2007 RECORD: 11-3; BIG 12: 6-2
Lost Fiesta Bowl vs. West Virginia 48-28
LOCATION: Norman, Oklahoma
STADIUM: Oklahoma Memorial Stadium (82,112)
HEAD COACH: Bob Stoops
OVERALL: 97-22 (9 seasons)
AT OKLAHOMA: 97-22 (9 seasons)
The talk in Norman and around the country about the Sooners surrounds OU’s inability to win a BCS game of late. Last season was their fourth straight BCS Bowl loss (they were favored in three of those games) and the second by at least 20 points. Of course, getting to those games means that the Sooners have fared extremely well in the regular season and in Big 12 play. In fact, since 2000, OU has won five Big 12 Titles and reached 11 wins in seven of eight seasons. Whatever your standards…it’s hard not to be happy with that.
WHEN THE SOONERS HAVE THE BALL
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Kevin Wilson (7th Season)
OFFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 8
KEY LOSSES: Malcolm Kelly, Allen Patrick, Joe John Finley
The Sooners return all five starters along the offensive line, which should bring smiles to everyone in Norman. While Malcolm Kelly decided to leave early, the fact that the left side of the line, OT Phil Loadholt & OG Duke Robinson, returned may wind up being more significant. Both clear 330 pounds and move well—when they are motivated it can be a long day for defenders. Standing behind the line is sophomore Sam Bradford, who is coming off a record setting season freshman season. He has a good arm and is accurate—when he gets on a roll, this offense can be unstoppable. Even without the aforementioned Kelly, Bradford will have plenty of weapons at his disposal. Senior Juaquin Iglesias is among the most dangerous players in the nation after the catch with his speed and shifty open field moves, while slot man Manuel Johnson provides another option that can run. Two more veterans, Quentin Chaney and Adron Tennell, provide length and the ability to go up and get the football. At tight end, Jermaine Gresham may actually be their toughest cover, while Brody Eldridge is more of a blocker. When OU decides to take to the ground, Las Vegas native DeMarco Murray, a Reggie Bush-esque runner, will make opponents miss using his quickness and breakaway speed. Chris Brown is the perfect complement to Murray—he excels between the tackles and in short yardage situations.
TOP PROSPECTS: 1) TE Jermaine Gresham (JR), 2) OG DeMarco Murray (SO)
WHEN THE OTHER TEAM HAS THE BALL
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Brent Venables (10th Season)
DEFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 6
KEY LOSSES: Reggie Smith, Curtis Lofton, Marcus Walker, D.J. Wolfe, Lewis Baker
The Sooners are loaded up front. It begins at defensive tackle, where highly touted recruits junior DeMarcus Granger and sophomore Gerald McCoy both return and figure to take a step closer to fulfilling their potential to dominate. Pushing them and providing depth are Cory Bennett and Adrian Taylor. Coming from the edge, Auston English is so quick you’d think he knows the snap count, as he consistently keeps offensive tackles on their heels. As long as he remains healthy, he figures to be the Big 12’s most dominant pass rusher. Manning the middle is junior MIKE Ryan Reynolds who showed glimpses last season after suffering through injuries in the early part of his career. Former safety Keenan Clayton adds speed to the second level of the defense. In the defensive backfield they have an excellent blend at safety, where SS Nic Harris checks in ten pounds heavier than Clayton and is one of the hardest hitting safeties in the nation. Joining him is FS Lendy Holmes, whose experience as a former corner will allow him to provide support in pass coverage. That coverage will be needed—the Sooners are breaking in two new starters at cornerback. No one doubts the talent Brian Jackson and Dominque Franks possess, but the duo is unproven.
TOP PROSPECTS: 1) DT Gerald McCoy (SO), 2) DT DeMarcus Granger (JR)
The out of conference schedule is challenging enough. The Sooners take on a 2007 bowl team in Cincinnati, visit the Washington Huskies, and host TCU, one of the top “mid-major” programs in country. Those are all solid teams, but all games the Sooners should win fairly handily. The conference schedule is not an easy one, but again features games the Sooners are “supposed” to win—they play the ‘Horns on the second Saturday of October and the Red Raiders from Texas Tech come calling in November. Those two contests should decide the fate of the Big 12 South. Missouri is off the schedule, but Kansas is back, as are the rival Cornhuskers. The two games that anyone who watches the Sooners will be most concerned about are their trips to College Station and Stillwater, two places OU always seems to struggle, regardless of the talent discrepancy.
The Back Seven: This group could be vulnerable against the pass. One starting corner, Jackson, hasn’t started a game at the college level and the other, Franks, has started only one. At safety, Holmes has experience (19 career starts) but mostly at corner, while Harris’ strength is playing near the line of scrimmage, not as a last line of defense. They have even less experience at linebacker, where they will break in two new starters alongside Reynolds who is the veteran of the unit with his seven career starts. If they were playing in the old run-oriented Big 8 this might not be a problem…but they don’t, so it is. The Big 12 is pass-happy and the Sooners will have to square off against the likes of Colt McCoy, Todd Reesing, Josh Freeman, Joe Ganz, Stephen McGee, Graham Harrell and Zac Robinson. In other words, they have to defend over 20,000 yards and nearly 200 touchdowns in conference play alone.
CFI FINAL ANALYSIS
OU has the ideal blend of raw talent, experience and favorable schedule to make a run at Bob Stoops’ second BCS Championship as the Sooners’ headman. Yes, their vulnerability plays into the strength of their conference foes, but they get five games to get ready before they have to face any of the quarterbacks mentioned above. By that time they should be ready and should be favored in every game. While everyone is focusing on the OSU-USC winner and which school will represent the SEC in the championship game this season, the Sooners could sneak past everyone and make it all the way to Miami, the site of their last national championship.
Photo Credit: OU Athletics Department
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
2007 RECORD: 11-3; BIG 12: 6-2