2010 NCAA Football Preview: Oklahoma Sooners

2009 Record: 8-5 (5-3 in Big 12)
2009 Bowl: Sun Bowl (beat Stanford 31-27))
Final 2009 AP Ranking: Not Ranked (received 90 pts which placed them 26th)
Head Coach: Bob Stoops (117-28 at Oklahoma)
Non-Conference Schedule: Utah State (9/4), Florida State (9/11), Air Force (9/18), at Cincinnati (9/25)

2009 Offensive Statistics
Scoring: 31.1 points per game (4th in Big 12)
Rushing Yards/Game: 134 (7th in Big 12)
Passing Yards/Game: 289 (3rd in Big 12)
Total Yards/Game: 423 (3rd in Big 12) 

2009 Defensive Statistics
Scoring: 14.5 points per game (2nd in Big 12, 7th in Nation)
Rushing Yards/Game: 92 (3rd in Big 12, 9th in Nation)
Passing Yards/Game: 179 (3rd in Big 12, 20th in Nation)
Total Yards/Game: 272 (3rd in Big 12, 8th in Nation)

2009 Misc Stats
Turnover Margin: +0.31 per game (4th in Big 12)
Penalties: 82 yards per game (last in Big 12, 119th in Nation)

Returning Starters
Offense: 9
Defense: 4
Kicker/Punter: 2

Top Returning Statistical Leaders
Passing: QB Landry Jones, Soph (261 of 449 for 3198 yds, 26 TD, 14 INT, 246 ypg)
Rushing: RB Demarco Murray, Sr (164 carries for 680 yds, 8 TD, 4.1 ypc, 56 ypg)
Receiving: WR Ryan Broyles, Jr (89 rec, 1120 yds, 15 TD, 7.4 rec/game, 93 rec yds/game)
Tackles: LB Travis Lewis, Jr (108)
Sacks: DE Jeremy Beal, Sr (11)
Interceptions: FS Quinton Carter, Sr (4)

2010 Pre-Season Rankings
Athlon Sports: #5
Lindy's: #9
Mark Schlabach: #12
Phil Steele: #1
Rivals: #12
Scout: #6
Sporting News:  #10
Sports Illustrated: #13

2010 Pre-Season Big 12 South Prediction:
Athlon Sports: #1
Phil Steele: #1

Bowl Prediction:
Athlon Sports: Fiesta Bowl (vs. Pittsburgh)
Phil Steele: BCS National Championship Game (vs. Ohio State)

Expectations were high for Oklahoma last year but the Sooners fell short and had their worst year under Bob Stoops since his debut season in 1999 when they went 7-5. Under Stoops the Sooners have won 10 games in 8 out of 11 season so conventional wisdom says the Sooners bounce back in a big way this year. Oklahoma returns their leading passer, rusher and receiver and espite losing a lot of starters the defensive returns a lot of talent and will once again be among the best in the Big 12 if not the Nation. We turned to the Oklahoma Sooners Blog Land Thieves to learn more about the 2010 Oklahoma Sooners.

What are the major strengths and biggest weaknesses of the team?

Since I'm an accountant, let's start with the negatives. The biggest weaknesses this year are QB and the defensive secondary. Landry Jones is like Rex Grossman - there's Good Landry and WTF Landry. If he's consistently Good Landry, it could be a special year. If he continues to flip the switch from time to time to WTF Landry, we're gong to lose enough to keep us out of the title hunt. The defensive secondary is breaking in two new starters at the corners, and that concerns me. It may not be as big a deal in the Big 12 South this year with new QBs - or offensive philosophies - at all of our South foes save Baylor.

The strengths lie in the linebacking crew and the wide receivers. On the LB front, Ronnell Lewis played sparingly last year but is a special talent and had a game in the Sun Bowl. Travis Lewis is an all-time Sooner great already, and Tom Wort is expected to do big things. The WRs return everyone from last year with the exception of Hands of Stone Tonnell. Broyles is back, DeJuan Miller is back. I'm optisimtic that the receivering corp will help Good Landry keep WTF Landry in the closet.

Looking at the schedule who will be the first major test and why? 

Our first major test will be on Sep 11 against Jimbo Fisher's Florida State Seminoles. Will they realize the talent they have and improve under Fisher vs Bowden? FSU always has speed, so it'll be interesting to see how we fare against a team with that sort of speed. It's our second game of the season, after hosting powerhouse Utah State, so it's quite a leap in quality of opponent. At least we're not playing Idaho State or Chattanooga this year. A close second to the Seminoles is the road game at Cincinnati on Sep 25. Even though they lost Mardy Gilyard, and Tony Pike completed his doctoral thesis, I don't think they'll drop off that much with Brian Kelly leaving, and they went 12-1 last year. Plus, the Sooners haven't played that well on the road of late. Factor in that Butch Jones will be pointing to this game as a statement game to his team and I believe it will be a battle.

What team on the schedule do you fear the most?

Texas. They're always talented. While Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley were all time Longhorn greats, I still think the Horns can reload and will be a top 10 team.

Who is the best player on your team that nobody talks about?

Is it possible to not talk about anyone in today's internet crush of coverage? I would say Trent Ratterree. He's a starter that no one talks about, and had a great Sun Bowl.

Who is the best offensive player on the team?

I'm going to have to give you two answers here.

1) WR Ryan Broyles is coming off of a big year, and we're looking forward to more great things from Ryan this year

2) RB DeMarco Murray. Murray's speed, strength and versatility make him a rare talent in college football. Injuries have hampered him his first three years, but when healthy, he's special.

Who is the most impactful defensive player on the team?

Travis Lewis. He's been a tackling force his first two years, with 253 tackles in 2 years.

What player(s) needs to step up this year in order for the team to reach it's full capability?

Offensively, I'm going to say Landry Jones. Were the mistakes last year because he was a freshman? Or because he's error prone? Every great team has a leader on the offensive and defensive side of the ball that steps up when adversity occurs. They say to the team, "This slide ends now." Great teams have those (Josh Heupel and Torrance Marshall on our national championship team, for example).Good Landry needs to be that guy on the offensive side of the ball.

Defensively, the Sooners lost a lot in terms of leadership when Gerald McCoy left. Who will step up on that side from a leadership perspective? I don't know. But I know that it will most likely be one of these players: a) Jeremy Beal, who's an absolute beast; b) free safety Quinton Carter, or c) LB Travis Lewis.

Who is the top offensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

Hopefully no one. For a freshman to make an impact this year on the offensive side, it's going to be a surprise from a guy like Kenny Stills, a highly touted recruit from California whom Phil Steele believes will start, or a worst case scenario like QB Drew Allen, or O-linemen Bronson Irwin or Josh Aledanoye. The last three are likely only to play significant snaps if injuries wreck the team again, or if players in front of them underperform significantly.

Who is the top defensive newcomer that can make an impact this year? 

LB Tom Wort. Wort was climbing up the depth chart in the pre-season practices last year when a knee injury forced him to be redshirted. He's already pegged to be the starter this year.

Gut feeling on the teams final record at the end of the regular season and what makes this a successful season in your eyes?

I see an 11-1 season. The loss will come from one of these four games: at Cincy; at Texas A&M; Texas; at Oklahoma State. A successful season is judged by the things Stoops preaches: Big 12 South title, Big 12 Conference title, and a National Championship. I think anything less than a Big 12 title is disappointing.

Do I think Phil Steele is nuts for ranking the Sooners #1?

Yes. While Phil's mag is the ONLY college preview mag I buy, I think Phil hit the cough syrup a little too hard while doing final editing this year. Here is a summary of my rebuttal a) I'm not sold on Landry Jones as a upper echelon college QB. Phil has the Stache as the #4 Heisman candidate. I think that says more about the Oklahoma brand, and college football in general for 2010, than it does about Landry; b) our offensive line has one year more of experience - at being bad. We'll have to see if experience begats excellence, or just more failure; c) the team lost a lot of leaders to graduation, particularly on defense. I'm anxious to see who will step up and take that mantle this year, and if it's effective. Nonetheless, i hope Phil's right and I'm wrong.

Make sure to visit the Oklahoma Sooners blog Land Thieves. You can also follow them on Twitter @HeadThief.

Next Up: BYU Cougars

Previous Big 12 Previews
Kansas State Wildcats
Missouri Tigers
Texas Longhorns
Texas Tech Red Raiders

2010 Previews
ACC- Boston College Eagles, Duke Blue Devils, Florida State Seminoles, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Maryland Terrapins, Virginia Tech Hokies
Big East- Cincinnati Bearcats, Pittsburgh Panthers, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, USF Bulls, West Virginia Mountaineers
Big Ten- Illinois Fighting Illini, Michigan Wolverines, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Northwestern Wildcats, Purdue Boilermakers
C-USA- Houston Cougars, SMU Mustangs, Southern Miss Golden Eagles, Tulane Green Wave, UTEP Miners
MAC- Ball State Cardinals, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, Central Michigan Chippewas, Temple Owls, Toledo Rockets
MWC- Colorado State Rams, UNLV Rebels, Utah Utes
Pac-10- Arizona State Sun Devils, Oregon Ducks, USC Trojans, Washington Huskies
SEC- Auburn Tigers, Kentucky Wildcats, Mississippi Rebels, South Carolina Gamecocks, Vanderbilt Commodores
Sun Belt- Troy Trojans
WAC- New Mexico State Aggies

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