Four-Year Trend: 2008 (12-2), 2009 (8-5), 2010 (12-2), 2011 (10-3)
Notable Player: QB Landry Jones. The senior quarterback has all the pressure to produce in 2012. He put up great numbers as a Junior but had some bad games that cost the team. He occasionally holds the ball too long under pressure. He’ll have to make good decisions this year, as offensive line injuries since we originally put these rankings together could lead to some rough patches early. He’ll also be throwing to a mostly new receiving group, but one that should be talented.
Top Newcomers: Sterling Shepard (WR), Durron Neal (WR), Alex Ross (RB)
Circle This Game: Oklahoma at West Virginia (Nov. 17). Sure, it’s not the traditional rivalry game, but the schedule is loaded with land mines. This one starts a tough closing stretch, will be played in the cold, in a place where the Sooners are unfamiliar, and against an explosive offensive opponent. It comes the week before the game that the Sooners circled after getting drubbed in Stillwater last year, but they better be prepared here or their title hopes could be derailed before they get there.
What’s New: Mike Stoops is not new to Norman, but he returns to coach defense for his brother Bob for the first time since 2003. In the four years before he left, the Sooners were Top Six in scoring defense each year. They have only finished in the Top Ten in that category once since 2004, and were outside the top thirty each of the last two years. Stoops has plenty of talent to work with, but must find a pass rush with the departure of both defensive ends, Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis.
Why We Like Them: Oklahoma is always in the national picture, but a year after coming into the season as the consensus #1 team and then faltering to three losses, the Sooners come in as much under the radar as possible for a perennial power. Oh, and they have Landry Jones returning, to an offense that put up over 500 yards per game last year. If they can get the offensive line sorted out after some injury issues, Kenny Stills and Penn State transfer Justin Brown, along with some talented youngsters, will be fine at receiver.
Best-Case Scenario: The defense becomes a top 20 unit, the offense rolls along and avoids further major injuries along the line, like the receiver injuries that slowed the team last year, and they win the few close tests they have. The schedule is strong enough that a one loss Oklahoma team should find itself in the BCS title game.
Worst-Case Scenario: The Sooners continue to come up with the occasional head scratching loss that removes them from the national title picture by mid-November and fall to three losses against a tough schedule.
Defensive Inconsistency: Oklahoma held over half of their opponents in 2011 to under 300 yards of total offense. When it went badly, though, it went off the rails. In the three losses, Oklahoma gave up at least 40 points, and averaged surrendering over 560 yards. The Sooners will need improved defensive pressure to compete against elite passing games.
Projected Bowl: Fiesta
Fun Fact: Oklahoma hosts Notre Dame on the 56th anniversary of their 40-0 rout of the Fighting Irish during the record 47 game winning streak. The streak was ended by Notre Dame—in Norman—the following year.
[photo via US Presswire]
25. Kansas State 24. Virginia Tech 23. Clemson 22. Boise State 21. Stanford 20. Michigan State 19. Notre Dame 18. Nebraska 17. Oklahoma State 16. Wisconsin 15. TCU14. Florida 13. West Virginia 12. Georgia 11. Texas 10. Arkansas 9. Michigan 8. Ohio State 7. Florida State 6. South Carolina