An off week during the college football season obviously lacks the visceral excitement of your typical Saturday. Like one of those rarely useful work retreats, however, it does offer an opportunity for reflection and self-analysis.
What did the Oklahoma Sooners think about during their bye? I have no idea. But here are five questions to consider heading into the final three games of the season.
1. What will the offense look like without Ryan Broyles?
This issue alone nearly makes all other questions to follow here irrelevant. I've argued before that Broyles deserves to go down as one of the best college wide receivers in history. Understating his importance to OU's offense is hard. This year, he has accounted for:
- 83 of OU's 264 catches (31 percent);
- 1,157 of OU's 3,428 receiving yards (34 percent);
- 10 of OU's 28 touchdown receptions.
Throughout both of their careers, Broyles has provided OU quarterback Landry Jones with a great security blanket, too. In addition to his consistency, the loss of Broyles takes away the team's best option on Welker-ian screens and quick hitters.
With an extra week to prepare, would offensive coordinator Josh Heupel have the cajones to make some major changes to the Sooners' passing game? The Sooners haven't really been hesitant to throw down the field this season, but this could force more more intermediate and deep routes, as opposed to trying to hit Broyles on so catch-and-runs.
2. Can Roy Finch handle the punishment of being the feature back?
The diminutive Finch doesn't have a great track record with staying healthy.
Since Dom Whaley suffered a season-ending fractured ankle a few weeks ago versus Kansas State, Finch has made the most of the opportunity. In fact, with Finch carrying more of the load, the slippery sophomore has given the OU ground game a bit of a spark, averaging nearly 5 yards per carry in the Sooners' last two games versus Kansas State and Texas A&M.
OU has to figure out a way to get Finch an adequate number of touches while keeping him out of the training room. Don't be surprised if that means more time for hyped freshman runner Brandon Williams.
3. What does Ben Habern's return mean to the offensive line (i.e., the running game)?
The stats disagree, but I'd say the best OU's ground game has looked was the Florida State game. The Seminoles have one of the best defenses in the country. However, when OU set its mind to running the ball, the Sooners came up with big yards by going right into the teeth of the D.
It could be a number of factors, but OU's rushing attack has progressively slowed since Habern was lost against Ball State with a broken forearm. The Sooners OL hasn't looked awful since Habern went down, but it hasn't exactly blown opponents away either. Habern is probably the best lineman OU has, and having him back quarterbacking the offensive line from the center position should help the unit stay in sync.
4. What's up with Tom Wort and Tony Jefferson?
Forget about trying to get a straight answer out of Bob Stoops about the status of injured players. Something isn't right with Jefferson, who has admitted to having some nagging issues with his knee. Wort, meanwhile, has drifted in and out of the lineup with a variety of ailments.
The OU defense loses so much when these two aren't on the field.
5. Can OU get something, anything out of special teams?
When was the last time the Sooners got a big special teams play? Yeah, I don't remember, either.
Forget about touchdowns. Kickoff returns haven't given OU's offense any real help this year in terms field position, averaging a shade under 20 yards per return. That's good for 93rd overall in the country.
Punt returns have been better. With Broyles now out of commission, though, the Sooners need Kenny Stills or whomever steps in to at least be serviceable.