2011 record: 10-3 overall, 6-3 in Big 12 (3rd-tie)
2011 postseason: Insight Bowl (31-14 win over Iowa)
2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 16/No. 15
Head coach: Bob Stoops (139-34 in 14 seasons at Oklahoma)
Offensive coordinator: Josh Heupel (eighth season at OU, second as co-OC) and Jay Norvell (fifth season at OU, third as co-OC)
2011 offensive rankings: 50th rushing offense (162.9 ypg); 5th passing offense (349.4 ypg); 5th total offense (512.3 ypg); 10th scoring offense (39.5 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: eight
Defensive coordinator: Mike Stoops (first season)
2011 defensive rankings: 43rd rushing defense (134.7 ypg); 79th passing defense (241.5 ypg); 55th total defense (376.1 ypg); 31st scoring defense (22.1 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: seven
Location: Norman, Okla.
Stadium: Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium (82, 112; grass)
Last league title: 2010
2011 statistics: [view]
While the Sooners’ defense was solid in 2011, some lamented the lack of aggressiveness and physicality from that unit. The return of former Arizona coach Mike Stoops to Norman should help rectify that perception, as will the return of seven starters on defense among the 15 total starters from a team that won 10 games last year, the 10th time in the past 13 seasons the Sooners have reached double digits in wins.
When it comes to the state of OU’s wide receiver position, Herbert Morrison said it best: oh, the humanity. Already facing the challenge of replacing the greatest receiver in the school’s history, the Sooners lost three players at the position who would’ve been capable of, at least in part, replacing Ryan Broyles’ production. With two of those receiver’s futures at the school very much in doubt — the third’s already over — and with a JUCO transfer academically ineligible as well, the Sooners are left with nothing but a lot of talent but precious little experience at the position. Throw in the fact that three of OU’s toughest games this season — Texas, West Virginia and TCU — are all away from Norman, and it makes for a challenging 2012 row for Stoops to hoe. The late addition of Justin Brown, who transferred in from Penn State, will add some much-needed experience and somewhat dampen the impact of the offseason tumult at the position.
In his first 22 games as the successor to Sam Bradford, Landry Jones was, well Bradford-esque, throwing 64 touchdowns versus just 21 interceptions. However, over the last five games of the 2011 season — and coinciding with the “Belldozer” (ugh) package taking center stage — the quarterback threw just three touchdown passes and six picks during that stretch. Coincidence or not, two of the Sooners’ three losses came in those last five games. With Blake Bell returning for his true sophomore season and his package very much in play for an entire season, the question becomes: which Jones will the Sooners get in 2012? Obviously it would be optimal if OU could have the “good” Jones and the production Bell brings to the field, but, based on that small five-game sample, it remains to be seen whether the two sides can successfully coexist.
Make-or-break game: vs. Texas at Dallas, Oct. 13
After a brief respite thanks to the Longhorns’ dip in on-field performance the past two seasons, the (warning, political incorrectness ahead!!!) Red River Shootout should be back to its rightful place of prominence in 2012. Thanks to what’s projected to be a resurgence on the part of Texas, this should prove to be a solid litmus test for OU as to where it stands as it relates to the Big 12 and could give a hint as to how deep into the season the Sooners can hang onto BcS title hopes.
Heisman hopeful: quarterback Landry Jones
Yes, I’m fully aware of Jones being mentioned prominently in the “Unknown” portion of the program. Jones, however, is too talented to be mired in the rut that was the last five games of last season. The uncertainty at the wide receiver position certainly won’t help his Heisman chances, but Jones should be productive enough — and the Sooners should win often enough — that the senior should find himself on the stiff-armed radar for a sizable chunk of the upcoming season.