Big 12 football preview: Oklahoma Sooners
JUL 03, 2013 5:46p ET
What to expect, what to know and how the season just might shake out.
It's a given: The offense will not be nearly as pass-oriented as it's been in the past. There's no chance that's possible. So, when the offense lines up with either Blake Bell, Trevor Knight or Kendal Thompson, expect more running.
For that matter, it's a given the Sooners will have a renewed commitment to the the running game.
But most-importantly, it's a given there will be a lot more pressure on coach Bob Stoops and the staff. Despite winning 10 games each of the past two years, OU hasn't played in a BCS bowl or won an outright Big 12 title since 2010.
Fans want and expect championships, and while it's only been two years, it's too many.
And that's a given.
Questions to answer: Well, there a number of them, and they are big ones. Such as, who is going to be the quarterback and who is going to be feature back? Is the Sooner defense going to figure out how to get better as the season goes on or are they going to go the way of the past two seasons and fall apart late.
However, a bigger question might be how the new coaches will affect the program. There are five on staff who are either in their first or second season with the Sooners, including defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.
So, while the Sooners are still deciding (because they haven't announced it) who the quarterback will be, the bigger question is what kind of offense will it be? Gone is drop-back passer Landry Jones. In his place are scramblers Kendal Thompson and Trevor Knight, as well as run-first Blake Bell.
There are plenty of familiar faces, but who knows what impact fullback Trey Millard, running back Roy Finch and a bunch of returning receivers will have in an offense that's sure to look a lot different than it's been the past three seasons.
Sept. 7, vs. West Virginia: OU will open conference play after just one non-conference game, and against a WVU team that had no problems putting a lot of points and yards on the Sooners a year ago.
Sept. 28, at Notre Dame: The first road game of the season and it's a tough one. Notre Dame beat the Sooners last year in Norman, 30-13, but this year's Irish and this year's Sooners will look a lot different. Both teams will feature new quarterbacks. How OU's new quarterback will deal with a tough road test is going to be interesting to see.
Oct. 12, vs. Texas (in Dallas): No bigger game every year than the one against the Longhorns. OU has run over Texas the last two seasons, but they've also had the benefit of a returning starter at quarterback in both of those games, too. That's not the case this year. It's Texas, not OU with the starter back at quarterback.
Nov. 23, at Kansas State: Two years ago, OU introduced the Belldozer in the second half of a win at Kansas State. Last year, the Wildcats won in Norman on the way to being ranked No. 1 in the country. This year, the Sooners are going back to Manhattan, Kan., and chances are these two teams will be at the top of the Big 12 standings when it happens.
Dec. 7, at Oklahoma State: What a game last year as OU outlasted the Cowboys in overtime in Norman. OSU will be a Big 12 favorite this year, but no matter what the records, OSU generally puts its season on the line when it comes to the Sooners. Playing the Big 12conference finale in Stillwater, Okla., is a really tough way to finish the season.
The best spot on the schedule is: Sounds crazy, but the Notre Dame game on Sept. 28 sets up pretty good for the Sooners. While OU will have played Louisiana-Monroe, West Virginia and Tulsa, the Sooners will have a week off to prepare for their first road game of the season.
Oklahoma will also have the element of revenge on its side after losing a season ago to the Irish, and they will likely enter the game as an underdog – a spot the Sooners are rarely in.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame will be playing its fifth week in a row with Michigan State the week before, and already having played Michigan. Arizona State is the next up after Oklahoma. Yes, Notre Dame's schedule is always tough, and the Irish rarely have the chance to overlook anyone, but with OU having an extra week to get ready, it sure sets up pretty nicely for the Sooners.
The worst spot on the schedule: Bad, bad spot this year on the schedule when OU takes on Texas in Dallas on Oct. 12. Not only do the Longhorns have nine days off, but they are coming off of playing Iowa State. On the Sooner side, OU will have played a pair of tough games in a row – at Notre Dame and then home against TCU before heading to Dallas.
Couple that with having beaten Texas badly the past two years and you just know the Longhorns will have some extra motivation to play their best games of the season.
Best-case scenario for the season: Blake Bell develops quickly as the starting quarterback and the Sooners get off to a fast start – especially offensively – as they grow into a new defense.
Best-case scenario is an effective rushing game with Damien Williams, Roy Finch and Trey Millard. Best-case scenario is Trey Metoyer living up to his praise at wide receiver and Jaz Reynolds and Jalen Saunders providing capable receiving hands.
Best-case scenario is finding answers on the defensive line and playing closer to the style Mike Stoops coached when he was at OU when the Sooners won the national title in 2000.
It's a nightmare if ... Basically if OU doesn't settle its quarterback situation early in the season. The worst thing possible would be for the Sooners to not be able to decide on a quarterback and make constant switches at the position. If Oklahoma doesn't have a quarterback firmly in place by the time they head to Notre Dame in late September – their first road game of the season – the season could very well come undone.
The defense has imploded the second half of the past two years, it will be another long year if they don't improve as the season goes on. There a number of new coaches on staff, so finding the balance between buying in and understanding new philosophies could be one where Oklahoma needs help.
What will happen: Look for the Sooners to start strong – home wins over Louisiana-Monroe and West Virginia. Look for the Sooners to beat Texas in Dallas, too, as well as Notre Dame on the road.
The trouble comes at the end of the season. OU will challenge, but come up short in the Big 12, losing at both Kansas State and Oklahoma State.
Another 10-win season is on the way, but it's also going to be another season without a Big 12 title.
Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter @andrewgilmanOK
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