Big 12

College Football Analysis: Oklahoma Could Dominate in 2011

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They’re atop just about everybody’s post-spring top 25 rankings, but will Oklahoma live up to expectations, or fold down the stretch?

Before they get to the home stretch of their season, of course, they’ll have a very good Florida State team to deal with in Tallahassee, not to mention a Big 12 conference matchup with Missouri in the third game and a date with Texas in Austin in the fifth. What’s more, the opener against Tulsa will pit them against a very good offense. The matchup with the Seminoles is most intriguing, though, and is one of this year’s early season games I’m personally looking forward to the most.

Last year the Sooners rolled over the Seminoles to the tune of 47-17—if not for a Taiwan Easterling 47-yard touchdown reception as time expired, the score would have been even more lopsided. The FSU defense couldn’t stop Sooners quarterback Landry Jones in the contest as he threw for 380 yards and four touchdowns on 30 for 40 passing. 

Jones came into that game with many wondering whether he was the right man to succeed Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford, who the St. Louis Rams made the first overall pick in the NFL Draft about four-and-a-half months earlier. A questionable performance against Utah State in the opener (17/36, 217 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT) led to plenty of reactionary assessments of Jones’ abilities despite his success replacing an injured Bradford as a redshirt freshman the previous year (58.1%, 3,198 yards, 26 TD, 14 INT).

Jones silenced a lot of his critics after that FSU game, and then went on to one of the most prolific seasons of the year and led his team to a Fiesta Bowl win. Nobody’s questioning his ability to lead the Sooners now.

He’ll lead a talented offense with plenty of experience, and the defense is in similarly good shape. There are eight starters returning to the offense and seven on defense, making this an experienced squad. There are questions here and there—especially in the secondary with both starters gone and a cornerback in academic trouble—but for the most part Oklahoma should be able to find replacements.

The Sooners got off to a 6-0 start last year and were ranked #1 in the BCS before a loss to Missouri and then a loss to Texas A&M two weeks later. Both teams should be very good once again, and Texas is expected to be much better than last than they were last year when they finished at the bottom of the Big 12 South. Baylor is on the rise, and there’s always the Bedlam Game with Oklahoma State at the end of the year. Not only will the road to a national title be tough, but simply winning the conference will be a challenge.

Yet, this Oklahoma team has experienced adversity; they’ve allowed a #1 ranking in the BCS to slip and recovered to win the Big 12 and the Fiesta Bowl; the quarterback has two years of starting experience and is one of the best in the country; there are questions in the secondary, but the defense is too talented to falter much—if at all—after fielding the 10th ranked total defense a year ago.

The Sooners will likely cement the top ranking if they’re able to beat Florida State and Missouri in September, but the stretch from November 5 to December 3 with matchups against Texas A&M and Oklahoma State (and Baylor and Iowa State) could be where the Sooners earn their shot at the title.

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