his will be an interesting year to say the least for not only the Oklahoma Sooners, but the Big 12 in general. The good news for OU is the Stoops brothers are back together again after almost a decade apart. Landry Jones deciding not to declare for the NFL draft, and come back to play his senior season was also good news.
OU has Question Marks in 2012
The first major question that needs to be addressed by the Oklahoma coaching staff is the mass exodus of WR’s. Head coach Bob Stoops indefinitely suspended WR’s Trey Franks, Kameel Jackson, Jaz Reynolds and DB Quentin Hayes last week for violation of team rules. And there isn’t any indication that any of the these WR’s will be back this season, or ever. We are talking about what would have been OU’s number 3, 4 & 5 receivers on the roster. All gone.
In the last year, OU has gone from having a bottomless well of depth at WR, to basically now being down to two. The rest of the WR’s on the roster haven’t played a down of division 1 football. To make matters worse, OU doesn’t have any proven TE’s this season.
Another big question is what kind of expectations can OU have for a defense that was ranked 60th last season and lost their 4 best players? My best guess is Mike Stoops will be the X Factor in this scenario. He will simplify this defense, and eventually raise it to another level.
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But can he do it right out of the gate, or will it take a year or two to really grasp the system? Tough call. But in my opinion OU will need to be a top 20 defense to win the Big 12 this season. One advantage they’ll have over last season is they will not be facing two 1st round NFL QB’s on the road this time around (Robert Griffin III @ Baylor and Brendan Weeden @ Oklahoma State). I don’t believe any team in the Big 12 this year is as good on offense as Baylor or OSU were last season. Not even West Virginia.
OU’s Situation Could Have Been Worse
Just think how bad OU’s receiver situation would have been if Landry Jones had decided to go pro. It would mean OU would be preparing to break in a new QB with an almost entirely new receiving corp this fall. Yikes!
Another big positive for the offense is the return of a talented and veteran offensive line. The OL allowed 11 sacks last season on nearly 600 pass attempts, which was among the nations best.
The Sooners do have a few questions that need to be answered at the RB position. Whaley, OU’s best RB, is still questionable coming into this fall off his season ending injury last year. With Whaley still questionable, and with a new TE to break in, I think it might be unrealistic for OU to rely on the run game more than the pass game given their recent history.
This is the biggest problem I have with the OU offense. I would like to see them use more power sets like they did in the Adrian Peterson days, and rely more on the run. I think until OU becomes more of a grind it out offense, they will continue to have problems at times on offense, especially when they go up against the better defenses on their schedule.
So Where Does All This Leave OU for the 2012 Season?
OU has a new 2nd year OC who has to try to piece together a WR corp that is relatively green, unfamiliar with the offense, and unproven at the next level. And they need to stay healthy.
OU will be breaking in some new players on the D-Line. But should be very good in the back 7. The biggest question through the spring is can they get a pass rush on the QB? So far the answer has been no. If they can improve in that area this summer, the defense could end up being the biggest surprise and OU’s greatest strength.
The Big 12 Could Be Crazy in 2012
My gut feeling is this is going to be a crazy year in the Big 12. There will be many close games played. Home field advantage is going to be huge. OU has to play West Virginia and TCU on the road. But I think it is to OU’s advantage that those games are played in the second half of the season after Mike Stoops’ defense has settled in and learned their assignments.
Still, there are plenty of roadblocks left with Texas in Dallas, Texas Tech in Lubbock, and maybe the one game people are counting on as an automatic win, Notre Dame in Norman. But I believe Notre Dame could be one of the surprise teams in college football this year because of their improved defense, and more physical offensive line.
OU doesn’t play the Irish until the 7th game. Notre Dame will have played a pretty brutal schedule up to that point, and will be battle tested coming into Norman. This is a very dangerous spot for the Sooners. This game will be played right in the middle of the conference schedule. I do not recall OU ever playing a non-conference opponent of this caliber at this point in the season.
OU’s 2012 Season Win Total
From a betting perspective, OU may not be a bad bet to win the conference at (+105) odds. But I don’t think they are a good bet at over 9.5 wins (-190) The juice is simply too high for the question marks and inexperience that surround this team.
I think it’s going to be a dogfight when OU goes to Morgantown. Same with TCU. And even though I’m a diehard Sooners fan, and would like nothing more than to piss on the carcass of Texas this year, does anybody really think that it’s going to be as easy as it was last year? Not me. I think that game will be battle.
Texas will be a hard team to beat wherever they play despite their shortcomings at QB. Whenever you field the best defense in the conference, you have to be given a fighters chance in every game. Especially if there is any improvement at all from the Texas offense. So OU has plenty of potential stumbling blocks in 2012.
Four Year Starter at QB
With 4 year starter Landry Jones returning at QB, OU will have a distinct advantage at that position in almost every game. Especially the tight games. But that’s only as long as the Offensive Coordinator and Jones are on the same page.
The last thing OC Huepel wants to see is the the injury nightmares he endured last year. Huepel was simply too green to make the right decisions and plug in the players needed for the offense in those circumstances. Hopefully he’s learned from his bad breaks and mistakes, and OU can move forward in 2012.
But even in a perfect scenario where everything comes together on offense, winning this conference will be tough. My prediction is OU wins or ties for the conference title and I agree with the Blantant Homerism site that calculates a 9 to 10 win season for the Good Guys. However, I will gladly eat crow if the Sooners go 11-1 or 12-0 and make it to the Mythical National Championnship game. But the experience factor at some key skill positions tells me it probably won’t happen this year.
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