Thursday, July 17, 2008

Oklahoma Preview

The Oklahoma Sooners opened the 2007 with a 79–10 win over North Texas. They continued their powerhouse offensive performances and strong defensive performances with wins over Miami (51–13), Utah State (54–3), Tulsa (62–21), Texas (28–21), Missouri (41–31), Iowa State (17–7), Texas A&M (42–14), Baylor (52–21), and Oklahoma State (49–17). Oklahoma lost only two games in the regular season, Colorado (24–27) and Texas Tech (27–34).

The Sooners played against the Missouri Tigers in the Big 12 championship game and came away with a 38–17 win over the then #1 ranked Gary Pinkel led Tigers. Oklahoma then played in the Fiesta Bowl game against the West Virginia losing 48–28, to end the season with 11 wins and 3 losses.

I took the time to list the scores because my gosh, that is a lot of offense! Look for the Sooners to continue that high powered offense in 2008 because this team is loaded with returning talent, and perhaps the best offensive line in college football.

The Sooners averaged 6.4 yards per play on offense in 2007, the most for the team since 1987. QB Sam Bradford finished the regular season with the nation's No. 1 rated pass efficiency as just a freshman. Bradford threw for 3,121 yards and 36 touchdowns with just eight interceptions. With a talented and experienced offensive line in front of him and an army of weapons at his disposal, Bradford should continue to improve in his sophomore season.

The Oklahoma offensive line is led by future NFL players like Duke Robinson and Phil Loadholt. In fact, all five senior starters are back this season to create an offensive line that is most likely the best in the country.

The Sooners also welcome back wide receivers Juaquin Iglesias and Manuel Johnson. Iglesias led the team last season with 68 catches for 907 yards and five touchdowns. Junior Jermaine Gresham steps into the starting spot at tight end and appears to be someone to watch.

The TB tandem of DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown combined for 1,375 yards and 22 touchdowns last season. Murray is just a sophomore, but he possesses great speed and elusiveness. He could very well have a huge season.

The defense only returns six starters, but three of them are along the defensive line. Oklahoma will have to rely on the front four to control the line of scrimmage; at least until the back seven get settled. The front four were equally successful at stopping the run and the pass in 2007.

The defensive line returns most of the starters, as 3 of the 4 are back. With defensive tackles like senior DeMarcus Granger and sophomore Gerald McCoy its going to be tough getting any kind of push against these guys. Junior defensive end Austin English is a beast on the outside and his 9.5 sacks was the best on the team a year ago.

The team only returns one linebacker in senior Ryan Reynolds, but it looks like he is ready for the spotlight. Redshirt freshman Austin Box will start on the weak side with junior Keenan Clayton taking over the strong side.

The secondary is probably the weakest on this side of the ball, but they do have some pretty good talent coming back in senior strong safety Nic Harris and fellow senior Lendy Holmes at free safety. It looks as though junior Brian Jackson and sophomore Dominique Franks will team up at the two corner spots to start the season. Both played well in the spring, but it remains to be seen how that translates into the season.

How do you beat Oklahoma?

You need to slow down one of the nations best offenses, and take advantage of the back of the Sooner defense which is rebuilding. It helps that Washington is playing these guys at home. Husky Stadium isn't an easy place to play in, just ask USC, and Cal. Washington can beat anyone on a given day in Husky Stadium. UW is also due for a major upset!

Obviously Oklahoma will will have more experienced talent on the roster than Washington in 2008, but the Huskies have shown that they can hang tight with teams like USC, and Ohio State. Washington will be improved, and the Sooners can't take Washington for granted on the road. This game will be closer than most people think.

The key for Washington won't be the legs of Jake Locker, it will be his arm, UW needs to strike deep in this one to stay competitive.

What Do I Think?

Last time we played these guys in Norman we gave them a game. We broke out to an early lead, but just like last years Ohio State game overall talent, and depth began to take over in the latter stages of the game. I predict the same thing will happen this year at Husky Stadium. Oklahoma has a lot more experienced talent than Washington, and just like USC they are a recruiting powerhouse. The Oklahoma kids know how to win, and as the game goes on they tend to wear you down into making mistakes like Ohio State did to UW last year. I have to pick Oklahoma by ten points, but the game will be decided in the fourth quarter.

On a side note it would be great if Jim Owens is healthy enough to make the trip over for from Whitefish, Montana to see the game. JW hasn't been back since the statue dedication, and it would be great if he could make the trip to see his alma mater play against the team he coached for seventeen years.

If you look at the game on paper it is absolutely no contest, the oddsmakers will favor the Sooners by over twenty points no matter what the Huskies do in the first two games. You have what will probably be the best offense in the BCS going up against what was last year the worst defense in the entire country.

I think the UW defense will be much better in 2008, in fact you won't even recognize it, but Oklahoma will present the toughest test for the UW defense this season and will prevail in the fourth quarter.

No comments: