Sam Bradford, DeMarco Murray, Jermaine Gresham, Duke Robinson, Gerald McCoy, Nic Harris… Oklahoma’s impressive and seemingly endless roster of talent is what separates them from conference competitors in a chase for their third consecutive Big 12 Championship.
While Oklahoma can be considered an early favorite to take home their sixth conference championship, what separates them from the likes of Southern California, Ohio State, or the southern powers Florida and Georgia in the chase for a birth in Miami? SC and Ohio State play each other, while Florida and Georgia, besides playing each other, must go through the vaunted SEC. On the other hand, Oklahoma must get through a relatively easy schedule.
Looking at Oklahoma’s home schedule the Sooners play Chattanooga, Cincinnati, TCU, Kansas, Nebraska, and Texas Teach in Norman. With all respect to Chattanooga, Cincinnati and TCU represent the only home challenges during the non-conference season. Despite coming off a successful 10-3 season, Cincinnati loses their starting quarterback Ben Mauk after his bid to receive a sixth year of eligibility was struck down by the NCAA, and should expect a drop off from his passing totals.
While Kansas and Texas Tech initially look like potential slipups for the Sooners, they take place in the friendly confines of Memorial Stadium, where Stoops is nearly unbeatable during his tenure in Norman going 54-2. Horned Frogs fans may point out that TCU is one of those slipups for Stoops defeating the then #7 ranked Sooners in the opener of the 2005 season. That was a radically different team that had lost a former Heisman winner, 10 NFL draft picks, and was breaking in a new quarterback instead of the 2008 version returning its starting quarterback, entire offensive and defensive lines, and experienced playmakers sprinkled among the remaining skill positions.
Oklahoma’s road slate includes Washington, Baylor, Texas (at Dallas), Kansas State, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma State, a perfect lineup for a BCS run. Baylor is historically awful during its time in the Big 12 and OU is 17-0 against the Bears, beating them under Stoops by an average of 42-12. Washington is coming off a 4-9 season and a last place PAC-10 finish, Kansas State comes off a 5-7 season and loses their top wideout and tailback, while Texas A&M is in a rebuilding mode and adapting from an option based offense to the new schemes of Mike Sherman. That leaves Texas, technically a home game, and Oklahoma State.
Despite the talent of the Longhorns, Oklahoma will more than likely be favored rolling into Dallas, and the recent trend favors Oklahoma, which is 6-2 the last eight years in the Red River Rivalry. The November 29th matchup in Stillwater with the Cowboys has recently been a close affair for the Sooners, with the last two games in Stillwater coming down to the last play. A dangerous offense led by returning starter Zac Robinson could possibly be the most difficult game on Oklahoma’s calendar. However OSU’s defense still faces significant problems giving up 443 total yards per game last season. Once again Oklahoma should be favored, the case in each of its regular season games.
This leaves a potential matchup with Missouri in the Big 12 Title Game. Oklahoma handed the Tigers their only two losses of 2007, including a 38-17 dismantling that cost Chase Daniel and Missouri a shot at the school’s first national championship. In each game in the 2008 season Oklahoma, on paper, should win. That isn’t the case with their major competitors for the national championship. Of course, that’s why they play the games.