CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 2 Oklahoma

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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

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
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.

The Bad
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.

The Unknown
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.

Return to CFT’s preseason Top 25

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Buffalo clinches bowl eligibility with three-game winning streak

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In his third season as Buffalo’s head coach, Lance Leipold is taking the program bowling. And how they got there is commendable. Entering the month of November with a record of 3-6, the Bulls had no margin for error. A three-game winning streak to close out the regular season seemed like a reach, but on Friday afternoon the Bulls put the finishing touches on just such a winning streak.

Buffalo (6-6, 4-4 MAC) rushed out of the gates to a 24-7 lead on Ohio (9-4, 5-3 MAC) on their home field, but the Bulls needed a big play on special teams and defense to close the books on a bowl-clinching 31-24 victory. Tied at 24-24 in the fourth quarter, Ohio was forced to punt from their own seven-yard line. K.J. Osborn returned the punt 39 yards to the Ohio six-yard line. Two plays later, Emmanuel Reed gave the Bulls the lead with a short touchdown run. Then the game was put in the hands of the defense.

Ohio has a masterful drive rolling out, spanning 62 yards over 13 plays and wasting away nearly all of the clock after starting the drive with 8:10 to play. On 4th and 12 at the Buffalo 13-yard line, Nathan Rourke‘s pass was picked off by Khalil Hodge in the endzone with a little more than a minute to play. Ohio could call two timeouts to stop the clock, but the Bulls still managed to pick up a first down to close out the game.

While not to discredit Buffalo for their achievement here, it is worth noting Ohio’s fate in the MAC East Division race was settled earlier this week. The Bobcats were eliminated from clinching the division after Akron wrapped up the division with a win earlier this week. Had Akron lost, Ohio could have clinched the division with a win against Buffalo.

The MAC now has seven teams that have met the six-win minimum to go to a bowl game this season. This is Buffalo’s first bowl season since 2013, but Leipold is no stranger to a college football postseason. Leipold won six Division 3 national championships with Wisconsin-Whitewater from 2007 through 2014, and his D3 powerhouse program only missed the postseason once during that run.

Arkansas blows 21-7 lead as Drew Lock leads Mizzou’s rally for halftime lead

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It was a tale of two quarters between Missouri and Arkansas, with Arkansas rushing out of the gates for a 21-7 lead only to see Missouri battle back to take a 31-28 lead into halftime. Missouri kicker Tucker McCann kicked a 37-yard field goal in the final minute of the half to give Missouri the lead.

Arkansas cashed in on an interception by Missouri quarterback Drew Lock on the game’s opening possession by traveling 70 yards on five plays to take a 7-0 lead with a Devwah Whaley goal line run. Mizzou’s Ish Witter capped a 92-yard drive later in the first quarter to tie the game at 7-7, but the Razorbacks stormed right back with a quick four-play, 75-yard touchdown drive highlighted by Austin Allen‘s 57-yard pass to Jordan Jones for the score. Moments later, a good punt return by Henre’ Toliver gave the Razorbacks the ball at the Missouri 29-yard line and two plays later David Williams ran in from 16 yards out for a score to push the lead to 21-7.

Lock led a second-quarter charge for the Tigers with three touchdown passes, including one from 55 yards and another from 56 yards as the big plays doomed Arkansas.

No. 12 TCU locks up Big 12 title game date with Oklahoma

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After a few-year sabbatical, the inaugural renewal of the Big 12 championship game is officially set.

Needing just to get past one-win Baylor, No. 12 TCU did just that as the Horned Frogs outlasted the feisty Bears 45-22 in Fort Worth.  With the win, TCU locks up the other spot in the conference title game opposite Oklahoma, with that matchup going down in Jerry’s World next Saturday.  The Sooners have already beaten the Horned Frogs this season, 38-20 in Norman two weeks ago; a second win over the same team will likely push OU into the playoffs.

TCU finishes the 2017 season 7-2 in conference play.  Iowa State (5-3) needed a win over Kansas State Saturday plus a TCU loss today plus a couple of the other 5-3 Big 12 teams to win in order to send them to the league title game.

Kenny Hill paced the Horned Frogs once again, passing for 325 yards and three touchdowns in the win.  His 26 completions (in 36 attempts) went to 11 different receivers.  The quarterback added another touchdown on the ground.

A little bit of a concern, especially with Baker Mayfield and the high-powered OU offense looming, TCU gave up 314 yards passing, including 301 from freshman signal-caller Charlie Brewer.  Conversely, they did hold the Bears to just 2.7 yards per rushing attempt.

Pitt stuns No. 2 Miami, ends Hurricanes’ perfect season

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Pitt’s done gone and done it again.

On Dec. 1, 2007, a 4-7 Pitt team stunned second-ranked West Virginia in a 13-9 upset in Morgantown, costing the Mountaineers a spot in the BCS title game.  Just a week shy of the 10th anniversary of that upset, 4-7 Pitt played host to second-ranked Miami — and the Panthers did it again, jumping out to a 10-7 halftime lead before holding on away for a 24-14 win.  The loss ends the Hurricanes’ nation’s-best winning streak at 16 games in a row.

Thanks in very large part to Pitt’s defense, Miami’s offense could muster next to nothing on the day, churning out just 176 yards of offense while the game was still within reach (they finished with 234).  True freshman quarterback Kenny Pickett, however, seemingly put the game out of reach when, on a fourth-and-five, scampered nearly untouched on a naked bootleg for a 22-yard touchdown that made it a three-score game with just under three minutes remaining.

However, a U touchdown less a minute later made it a 10-point deficit with 2:16 left in the fourth, with the Hurricanes recovering an onsides kick on the ensuing kickoff to give them a flicker of hope; a Malik Rosier fumble on that next possession snuffed out said flicker.

This is actually the third time in a decade the Panthers have knocked off the No. 2 team in the country, including last year’s dumping of Clemson — a fact that head coach Pat Narduzzi used in calling his shot to his team at halftime.

For The U, it’s a potentially crippling loss.  Or, it could mean almost nothing.

Playing with fire for most of the season — they trailed at the half in five of their 11 games, including today — the Hurricanes finally got burned; whether it’s a first-, second- or third-degree burn remains to be seen.  The good news for The U is they will still face No. 3 Clemson in the ACC championship game next weekend, with the winner likely (maybe) (possibly) earning a spot in the College Football Playoff.  This loss, though, erases any margin of error the Hurricanes had heading into that game as they won’t make the playoffs as a two-loss at-large team.