Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Nonconference preview: Oklahoma Sooners
By David Ubben
Time to continue our team-by-team look at the Big 12's nonconference schedule.
Next up: Oklahoma.
Louisiana-Monroe, Aug. 31
Coach: Todd Barry (17-20), fourth year
2012 record: 8-5, 6-2 Sun Belt
Returning starters: Eight offensive, nine defensive
Offensive headliner: Quarterback Kolton Browning earned a bit of Heisman buzz last season after the Warhawks' monumental upset at Arkansas. He threw for 3,049 yards, 29 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season.
Defensive headliner: Linebacker Ray Stovall made 13.5 tackles for loss last season, leading the team. He had 63 total tackles.
The skinny: The Warhawks turned heads with their two-quarterback offensive package in last year's game against Baylor, which could be a tough test for an underwhelming Oklahoma defensive line that will likely be playing without its only returning starter, Chuka Ndulue. He was arrested on suspicion of DUI this weekend. The Sooners should win, but if they play poorly like last season against UTEP or in 2010 against Utah State, this could be a nervous Saturday for the OU faithful.
Tulsa, Sept. 14
Coach: Bill Blankenship (19-8), third year
2012 record: 11-3, 7-1 Conference USA (No. 1, West)
Returning starters: Seven offense, three defense
Offensive headliner: Running back Trey Watts rushed for 1,108 yards and three scores on 186 carries, averaging almost six yards per carry. He set career highs for rushing in his final two games of 2012, capped by a 149-yard game against Iowa State.
Defensive headliner: Tulsa loses its top two tackles and top four players in tackles for loss, but linebacker Shawn Jackson had 87 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss. He forced three fumbles and had five sacks.
The skinny: Oklahoma seems to always play well against Tulsa, and gets the Golden Hurricane back in Norman for the first time since a 47-14 win in 2011. That was an eight-win team, and Oklahoma beat a five-win Tulsa team 45-0 in Norman in 2009. Hard to see Tulsa winning this game, even though it's a quality squad.
at Notre Dame, Sept. 28
Coach: Brian Kelly (28-11), fourth year
2012 record: 12-1 (lost to Alabama in BCS National Championship Game)
Returning starters: six offense, eight defense
Offensive headliner: It would have been Everett Golson, but he's been suspended for the season. Receiver T.J. Jones caught 50 balls for 649 yards last season, and will catch passes from Tommy Rees to begin this season. The Irish lost their top two rushers from last season, too.
Defensive headliner: Manti Te'o made a run at the Heisman Trophy last season, but defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt led the team with 11 sacks last season and scored a touchdown in the season opener. He had 45 tackles, blocked a punt and forced a fumble.
The skinny: Oklahoma will be eyeing revenge in South Bend after the Irish used a late run to earn a 30-13 win in Norman. The Sooners caught a big break in Golson's suspension, but this won't be an easy win. Even without Golson, Oklahoma's still trying to beat what's likely a top-20 team on its home field.
Chances of going 3-0:45 percent
Wrapping up: Give Oklahoma major props. It's got one of the most difficult nonconference schedules in the entire country. It's not a perfect measure of schedule difficulty, but good luck finding another program who's playing three FBS teams who combined to win 31 games last season. That's crazy. Oklahoma may very well be favored in all three games, but that Notre Dame game won't be easy. It looks like mostly a coin flip, but Oklahoma's signed up to host two more teams who could beat the Sooners on a bad night.