Friday, August 22, 2008

Prelude to a Season... #4

#4.) Oklahoma

What You Need to Know: Oklahoma, much like it does every year has all the pieces in place for a Championship season. For one, they have experienced and talented players. The Sooners return 27 players with starting experience. Leading the charge offensively for them is QB Sam Braford, a sophomore who shattered nearly every freshman record at OU. He led the country in pass efficiency, and set the NCAA record for TD passes by a freshman by 7. Oklahoma plans to go with a two-back system to share the workload at tailback, and DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown have big play explosiveness and great blitz pick ups. Defensively the Sooners are paced by DE Austin English. The junior finished 2007 with an All Big 12 selection and 9.5 sakcs, despite missing the final 3 games due to injury. Losses will be felt, especially when considering the amount of OU talent now playing on Sundays in the NFL, but like any team at this level, the two-deep is loaded with talent, and almost anyone on the roster is capable of being a serviceable starter.

The second piece of OU's puzzle is coaching, and Bob Stoops is certainly one of the nation's best. The knock on Stoops is his inability to win the Big Game, losing two of the three BCS title games they have played in. However, most coaches never even make an appearance in said game. While at OU (9 years), Stoops has racked up a 97-22 record and his teams have played in 6 of the last 9 Big 12 title games, winning 5 of them, including the last two.

The final piece of OU's potential BCS run is scheduling. Their out of conference games are wickedly simple (Chattanooga, Cincinnati, @Washington, TCU) and their biggest conference games (Texas, Kansas, Texas Tech) are all at home. It all adds up to the necessary ingredients for Stoops and co. to bring some hardware back to Norman. Now it all rests on execution.

Who You Need to Know and Their 07 Stats:
QB Sam Bradford: 3121 yds, 36 TD
DeMarco Murray: 764 yds, 13 TD
DE Austin English: 9.5 sacks

Game To Watch:
If you're looking for the game circled in red on both team's calendar, it's Texas on October 11. A win means OU is the likely Big 12 South champ. A loss will be devastating to not only their national title hopes, but also their conference title hopes.

They'll Do Well If...
: Bradford continues to turn heads as a sophomore, the way he did his first season under center. Should a win versus Texas occur, the Sooners need to be mindful of letdown against Kansas the following week.

Season Outlook: I fully expect Oklahoma to win the Big 12 South, but don't count out a strong Texas team. Having said that, should OU run the table (which they are capable of) they are a lock for the BCS title game. I think it more likely, though, that OU stumbles somewhere along the way. If not against Texas, then perhaps against Texas Tech. Even with one-loss they are the frontrunner for the Big 12 South (unless that 1 loss is to the Longhorns) and a very strong contender for the BCS title game. What Stoops and co. do when they get there is anyone's guess.

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