You can't say for sure if this is good news or bad news for Tennessee, but I think we'd all lean in one direction: Bob Stoops is apparently cleaning house in Norman, today firing offensive coordinator Josh Heupel two days after co-offensive coordinator Jay Norvell was let go. Heupel, a Heisman runner-up who won the 2000 National Championship for the Sooners at quarterback, has coached exclusively for the Stoops Bros., with one season under Mike at Arizona and then a spot on the Oklahoma staff since 2006. As quarterbacks coach he helped Sam Bradford win the Heisman Trophy in 2008 and became play caller and co-offensive coordinator in 2010.
This had to be the toughest move Bob Stoops has made yet, and coming off the 40-6 loss to Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl to finish 8-5 after a Top 5 start you can see why.
There were also reports over the weekend that defensive coordinator Mike Stoops was interviewing for the LSU job vacated by John Chavis, though Sunday The Dallas Morning News reported Stoops was "not a serious candidate."
Still, the Sooners will now come to Knoxville in the second week of the 2015 season with at least a new offensive coordinator even if Mike Stoops does stay in Norman.
Since going 7-5 in his first season in 1999, Stoops has only won less than 10 games three times: 2005, 2009, and 2014, all 8-5 seasons. But 2014 was the first of those to include a loss in the bowl game, which always leaves the aftertaste and in this case a horrible one. This is also, remarkably, the first time Oklahoma has failed to win the Big 12 in a two year span in Stoops' career.
So at the very least Oklahoma (who opens with Akron at home) will come to Knoxville with a new offensive coordinator and restless natives. OU's bowl game depth chart also included seven senior starters; four of them are on the offensive line. Redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Jordan Phillips has also said he will enter the NFL Draft.
Much of this, of course, will depend on who OU hires. And regardless the Sooners will still be a formidable opponent in Knoxville, a steep hill to climb for a young Vol team still lacking experience at winning games like this one will be. Oklahoma beat the Vols 34-10 in Norman last September, taking full advantage of Tennessee's deficiencies on the offensive line. But as Stoops moves in new directions in Norman, by choice or by perceived force, now you have not only the perception of programs in two different places, but the collateral damage of new coordinators for the Sooners.
And while Tennessee, at the moment, has total continuity in place for the third year in a row, Tennessee's first two major opponents - Oklahoma and Florida - will now face the Vols in September with significant overhauls in their coaching staffs. We've seen first hand the time it can take to install something new, and just the way units are flat out better with more experience in a new system no matter how similar it may be to the old one. These moves for the Sooners and Gators should create additional opportunities for the Vols, who may finally be getting some kind of break from the scheduling gods to catch both OU and Florida so early next season.