Time to become great. With game week upon us, let's wrap up the 2011 OU season preview with some predictions for the season.
*Behind a deeper, more physical offensive line, OU's running game goes from "disappointing" to "that will work." Who's toting the rock? Glad you asked. The distribution of carries between OU's running backs (per game):
- Brandon Williams – 11
- Brennan Clay – 11
- Roy Finch – 10
- Jonathan Miller – 3
- Jermie Calhoun – 3
*Landry Jones saw his ratio of touchdowns to interceptions improve from under 2:1 in 2009 to a little better than 3:1 last season. This season, the upward trajectory continues, with 'Stache tossing 37 TDs against 9 INTs. He'll also declare for the NFL draft in January.
*Ryan Broyles will leave Norman as the best wide receiver in school history and easily the most productive. However, Broyles' stats (102 receptions, 1375 yards, 13 TDs) will dip slightly, as his talented teammates command more looks from Jones.
*OU's front four will struggle all season to pressure opposing passers. Frank Alexander will lead the defensive line in sacks with 5.5. OU will have a stellar secondary, but the lack of a pass rush will occasionally make the defensive backs look bad.
*The Sooners' run defense, their Achilles heel a year ago, will cut their yards allowed per rush from the 2010 average of 4.1 down to 3.6, which is more in line with historical norms.
*OU will dominate the All-Big 12 team, landing 10 players on the first team alone (five offense, five defense). Jones will take home the trophy for offensive player of the year, while Jamell Fleming will win the defensive award.
(*Naturally, I reserve the right to change my mind. I probably will three or four times before OU and Tulsa even kick off.)
Sept. 3 - Oklahoma 37, Tulsa 24
In a typically ragged opener, OU's offense stalls a few times inside the 20. TU's moderate offensive success gives Sooner Nation heartburn with Florida State on the horizon. (A vocal minority of message board coaches will question if Josh Heupel is ready to be the offensive offensive coordinator.)
Sept. 17 - Florida State 28, Oklahoma 24
A virtual toss-up, the Sooners learn they're still not quite over their road demons yet. The Seminoles get a freebie touchdown off of a turnover, and a late OU drive falls short of the end zone. (A vocal minority of message board coaches will call for Josh Heupel to be replaced as offensive coordinator.)
Sept. 24 - Oklahoma 42, Missouri 20
Plenty of prognosticators are underrating the Tigers, who will finish the season tied for second in the Big 12. Good for them, but Bob Stoops has revenge on his mind after last season's disappointment in Columbia. OU comes out firing and comfortably cruises in the second half.
Oct. 1 - Oklahoma 47, Ball State 13
Don't look for the crispest of performances in this classic sandwich game, but it will be a Sooners win, nonetheless.
Oct. 8 - Oklahoma 24, Texas 18
Landry Jones hits up a green UT secondary for three touchdown passes, and Texas struggles to move the ball offensively. The baby 'Horns put up a good fight, but in the end, OU is too much.
Oct. 15 - Oklahoma 55, Kansas 13
Don't see a silver lining for the Jayhawks anywhere this year. Expect the Sooners to run roughshod over KU, no matter what happens the week before. Brandon Williams gets his first 100-yard day wearing the crimson and cream.
Oct. 22 - Oklahoma 38, Texas Tech 31
With a year under Tommy Tuberville under their belts, the Red Raiders should get better in '11. Not good enough to win in Norman, but good enough to put a scare into the Sooners.
Oct. 29 - Oklahoma 49, Kansas State 17
It seems as though this game keeps getting brought up whenever people are talking about potential danger games for OU. For a team as talented as Oklahoma, there's probably more danger in the kiddie pool. The big question in this one: Will KSU eclipse 75 yards passing?
Nov. 5 - Oklahoma 35, Texas A&M 20
This looks like one of the best A&M teams in some time. Unfortunately for the Aggies, like Missouri, they will find themselves on the bad side of a revenge game in Norman.
Nov. 19 - Oklahoma 52, Baylor 31
Don't forget your track shoes. Landry Jones goes over 450 yards passing on the day, and a late score by the Bears makes this one look slightly more respectable than it really is.
Nov. 26 - Oklahoma 42, Iowa State 0
Ten points better than last season for the Cyclones.
Dec. 3 - Oklahoma 35, Oklahoma State 31
In typical fashion, the Pokes mount a furious comeback in the fourth quarter. Too little, too late.
Jan. 2 - Oklahoma 31, West Virginia 27 (Fiesta Bowl)
A rematch of the 2008 Fiesta Bowl will have the OU fans fired up. The players? Not so much. Holgo the Destroyer pulls a few tricks out of his sleeve early on the sleepwalking Sooners before OU wakes up and takes care of business out in the desert.