The Sooners suffered some setbacks in 2011 but return with the most loaded roster in the Big 12. Al Dannity looks at the prospects for Oklahoma entering the season.
The schedule The Sooners schedule is back-loaded but Bob Stoops’ team will see its fair share of tests in the early part of the season as well. The year begins with a road game at UTEP followed by a cupcake at home to Florida A&M. Business picks up with the visit of Kansas State and that’s followed by a trip to Lubbock to take on the Red Raiders. The Red River Shootout with Texas comes along October 13 followed by a home date with Kansas before the Sooners face down a tough second half of the season. Notre Dame visit Norman October 27 and that match-up is followed by games at Iowa State, at home to Baylor, and a trip to West Virginia. Bedlam is in Norman this year but the season doesn’t end there. Instead the Sooners must hit the road one final time to take on TCU.
The players It’s put-up or shut-up time for Landry Jones. The Oklahoma quarterback has excelled at racking up big numbers but he’s made some big mistakes in close games. For the Sooners to contend for the BCS National Championship, Jones must prove he has the mind for big games. In all Oklahoma return 7 starters from last year’s offense. Ryan Broyles is the most notable loss but the Sooners can still call on a strong receiving corps. Dominique Whaley will be the running back gaining most attention. The powerful tail back saw his season end with a broken ankle last year but he’s looked good in early scrimmages. On defense the Sooners bring back 8 starters with no shortage of skills. The issue is whether said skills can pay the bills, particularly in the secondary where lapses cost Oklahoma in 2011.
The outlook The key message with all of Oklahoma’s core players is that they are a year older and wiser. The same type of raw performances, particularly in the secondary, were visible in Nick Saban’s Alabama defense in 2010. While not a match in terms of talent for the Tide’s finest, the Sooners should see a significant improvement in production and reduction in mistakes this year. Whether it’s enough to win the National Championship remains to be seen but outside of the very top of the SEC and Pac-12, there’s no team with the quality of talent to match the Sooners. It’s going to be a tough road through the Big 12. Perfection may be too much to ask but it’s not unthinkable. Oklahoma will either run the table or go close, I like the Sooners to finish 11-1/12-0 in 2012.