Oklahoma Football: 5 Big 12 Studs Sooners Must Be Wary of
Oklahoma Sooners football has had its struggles the last few seasons in dealing with opposing teams' playmakers.
Last season, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III exposed weaknesses in the Sooners defense, throwing for 479 yards and four touchdowns in the Bears first win ever over Oklahoma.
In 2010, Missouri's Blaine Gabbert completed 30 passes in the upset of the No. 1 ranked Sooners in Columbia.
If the Sooners want to win the new-look Big 12 this season, they will need to be cautious with some of the best players in the conference. Stopping their opponents' stars has been an issue that needs to be solved.
In preparation of this season, here are five players the OU coaching staff should keep their eye on and make sure they have plans in place to prevent fatal damage to the 2012 season.
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In the 2011 matchup between Oklahoma and Texas Tech, the Red Raiders offense was commanded with incredible skill by quarterback Seth Doege.
In the game that ended OU's 39-game home winning streak, Doege completed 31/52, throwing for 441 yards and four touchdowns.
Doege is a disciplined player, throwing for only 10 interceptions last season. His 68.5 completion percentage was third-best in the Big 12, behind first-round picks Griffin and Brandon Weeden.
For the Sooners to avenge their loss last season, they will need to keep Doege at bay. If he goes off like he did in Norman last season, the Sooners could be facing their second straight upset by the Red Raiders.
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After Andy Dalton transitioned to the NFL, TCU seemed to be without a quarterback to lead them. Casey Pachall stepped in and defied the odds, filling the void left by Dalton with dominance in 2011.
Offense is king in the Big 12 and Pachall can lead an offense as well as anyone. In 2011, TCU scored 40.8 points per game en route to a third-straight Mountain West conference title. Pachall threw for 2,921 yards with 25 touchdowns in his first season at the helm.
With a full offseason to prepare for new competition and improve his game, Pachall will be in great form to take down the giants of the Big 12 come fall.
OU's secondary will need to be at its best to stop this great passer from taking the first game in what could become the next great Big 12 rivalry.
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Oklahoma's first Big 12 test of the season will come at home against prolific playmaker Collin Klein and the Kansas State Wildcats.
Klein is almost the Tim Tebow of the Big 12. In 2011, he threw for 1,198 yards and 13 touchdowns, but his rushing game was where he was most impressive.
Klein rushed for 27 touchdowns in 2011, tied for most in Big 12 history with Ricky Williams. He also accumulated 1,141—the most ever by a Wildcats QB.
Klein's ability to pass and run is dangerous for the Sooners. An early slip-up would be devastating to any title hopes OU has.
After losing key pieces to the front seven on defense, OU's leaders will need to do their best to keep Klein in the backfield and not let him escape into the secondary if they want to win.
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The battle between Oklahoma and West Virginia will be one of the most fun games to watch in 2012. The Sooners will travel to Morgantown to try their luck against the newcomers from the Big East.
It will be a hard game for OU to win, and Tavon Austin will make the task even more difficult.
Austin will step into the Big 12 and immediately be one of the best receivers in the conference. in 2011, Austin had 101 receptions and eight touchdowns. He also played well in the return game, recording 938 return yards and two touchdowns.
Austin's ability to shine in the spotlight was accentuated in the 2012 Orange Bowl, where he scored four times on 12 catches in a West Virginia blowout over Clemson.
OU will need to be cautious of Austin and should try to avoid kicking to him when possible. His ability to make plays will be fun to watch, but he is a dangerous man when he faces your team.
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With the focus of the country on Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon in 2011, many didn't notice Oklahoma State running back Joseph Randle. But just because he wasn't the first name on everyone's list doesn't mean he isn't a dangerous player.
Randle scored 24 rushing touchdowns last season—second-most in Cowboys history behind Barry Sanders. He also accumulated 1,216 rushing yards and added 266 yards and two scores catching the ball.
With Weeden and Blackmon gone and a freshman quarterback at the helm, the Cowboys offense will go through Randle in 2012.
For OU to avenge last year's Bedlam loss, they will need to control Randle's game from the start and not allow him to take over. His ability to find the end zone is dangerous and the Sooners should be careful to watch his every move.