
Which is to say, there are ways for Oklahoma to have a successful season without winning the national title. It could win the conference and lose a close game in the national semifinals against, say, Florida State. Would that really be so bad of a year in Norman?
What Will Be the Outcome of OU's 2014 Season?
Bell is not to blame here because, really, what else is he supposed to say? That he doesn't expect to win the national title? That would be far worse.
However, these goals are a little lofty—for any team—and they set OU up for failure more often than they set it up for success.
You want your players to be confident without being unrealistic. This borders a little too heavy on the former without a healthy-enough dose of the latter.
OU opens the season Aug. 30 against Louisiana Tech.