2010 record: 12-2, 6-2 (T-1st Big 12 South)
2010 bowl: 48-20 win over UConn in the Fiesta Bowl
2010 final AP/coaches’ ranking: 6th/6th
Coach: Bob Stoops, 13th year
Offensive coordinator: Josh Heupel, second year; Jay Norvell, fourth year
2010 offensive rankings: 14th, scoring offense (37.2 ppg); 10th, total offense (481.4 ypg); 83rd, rushing offense (138 ypg); third, passing offense (343.4 ypg)
Defensive coordinator: Brent Venables, 13th year
2010 defensive rankings: 33rd, scoring defense (21.8 ppg); 53rd, total defense (361.9 ypg); 58th, rushing defense (148.9 ypg); 51st, passing defense (212.9 ypg)
Returning offensive starters: 8
Returning defensive starters: 6
Location: Norman, Okla.
Stadium: Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial (grass; 82,112)
Last league title: 2010
2011 schedule: [view]
2011 roster: [view]
2010 statistics: [view]
Snapshot: Surprised that the team that is the No. 1 team in the country in the Associated Press and coaches’ preseason Top 25 polls and probably the Associated Press’ preseason poll sits back in fourth in our little endeavor? Yeah, so am I somewhat.
There’s little doubt that on paper the Sooners are one of the most talent-laden teams in the country. Their 14 returning starters from their Big 12-winning team of a year ago is one of the top totals in Division 1-A (FCS), and included in that total are a Heisman and All-American candidate at quarterback — Landry Jones — and one of the most prolific receivers in the game — Ryan Broyles. Seven starters from a top-35 defense returns, although three-quarters of the secondary will need to be replaced and the interior of the defensive line is somewhat sketchy. Additionally, there’s a huge hole at the linebacker position following the tragic death of starter Austin Box this offseason and a broken foot suffered in practice by Travis Lewis, the Sooners’ leading tackler the last three seasons, that will sideline him for at least the first month of the season. On the offensive side of the ball, the production of three-year starter DeMarco Murray will be tough to replace, although the running back-by-committee approach, relying heavily on Roy Finch and true freshman Brandon Williams, should be better than average.
That season-ending trip to Stillwater against Oklahoma State notwithstanding, the Sooners are clearly — again, on paper and in all facets of the game — the class of the Big 12. So, why the “low” initial ranking? I get the feeling that the trip to Tallahassee to face Florida State the second week of the season will be the lone blemish of an otherwise perfect season. If it doesn’t turn out the way I see it, though, the Sooners could be in line for a clear path to New Orleans and the BcS title game — provided that little Bedlam thing at the end of the year doesn’t trip them up, of course.
Make-or-break game: Dec. 3 at Oklahoma State
Obviously the Florida State game will go a long way in determining how the national scene will set itself up early on in the season. The early November matchup with Texas A&M will be no pushover, either, although the Sooners will draw the Aggies in Norman. That season-ending game against in-state rival Oklahoma State, on the other hand, could be an epic one for the ages. With manageable schedules — A&M will be the stiffest test for both — leading up to the early December showdown, the stage could very well be set for a pair of unbeaten teams in conference play — and, if OU can handle FSU and Oklahoma State does the same with Arizona in non-conference play, unbeaten overall — meeting to decide not only the conference champion but the league’s representative in a BcS bowl as well.
Heisman hopeful: Jones
While Jones was not among the top 10 in votes for last season’s Heisman, that should change in a very big way in 2011. Jones’ 4,718 yards passing was second in the country (Hawaii’s Bryant Moniz, 5,040) last year, while his 38 touchdowns were second to Moniz (39) as well. Murray’s departure could force the Sooners to rely even more heavily on Jones’ right arm than it did last year, which would no doubt bump up what were already impressive numbers in his “second” season as a full-time starter.
Postseason projection: Fiesta Bowl