More than in any other season of the Bob Stoops era, the Oklahoma Sooners are in great need of a championship. Even another Big 12 title would do, but fans in Oklahoma are craving a BCS National Championship.
Since Stoops' arrival in 1999, the Sooners have never gone consecutive seasons without winning a conference title. Oklahoma is at risk of doing just that if they can't win the Big 12 Championship this year. With 2013 looking like a rebuilding year, Stoops and his Sooners don't want to start a dry spell.
As successful as Stoops has been, his Sooners haven't won a national championship since 2000. In Oklahoma they call that a drought.
To put some perspective on how long it has been since this tradition-rich program won it all, take a look at what has happened since that title in Stoops' second season.
The tragedy of 9/11 was a year later and is already in the history books. The war in Iraq, which seemed to never end, has in fact, ended. The Boston Red Sox ended a century-long drought and have won multiple World Series rings. And the Oklahoma State Cowboys have won a Big 12 title and are on the rise as a program.
The last item is an actual threat to Oklahoma's reign atop the Big 12. The last thing Stoops wants is to give in to Mike Gundy on the recruiting trails.
The 2012 season may be Oklahoma's last chance at a title for a few years. The Sooners appear to have most of what it takes to get there, but there are still some question marks.
The biggest question is centered around how much of a difference Mike Stoops will make as defensive coordinator. Despite your thoughts on Landry Jones, it was the defense that faltered down the stretch and cost the Sooners their shot at a conference or national championship in 2011.
The secondary could be a weak spot for Stoops. That's why he has simplified the schemes a bit from what was used under Brent Venables. The Sooners have always had great athletes. Now their secondary can stop over thinking things and just use their speed and strength to make plays.
Say what you will about Jones, but he had plenty of reason to struggle in the second half of 2011. The quarterback lost his best receiver, best running back and never did have a tight end to throw to. What remained of his receiving corp was not able to step up in Ryan Broyles' absence.
That receiving corp is going to be in the spotlight almost as much as Jones, once the season begins. Fans and coaches want to know if freshman Trey Metoyer can live up to the hype and make a difference for this offense. Kenny Stills will also be asked to get off Twitter and start catching some passes.
Running back Dominique Whaley will return from a broken ankle that ended his magical walk-on season in 2011. Reports are that he's playing basketball and looking like new.
If you doubted Jones' ability to win big games or lead his team, you should prepare to be proven wrong. His commitment to sharpen his skills in the offseason by working out with quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr. should be evident right out of the gates.
In an interview with Jake Trotter from ESPN.com, Whitfield expressed that Jones proved to be "meticulous" and worked really hard in the offseason. Whitfield helped Jones to throw more with his body instead of just his arm and said, "if I'm a Sooner fan, I'm excited."
Maybe you've already counted Jones out, but that would be a big mistake. Stoops still has one of the best passers in the nation and his brother Mike could be just what they need to bring back a little Sooner magic.