Oklahoma Preview 2006

Posted Jul 31, 2006

Was last season just a transition with such a major turnover of talent, or was it a sign that Oklahoma has fallen back in the pack after setting a ridiculously high standard?

Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

8-4 and a Holiday Bowl win over Oregon, the Pac 10's second best team, would be considered a major success at most places, but it's not going to cut it for a program that spent two straight seasons playing for the national title. However, it wasn't nearly the down year that many believed it was.   

First there was the schedule, which arguably turned out to be among the toughest in college football history with eight of the 12 games played against teams that finished with winning records, six games against teams that finished with nine wins or more, three games against conference champions (TCU, Texas and Tulsa) and six against eventual bowl winners.

Of the four losses, one was to the eventual national champion (Texas), one was on the road on a controversial final play to lose by two (Texas Tech), and two (TCU and at UCLA) came before OU was close to the team it became at the end of last year.  

Head coach: Bob Stoops
8th year: 75-16
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 14, Def. 17, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 19
Ten Best Sooner Players
1. RB Adrian Peterson, Jr.
2. LB Rufus Alexander, Sr.
3. DE Larry Birdine, Sr.
4. DE
C.J. Ah You, Sr.
5. LB Zach Latimer, Sr.
6. CB D.J. Wolfe, Jr.
7. DE
Calvin Thibodeaux, Sr.
8. CB Reggie Smith, Soph.
9. OT Chris Messner, Sr.
10. LB Demarrio Pleasant, Jr.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

9/2 UAB
9/9 Washington
9/16 at Oregon
9/23 MTSU
10/7 vs. Texas
10/14 Iowa State
10/21 Colorado
10/28 at Missouri
11/4 at Texas A&M
11/11 Texas Tech
11/18 at Baylor
11/25 at Oklahoma State

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 9-2
2005 Record: 8-4

Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/3 TCU L 17-10
9/10 Tulsa W 31-15
9/17 at UCLA L 41-24
10/1 Kansas State W 43-21
10/8 Texas L 45-12
10/15 at Kansas W 19-3
10/22 Baylor W 37-30 2OT
10/29 at Nebraska W 31-24
11/12 Texas A&M W 36-30
11/19 at Texas Tech L 23-21
11/26 Oklahoma St W 42-14
12/29 Holiday Bowl
Oregon W 17-14

The schedule is once again tough, but inexperience can no longer be used as an excuse with 18 players with starting experience returning, almost too many talented sophomores to count in the receiving corps and secondary, arguably the best defensive ends in America, and one of the nation's best linebacking corps, and an all-world running back in Adrian Peterson who's fresh and ready to carry the load.

So is this a national title caliber team? Yes, but there are still too many question marks on the offensive line and with the quarterback situation now that Rhett Bomar is gone to assume it’ll be an easy run to a third championship game in four seasons. 2007 is when the team should be truly ready to explode and become a juggernaut again.

But while the expectations will be sky-high for a return to greatness, the one year off, and the national title season from Texas, might have done wonders to dial things down a little bit in Norman. Now the Longhorns are seen as the favorites to repeat as Big 12 South champions and OU can play the role of the underdog hunter, something it does extremely well under head coach Bob Stoops. No, losing to Texas again won't be acceptable, but the pressure isn't quite there like it was a few years ago.

Even so, the Sooners have to get back the swagger than made them the baddest boys on the block when they were crushing and killing over Stoops' first seven years. That's where the Holiday Bowl win comes in. Oregon was the jilted BCS team with something to prove, OU was the team that wasn't supposed to be ready for primetime thanks to all the youth and inexperience. But the Sooners came up with a brilliant defensive performance to send the team into the off-season with a little bit of an attitude.

If OU can combine any positive carry-over from the post-season and get all the good young talents to jell, the future, and the recent past, could be now.

The Schedule: It's not nearly the killer of last year, but there are landmines beginning with the Holiday Bowl rematch with Oregon in Autzen Stadium. A win there will mean a 4-0 record before the showdown with Texas. The big concern after the two big early tests will be the second half with four road games in the final five. Fortunately, the toughest game over the second half of the season is Texas Tech, and that's in Norman. If the Sooners are good enough to beat Oregon at Oregon, they'll be good enough to win on the road against teams like Missouri and Texas A&M.

Best Offensive Player: Junior RB Adrian Peterson. He's saying it's not a given he'll be off to the big league next year, but it'll be a shock if he sticks around to put another 300+ carries of mileage on. He's already one of the favorites for the Heisman and the accolades won't stop coming all season long, so watch as many try to look for the negatives and the knocks.

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Rufus Alexander. He does everything well from stopping the run to rushing the passer to dropping into pass coverage. He'll be on the Butkus Award short list and should be in the hunt for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Key player to a successful season: The entire offensive line. Everything is in place on defense, the offensive backfield will be great even with the questions at quarterback, the receiving corps should be solid, and the kicking game will turn out to be fine. Everything will fall apart if all the new starters up front aren't tremendous by the time the Oregon and Texas games roll around.

The season will be a success if ... OU wins the Big 12 title. There are just enough holes to prevent a trip to the national championship game, but a win over Texas on the way to a conference championship would do wonders after last year's slip.

Key game: October 7 vs. Texas. Last year's 45-12 drubbing can be chalked up to a hurt Adrian Peterson, a not-ready-yet Rhett Bomar, and the magical Longhorn season. Two straight losses would mean the hex Stoops once held over Mack Brown would officially be over, but a win would mean last year might have just been a fluky convergence of everything right happening for the orange side of the field.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- Fumbles: Oklahoma 31, lost 13 - Opponents 23, lost 10
- Sacks: Oklahoma 45 for 24 yards - Opponents 21 for 10 yards
- Fourth quarter scoring: Opponents 109 - Oklahoma 93

The Last Time Oklahoma…
…played in a bowl game…2005 (Holiday Bowl vs. Oregon)
…missed a bowl game…1998
…pitched a shutout…2004 (Baylor)
…was shutout…1998 (Texas A&M)
…scored 50 points…2004 (Houston)
…went undefeated…2000
…won a conference title…2004 (Big 12)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…2004 (Jason White)
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2005 (Adrian Peterson)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…2003 (Mark Clayton)
…had a first-round draft choice…2005 (T Jammal Brown and WR Mark Clayton)

Related Stories
Oklahoma 2006 Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 31, 2006
Oklahoma Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 31, 2006
Oklahoma Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Jul 31, 2006

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