2011 Record: 10-3 (6-3 in Big 12)
Head Coach: Bob Stoops (139-34 at OU, 84-21 in Big 12)
Last Bowl Game: 2011 season Insight Bowl: beat Iowa 31-14
Stats to Cheer: held opponents to 30.61% on third down conversions, allowed just 11 sacks in 2011
Stat to Fear: - 3.00 turnover margin in losses in 2011 (last in Big 12)
Phil Steele's Returning Starters: (Offense: 8; Defense: 7; Specialists: 2)
Key Defensive Returnees: LB Tom Wort (71 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2 INT), S Tony Jefferson (74 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 4 INT), LB Corey Nelson (58 tackles, 4.5 sacks), CB Demontre Hurst (55 tackles), CB Aaron Colvin (84 tackles), S Javon Harris (3 INT), DE R.J. Washington (5.5 sacks)
Key Offensive Returnees: QB Landry Jones (29 TD, 15 INT), RB Dominique Whaley (627 yds rush, 9 TD), RB Roy Finch (605 yds rush, 3 TD), WR Kenny Stills (61 rec, 8 TD), WR Jaz Reynolds (41 rec, 5 TD)
Inside Scoop with Blatant Homerism:
CFBZ: What are your expectations for the defense now that Mike Stoops has been brought back into the fold?
Blatant Homerism: I think Brent Venables took an unfair amount of a criticism throughout his career at OU and I don't expect Mike Stoops coaching to change that much from a scheme standpoint. Mike and Bob Stoops came up through the coaching ranks along with Venables, so they're all drinking from the same pool of collective defensive wisdom. If Mike can do something to reduce the number of explosive plays allowed by OU's defense, that would be a huge step in the right direction. His chief goal should be cleaning up the little details - alignment, technique, etc. - particularly in the secondary. My guess is that OU fields a better defense this season than people expect.
CFBZ: What areas do you see as the biggest potential weaknesses this year and who needs to step up in those areas?
Blatant Homerism: At this point I don't really see any difference-makers on the defensive line. There are two guys could change that. Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Jordan Phillips is a physical freak with tremendous size to boot. If he develops as the season wears in, he could turn into a force up front. The other name to watch is RJ Washington at defensive end. Washington was a five-star recruit and seemingly possesses an ideal skill set for an NFL-caliber edge rusher. In his fifth year in the program, Washington faces a true now-or-never proposition.
CFBZ: What needs to happen for Oklahoma to win the BCS Championship this year?
Blatant Homerism: Hate to play this card, but the Sooners can't afford any more injuries or disciplinary issues from here on out. The last month hasn't been kind to OU's fortunes in that regard. At some point, the lack of quality depth will become too much to handle. Hell, it may already be.
CFBZ: What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2012 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?
Blatant Homerism: My gut says this is a 10-2 season for the Sooners. Anything less than a Big 12 championship will be written off as a failure.
In only his second season, Bob Stoops and Oklahoma won the elusive National Championship. Ever since that year they've been chasing another one. Since 2000, OU has had nine double-digit win seasons and only two seasons where they won less than ten games. Oklahoma has been the standard bearer in the Big 12, winning or sharing in eight Big 12 Championships since Stoops took over. Is this the year that Stoops gets the Sooners back to the National Championship Game?
On offense, Landry Jones returns at QB. Statistically, Jones took a slight step back last year tossing nine less TDs and throwing 3 more INTs. Now in his senior season, Jones must go about his business without Ryan Broyles. Blake Bell will also get some action at QB although it will mostly come in the red zone. Bell only threw four passes last year but he ran the ball 44 times with 13 TDs. Oklahoma has some talent at RB in Dominique Whaley and Roy Finch but they must stay healthy this season. At receiver the Sooners lose Broyles (83 receptions) and TE James Hanna (27 rec). OU returns Kenny Stills and Jaz Reynolds (recently re-instated to the team but still suspended). Another couple of receivers to watch are early enrollee Trey Metoyer and Penn State transfer Justin Brown. The Sooners had a very experienced OL but recently center Ben Habern retired and Tyler Evans tore his ACL. What was once a strength is now a question-mark.
The memory of OU's 2011 defense is the Texas Tech game. The Red Raiders gained 572 total yards and Seth Doege tossed four TDs. If Oklahoma wants to win the Big 12, the defense has to be better. The good news is they won't have to play RG3 or Brandon Weeden but there are still some very tough offenses as well as the addition of West Virginia and TCU to the schedule. There is talent on this Sooners defense and getting in a fresh perspective in Mike Stoops should help the defense make improvements this season. The biggest need is replacing the lost production from the defensive end spot. If OU can solve that then they can have a very good defense this season.
The schedule is tough but is works out favorably for the Sooners. They get Kansas St, Notre Dame and Oklahoma State at home. The toughest road tests will be at newcomers West Virginia and TCU. It's a manageable schedule but the Sooners can't have what happened last year and let a bottom tier divisional team like Texas Tech jump up and surprise them. I look for the Sooners to re-take the helm at the top of the division this season and if things go their way they could be playing for a title when all is said and done.
2012 Prediction: 11-1
Top 25 Countdown
#12 Michigan State
#14 Kansas State
#16 Virginia Tech
#17 Boise State
#19 Ohio State
#23 Oklahoma State
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