The 2014 season was hardly a banner year for Texas or Oklahoma. In his debut season with the Longhorns, Charlie Strong barely got Texas to a bowl game, only to get destroyed there by Arkansas. Bob Stoops' Sooners, meanwhile, failed to live up to their preseason hype, and fell apart in the season's final month.
That brings us to this week's Take Two debate. Which Red River coach is under more pressure in 2015? Strong or Stoops?
Take 1: Max Olson -- Charlie Strong
Let me start here, so that there's no confusion: Strong isn't in trouble at Texas.
He enters Year 2 knowing Texas is still another year or two away from really being back. He has, to this point, the complete support and faith of athletic director Steve Patterson. He came to Austin to repair a program in a deep rut and accomplish lasting change. That kind of change takes time.
Is Strong facing more pressure than Stoops today? Yes. No doubt in my mind. That comes with what he's walked into.
Look at the in-state competition. Look at the slide he has to stop, like losing four of the past five to both Oklahoma and Baylor. Look at the quarterback position and even the lack of offensive continuity. Look at how many seniors are gone from last year's squad.
Look at all the excuses, really. Strong doesn't lean on them or focus on the spin. He knows this is going to be one of the most challenging seasons of a tremendously prominent job. An awful lot needs to go right between now and September if this team is going to win eight games.
Eight wins isn't the standard at Texas. Strong will be judged on championships. Texas isn't going to win one this season. And though I do believe Strong has this program trending closer to the trajectory of his successful four-year revival at Louisville, people are going to expect a turning point in 2015.
At Oklahoma, the frustration over Stoops circles around whether really good teams are about to once again become great teams. A new offensive approach buys time and some level of patience. I don't worry about the pressure Stoops faces because he's already won big over and over again. At Texas, the frustration is about when OK is going to become greatness. And that's just going to be a larger leap.
I know it's only been, gee, five and a half years since the Longhorns last played in a national title game. That's still too long for most factions of the fan base. I don't expect Texas fans to display enduring patience throughout 2015. The only cure is winning, I know, but there's not much of a cure for the often irrational pressure that comes with being Texas' head coach.
Take 2: Jake Trotter -- Bob Stoops
I hate to break to it to Max, but the Sooners weren't good last season -- at least not according to their own storied standards. Good teams don't lose 40-6 to Clemson in a bowl; or fall 48-14 to Baylor at home.
Last season alone, however, isn't the sole reason why Stoops is under more pressure than most coaches in college football, including his Red River counterpart.
Stoops is under the gun because, well, it's been far too long since Oklahoma was actually great.
Spearheaded by quarterback Sam Bradford and the highest-scoring offense in modern college football history, the Sooners played for the national championship seven years ago.
Not since have the Sooners seriously contended for a national championship into November, including last season, when they entered the year with so much promise on the heels of their stunning Sugar Bowl win against Alabama. In spite of his unparalleled consistency, Stoops would be the first to confess that seven years is far too long a gap for a place like Oklahoma.
No, Stoops' job isn't in jeopardy. He still has political capital to burn for rapidly restoring the Sooners to national prominence at the turn of the millennium. The power brokers at Oklahoma still understand they have a coach most other schools would love to hire away. But the drastic moves Stoops made this offseason also demonstrate the collective urgency. Stoops fired offensive coordinator Josh Heupel, who was also his national-championship winning quarterback in 2000, and replaced him with 31-year-old Lincoln Riley. He removed his brother Mike as secondary coach after the Sooners finished next-to-last in the Big 12 in pass defense. He re-opened the quarterback competition, too.
Such coaching changes would have seemed unthinkable not all that long ago. Stoops had never fired a coordinator before. And in the early 2000s, his brother coordinated some of the most ferocious defenses in Big 12 history.
But these are trying times in Norman. The Sooners are an afterthought at the moment in the Big 12, and 2008 is beginning to feel like a distant memory.
Sure, Strong is also under pressure, especially after last season's lackluster debut. But as a new coach, he's been given time to win big at Texas.
Stoops has no such luxury. It's been too long since his Sooners won big. And too long since they were great.