Do not take the 2009 Oklahoma Sooners football program lightly.
The talking heads, college football fandom, and sporting world at-large have dismissed the Sooners from a 2009-2010 BCS National Championship run, which assumes the tidy Florida Gators vs. Texas Longhorns match up. Certainly, the computers and voters have tired of Boomer Sooner let downs in prime time that have sabotaged remarkable regular season campaigns.
Bob Stoops and OU have lost the aura of Big Game performers outside of Norman and The Big 12. The program has been befuddled, dominated, and bullied by the likes of USC, Boise State, Florida, West Virginia, and LSU. The fact that Oklahoma has remained a fixture within the National Championship picture throughout the BCS era is short changed due to these gaffes beneath the glare.
Personally, I feel that the Sooners are as dangerous as ever.
College football fanatics appear to have forgotten that the 2008-2009 Sooners were merely a few plays from going undefeated and taking the BCS National Championship back to Oklahoma. Although OU lost the Red River Shootout 35-45 to Texas at Dallas, the Sooners controlled the game until the special teams heroics of Jordan Shipley swung the momentum in favor of the Horns.
Per the 2008-2009 BCS National Championship, the Oklahoma offensive line mauled the Gators at the point of attack throughout the first half. In fact, the underrated Chris Brown rushed for 110 yards upon 22 carries against the vaunted Florida defense.
Oklahoma failed to convert red zone possessions upon two separate occasions within the final 10 minutes of the first half. Florida went into the break at 7-all, rather than being down 7-21. Certainly, OU would have been poised to milk the clock and gash Florida at the line of scrimmage behind the likes of Duke Robinson and Phil Loadholt.
Instead, Tim Tebow and his Gators were to then emerge as the team to make plays, move the chains, and punch the ball into the end zone. Meanwhile, the pass happy, record breaking OU offense abandoned the running game in favor of racetrack football to keep the pace.
Stoops and his coaching staff quickly learned that Florida is built for speed and challenging this SEC opponent to a track meet was a recipe for disaster.
This season, Norman, Austin, Gainesville, Los Angeles, and Columbus have circled the October 17th Texas – Oklahoma showdown as a National Semifinal. The Longhorns and Sooners will march into the Texas State Fair at Dallas as the consensus #2 and #3 programs in the Nation.
Still, the prevailing scuttlebutt and championship scenario concludes that Texas will win, and dismiss OU from the title picture. Apparently, Texas will beat Oklahoma, simply because of last season’s 45-35 score.
Further, Texas operates from the benefit of the doubt and voter sympathy, after defeating OU last season, only to lose a thriller at Lubbock per a last-second bomb. Texas lost out amidst the UT-Oklahoma-Texas Tech rock-paper-scissors format and rabid Longhorn fans will always bristle at Oklahoma’s entry into the 2008-2009 National Championship Game.
The Oklahoma Sooners must beat Texas and completely spank the Big 12 to have any chance of winning over the voters and computers. Of course, these directives are easier said than done.
2009 – 2010 Oklahoma Sooners College Football Season Preview: Key Personnel Losses from 2008-2009
Offensive Line: C Jon Cooper, G Duke Robinson, G Brandon Walker, LT Phil Loadholt
WR Juaquin Iglesias – 74 catches for 1,150 yards and 10 touchdowns
WR Manuel Johnson – 42 catches for 714 yards and 9 touchdowns
The record-breaking Oklahoma Sooner video game offense averaged 54 points per game last season. Although Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford earns and deserves the credit for quarterbacking this incredible offensive attack, the All-Star offensive line must also receive its proper due.
The Oklahoma Sooner Big Uglies were the most impressive unit in all of football last season. Bradford remained upright and clean from the pocket and the group simply mauled people in the running game. The offensive line trotted out an All-America or Big 12 at three-out-of-five spots behind Robinson, Walker, and Loadholt.
The 6’8 335 pound Loadholt was particularly nasty and often ran defensive ends off the ball before moving into the second level, engaging linebackers, and punishing them into the turf.
OU’s top question mark is at offensive line. Veteran Trent Williams will shift from right to left at tackle and four decorated, but green recruits will fill the remaining four slots in the trenches.
Oklahoma’s offensive line play was pure beauty in 2008. The group opened up gaping holes for two prolific 1,000-yard rushers in Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray. More importantly, the OU pass protection enabled the precise Sam Bradford to scan his options from the pocket and play pitch and catch with his receivers. The line allowed a meager 13 sacks last season – third best within the NCAA Bowl Subdivision (FBS).
Football factory Oklahoma must also replace the two leading wide outs from 2008-2009. The complementary Juaquin Iglesias and Manuel Johnson hooked up with Bradford for clutch receptions and game breaking scores from the outside.
The 2009-2010 Sooner offense will remain effective, although not as prolific as the last edition. The Sooners rang up 716 total points in 2008 – scoring 60+ for five straight games in November and December. Certainly, these are once-in-a-lifetime feats.
2009 – 2010 Oklahoma Sooners College Football Season Preview: Key Contributors, Strengths, and Weaknesses
QB Sam Bradford – 328 for 483 (68%) for 4,720 yards and 50 touchdowns, 8 interceptions.
RB DeMarco Murray – 179 carries for 1,0002 yards; 31 catches for 395 yards; 18 touchdowns.
RB Chis Brown – 217 carries for 1,220 yards, and 20 rushing touchdowns.
TE Jermaine Gresham – 66 catches for 950 yards, and 14 touchdowns.
WR Ryan Broyles – 46 catches for 687 yards, and 6 touchdowns.
DT Gerald McCoy – 6 sacks and 1 interception.
The Oklahoma Sooners are still loaded with talent. Sam Bradford will pull the trigger and look to put points on the board with a top shelf roster that lists DeMarco Murray, Chris Brown, and Jermaine Gresham as the “supporting cast.” Murray is an electric game changer that would be thinking Heisman, if not for nagging injuries, and Jermaine Gresham is the best tight end in college football.
Meanwhile, Chris Brown is a throw-in that just so happens to have rumbled for 1,200+ yards behind his pure vision and smooth running style.
Gresham is a load at tight end and is poised to break the 1,000-yard mark as the ultimate security blanket for Sam Bradford. I also expect the diminutive Ryan Broyles to have breakout season, working his option routes, and settling into the soft zone to catch strikes from the quarterback.
The offensive line and wide receiver #2 are the top question marks for Oklahoma.
Bob Stoops may look to install more conventional sets, with fullback Matt Clapp paving the way in the I-formation. Clapp is a physical presence and will emerge as one of the top fullbacks in the nation with additional reps in the backfield. Obviously, OU will not ditch the playbook to gear the attack around the lead blocking fullback and re embrace the Power-I.
Steady play at the offensive line is necessary to open up throwing lanes for Bradford to execute the shotgun spread. The focus will shine upon Trent Williams, the most talented lineman from last seasons Dream Team bunch. Williams is moving to left tackle to shield off Bradford’s blind side and destroy defensive ends in the running game.
Redshirt freshman Ben Habern must take the ball at center and make the calls at the line of scrimmage. Again, Oklahoma crossed the border to steal this top prospect from the Lone Star State. The Texan was rated as the number 2 high school center by ESPN and must fill the big shoes of Jon Cooper.
The cerebral Sam Bradford will pick up yardage in chunks by airing out the football to Gresham working the seams, Murray in the flats, and Ryan Broyles split out wide. Reports out of Norman are also raving over the performance of Adron Tennell. Tennell is the total package of size, speed, and intelligence that is long overdue to serve as a key contributor within the Oklahoma offense.
The defensive unit returns nine starters to the fold and should be better than advertised.
Gerald McCoy is the second-best tackle behind Bama’s Mount Cody in college football. McCoy is nearly unblockable, and creates space for OU’s talented linebackers and ends to clean up and make plays. Jeremy Beal, Ryan Reynolds, and Travis Lewis are set to wreak havoc and rack up tackles all season long behind the exploits of McCoy.
The defensive line is a star-studded group that goes two-deep at end. Beal, English, and Alexander must crank up the pressure to shield a defensive backfield that is the weakness of Sooner football. OU will replace both safeties and roll out a solid cornerback duo in Dominique Franks and Brian Jackson. Franks is as close to a “shut down corner” as it gets within the pass happy Big 12 Conference.
Indeed, Colt McCoy exploited the Oklahoma secondary to go 28 for 35 and 277 yards.
Yes, we are nit picking. However, Sooner defensive backs matching wits against McCoy and Oklahoma State quarterback Zac Robinson may emerge as the difference between a return ticket to the BCS National Championship Game, or the Orange Bowl.
2009 – 2010 Oklahoma Sooners College Football Season Preview: Key Dates and Games on Oklahoma Schedule, Predictions
September 12: USC Trojans at Ohio State Buckeyes @ 8 p.m.
October 3: Oklahoma Sooners at Miami Hurricanes TBA
October 17: Oklahoma Sooners vs. Texas Longhorns @ 12 p.m.
November 7: Oklahoma Sooners at Nebraska Cornhuskers TBA
November 28: Oklahoma Sooners host Oklahoma State Cowboys
January 5, 2010: FedEx BCS Orange Bowl
Again, Oklahoma must defeat Texas at Dallas and completely shellack the Big 12 to earn any sympathy from the BCS voters and computers. The sporting world has long tired of the OU regular season consistency, which only degenerates into Big Game meltdowns per the BCS. Pundits are more than ready to hand deliver the Pasadena invitation to Texas for a delicious Florida matchup.
Oklahoma, Texas, and USC are the most likely stalwarts to derail the Florida Gators bid to repeat as National Champions. Meanwhile, Penn State, Ohio State, and Virginia Tech are dark horse candidates to run the table and show up in the Rose Bowl stadium to challenge the Gators.
USC is set to make a statement for its claim to the title with a September 12 showdown at Columbus. The Trojans will send a message to the Bowl Championship committee by entering the Horseshoe behind a green quarterback and dismantling the Buckeyes.
Irrespective of SC, Oklahoma must take care of its own business on the field to forge a return trip to the National Championship spotlight. Oklahoma must be prepared to set the tone for this season by whipping Miami in South Florida on October 3.
Two weeks later, Oklahoma matches up very well against Texas in what has already been dubbed “The Game of the Year.”
Oklahoma’s NFL-ready backfield will control the clock to keep Colt McCoy and his high-powered offense off the field. Meanwhile Jermaine Gresham will occupy Texas linebackers; and the Sergio Kindle experiment, which features #2 in a three-point stance will be blown up by OU’s Trent Williams at tackle. Although the Oklahoma O-line is inexperienced as a unit, Sam Bradford will operate from the benefit of time to check down amidst his full array of passing lanes in order to engineer scoring drives.
Oklahoma will beat Texas.
The November 7 game at Lincoln is a dangerous affair. Both Miami and Nebraska are 1980’s and 1990’s powerhouses of swagger that have been felled by the introduction of the shotgun spread, miserable coaching, and shifting recruiting patterns. Nebraska, behind former LSU madman Bo Pelini is poised to return back to respectability. Intense, yet good-natured Big Red fanatics will revel in the possibility of this now one-sided “rivalry” returning to form.
Oklahoma will lose to Nebraska, before unloading their frustrations and laying the smack down upon Oklahoma State back home in Norman. The Cornhuskers rousing victory signals that Nebraska and the Big 12 North are closing the gap upon the Texas – Oklahoma matrix.
Welcome to the Orange Bowl.
2009 – 2010 Oklahoma Sooners College Football Season Preview and Predictions
The Oklahoma Sooners will defeat Texas, yet come up short in their rematch bid against Florida at the BCS National Championship Game. OU will return to Miami, but to challenge the ACC champion at the Orange Bowl, rather than playing for all of the marbles.
One-loss Oklahoma cannot overcome its legacy of bowl season meltdowns and a surging USC to match up against the Florida Gators at Pasadena.
The OU faithful should begin to book travel for Miami, Florida right now.
2009 Oklahoma Sooners College Football Season Preview, Sources:
Oklahoma Sooners Football, http://www.soonersports.com/sports/m-footbl/okla-m-footbl-body.html
ESPN, College Football, http://espn.go.com/college-football/
Bleacher Report, 2009 Oklahoma Sooners Football Preview, http://bleacherreport.com/articles/228852-oklahoma-sooners-2009-season-preview
Kofi Bofah, 2009 Texas Longhorns College Football Season: Preview and Predictions, http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2054795/2009_texas_longhorns_college_football.html?cat=14