By JOHN P. WISE
One Great Season
Not only did Oklahoma suffer tremendous injuries last year, but many of them happened early in the season, forcing untested players into key, season-long roles for which they might not have been ready. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right?
One of those players was quarterback Landry Jones. He and several others took some lumps during a five-loss campaign last year, but now that 2009 is long behind them and eyes are turned toward a new season, there's renewed optimism with all that experienced gained.
In short, last year was a fluke, and the Sooners appear poised to contend for championships again.
Jones was actually pretty steady by season's end and should bring better consistency in 2010. DeMarco Murray will handle the rushing load and if he avoids the injury bug that's hounded him, he'll earn some Heisman consideration. But the Sooners are hardly a run-only offense. Wideout Ryan Broyles posted huge numbers (89 receptions, 1,120 yards and 15 TDs) last year, and should enjoy similar success in 2010.
Although Oklahoma lost seven defensive starters, including three NFL draft picks, the Sooners also bring back considerable skill. End Jeremy Beal and linebacker Travis Lewis are all-Big 12 performers, and senior safety Quinton Carter will lead a secondary that's breaking in two new starters.
Though Oklahoma scored nine million points or whatever it was in 2008, Bob Stoops' Sooners are known for their defense, and this year the drop from last year's stellar unit won't be significant.
Who's back? QB Landry Jones, RB DeMarco Murray, DE Jeremy Beal, LB Travis Lewis
Who's gone? QB Sam Bradford, DT Gerald McCoy, TE Jermaine Gresham, OT Trent Williams
Why they'll win: Nine returning starters on offense and an always dangerous defense should make this another feared OU team.
Why they'll lose: If early season tests prove troublesome in September, the Sooners could see their problems continue once Big 12 play begins.
Get your tickets: vs. Florida State (Sept. 11), at Cincinnati (Sept. 25), vs. Texas (at Dallas, Oct. 2), at Oklahoma State (Nov. 27)
Prediction: 10-2 (7-1, second place Big 12 South)