Last Season: 12-2, 7-1, National runner up....
The national runner-ups were mired in controversy last season because of how they got to the big game. Although they fell to Texas during the regular season, the Sooners climbed over the Longhorns in the final standings and earned the right to play for a national championship.
Controversy or not, no one can argue that the Sooners boasted the most explosive offense in the country last year. Whenever a team averages over 50 points a game, you know that they are for real.
Luckily for the Sooners, the Heisman Trophy winning Sam Bradford returns as catalyst for the high powered offense. Bradford threw for 50 touchdowns last year while racking up over 4,000 yards. But perhaps the most startling stat from Bradford's season was his interception rate. The proficient passer was picked only eight times last season. A touchdown to interception rate of +42 will put anyone in the running for a Heisman Trophy.
Although the numbers may not be as outstanding, expect Bradford to be just as efficient under center. The measure of a quarterback isn't measured just in pure numbers, but also in efficiency rate. Bradford certainly has that. One reason for the decline in pure numbers is the revamped offensive line. Oklahoma's o-line was one of the best in the nation. The unit could pass protect as well as it could run block. The Sooners were the first team in the history of the game to have both a 4,000 yard passer and two 1,000 yard rushers. That's a direct reflection on the offensive line.
But now the group is vastly different. For what it's worth, Oklahoma's running backs gained only 52 yards on 27 carries in the spring game. I think it's hard to make too much of a game played after a few spring workouts. That, and Oklahoma played its spring game without its two top backs, Demarco Murray and and Chris Brown. I would expect the line to struggle a little early on and gain steam as the season goes on. Also, if initial growing pains are experienced, look for the running game to struggle more then the passing game.
With Bradford's top receivers gone, tight end Jermaine Green may wind up being Sam's favorite target.
A major positive for the Sooners this season will be its improved defense. The spectacle offense overshadowed what was the worst Sooner defense in ten years last season. It allowed over 25 points a game last year. This is easily hidden when the offense is putting up fifty cent pieces on the other side of the ball. The large point's allowed margin came from a nasty over aggressive habit. The ball-hawing defenders led the Big 12 in turnover margin. Unfortunately, this also led to being burned on big plays.
But, according to the defensive coaching staff, a change in attitude will fix the problems that led to overaggressive play. This, as well as a fine line baking core, will contribute to a better Sooner defense.
Although the offense may take a minor step back, The Sooners may be a better team in 2009. But, I wonder if last year's BCS controversy may hurt them a little with the pollsters if a close call were to arise for a second straight season.
3 Games to Watch
October 17th- @Texas- So many layers to this game. The two best quarterbacks in the country not named Tim face off....Texas looks to gain revenge for last season's snub...Oklahoma tries to show that yes, they can beat Texas. All that and serious BCS implications (presumably) makes for the most intriguing game on the schedule.
October 24th- @ Kansas- The Jayhawks were one of the few teams to "keep pace" with Oklahoma last season. They only lost by 14 points. Truthfully, the Oklahoma schedule may not have three good games on it, but it will be interesting if Kansas can continue it's path to being relevant in football for a long sustained period.
November 28th- Oklahoma State- Besides being an interstate rivalry, some pundits expect Oklahoma State to have a decent team this season. ESPN's Bruce Feldman thinks Oklahoma State may have a shot at a BCS bowl this season. If that's the case, this game could have serious late implications for both teams. Final week of the year. Double bowl significance...doesn't get better than that...