This has generally been about Missouri Tigers athletics. I'll still talk about that mostly, but there's just so much more.
Friday, June 10, 2011
Around the Big XII, part 9. Oklahoma
Well, this is when we discuss the 800 lb gorilla portion of the outlooks for 2011. Once again the Oklahoma Sooners look to be the favorite to win the conference and one of the prohibitive favorites to appear in the national championship game next January. Last year the Sooners went 12-2, beating hick nation in the final conference championship game, at least for now in the Big XII, and a 48-20 win over an overmatched 8-5 Connecticut team in the Fiesta Bowl that adds more fuel to the fire over automatic berths in the BCS series. But the 2 losses the Sooners suffered in weeks 7 and 9 at Columbia and College Station derailed their early season # 1 ranking and kept them from any consideration for a spot in the title game. Both Mizzou and the Aggies of A&M beat OU because they were tougher up front and wanted it more in the 4th quarter. This was the secret of both OU and Texas. Yep, they had generally better skill players, but where they overwhelmed teams was on the offensive and defensive lines. With the new round robin schedule the jury is still out on whether OU and Coach Stoops have the horses to dominate up front like they did just a few years ago.
On offense, Landry Jones returns as the trigger man on the Oklahoma offense. Last season Jones completed over 65% of his passes for over 4,700 yards and 38 touchdowns, but what I remember from him was the 4th quarter in CoMO when he was held to 0 completions in the 4th quarter as the Tigers pulled away from OU. Ok, what I remember even more was the look of disbelief in the arrogant OU fans as we walked out of the stadium. Pure Gold!!! The Sooners also return such offensive stars as running back Jonathan Miller and wide receiver Kenny Stills and most of a young offensive line that need to play better this year if the Sooners are to reach their goals. So far, this just can't be considered a given. Oklahoma really lacked some defensive fire power last year but returns some solid starters like Austin Box at middle linebacker and Javon Harris at free safety. But when you look at the front 7 they appear to be a bit undersized with 284 pound Stacy McGee at defensive tackle, 238 pound defensive end Ronnell Lewis and 199 pound outside linebacker Tony Jefferson. Talented or not, these guys need to have spent a lot of time with their strength and conditioning coach before the season starts or they're going to loose battles simply by size differential in this conference. Speed is great but you have to have some muscle to go with it up front.
Oklahoma has no cake walk this year as they travel to Tallahassee to face Florida State in week 2, followed by their conference opener as they host my Missouri Tigers in a game that will go a long way toward determining the pecking order in the conference. The road will be tough as they travel to Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Baylor. Only a trip to lawrence to face the beaks offers significant relief. There is also a date at the Fairgrounds of Dallas when they meet what should be an improved Texas team that has no problem getting up for the Red River Shootout.In addition to the Tigers OU plays host to Texas Tech and A&M. Neither of those figures to be cake walks although Iowa State should be. In the new Big XII it's going to be almost impossible to finish the season unbeaten, especially when a team has as many questions as the Sooners do right now in my opinion. I think OU is going to be very good, but I believe they're going to stumble at least twice and possibly as many as 3 times this year. In addition, don't be surprised if they stumble at home to either the Tigers or the Aggies.
Next time we'll take our final outlook for the coming season as I talk about my guys, the Missouri Tigers.