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Are the Sooners any good?

Oklahoma had a difficult beginning to the season, losing to TCU (who then lost to SMU), and barely beating Tulsa (closer than the final score indicates).  Here's what CFN had to say about Oklahoma after the Tulsa game:

Thank goodness for Adrian Peterson. The OU coaches appeared set in their decision to let Rhett Bomar quarterback the whole way, and he was horrible. Peterson took the game over running harder than any back of his caliber should've had to against a team like Tulsa. If he has to keep pounding the ball and breaking tackles like he did this week, he's not going to last all season. Getting outpassed by Tulsa 246 yards to 42 is pathetic.

and after TCU:

Considering the last time the Sooners played they came up with an embarrassing performance in the Orange Bowl, this didn't appear to be a very pumped up team going into the TCU game. The defense was fine holding the Horned Frog offense to 296 yards. Yeah, the pass defense wasn't all that great, but it wasn't that big a problem. The debate will go on about the quarterbacks as Paul Thompson failed to move the offense and Rhett Bomar looked stunningly unprepared for primetime. If the quarterback play doesn't significantly improve, Adrian Peterson will get beaten up very, very badly.

Here's a few tidbits from The Oklahoman

Key things:  OU fumbled four times against Tulsa, and Offensive Co- coordinator Chuck Long said OU's plan was to play for the entire game, which he did.

Some of the fumbles can be attributed to the fact that OU has a new center.

Bomar did not attempt a pass in the second half, and he expects to start for the rest of the year.

Should we stick a fork in the Sooners?  

Before the season, CFN noted:

The expectations, by many, will be for a major letdown after losing college football household names like Jason White, Mark Clayton, Dan Cody, Lance Mitchell, Jammal Brown and Vince Carter, along with several other top players. There isn't the who's who of NFL prospects like there has been over the past few seasons, and there are major question marks and concerns in the secondary, offensive line, the receiving corps and the kicking game.

Don't start weeping for poor Bob Stoops and the boys just yet.
This is still one of the nation's most athletic teams with a world of talent led by running back Adrian Peterson and soon-to-be first round NFL draft pick Davin Joseph at tackle. With all due respect to White, the quarterback situation is even more exciting with mobile, all-around threats like Rhett Bomar and Paul Thompson waiting to shine. The defensive front seven doesn't have the all-stars of the past few years, but it's still rock solid. Even the areas of concern aren't all that bad compared to the rest of college football world.

Was CFN right before the season?  Or were those expressing concern correct?  Incidentally, those "concerns" certainly didn't show up in the preseason polls.  But now Oklahoma is in a tailspin.  Still, Bob Stoops is a good coach, and a talented team like OU is always at its most dangerous when it has its back agaisnt the wall.

However, given that Bruins have dominated admittedly inferior competition, while OU has lost and barely beat inferior competition, has suffered off-the-field distractions, and that the Bruins are now favored by a touchdown, we think that not only should the Bruins win this game, but the Bruins must win this game.  

But back to previewing the Sooners.

One key will be the QB play of Rhett Bomar.  Bomar is talented, and was highly recruited in his own right.  However, he's struggled in the first ttwo games, as is to be expected of a redshirt freshman.  Here's what CFN had to say about Bomar before the season:

Rhett Bomar, RFr. - While Adrian Peterson was earning All-Everything honors as one of the nation's best players, and not just the best freshman, it's easy to forget that Bomar was considered every bit the recruiting coup in 2004. The 6-4, 215-pound star-in-waiting has a great arm and adds a rushing element that was never there in the latter stages of the Jason White era. He still needs a lot of polish, and he likely won't start early on, but it's just a question of time before he becomes the main man.

It's worth noting that while Bomar is certainly talented, it's much more difficult to come in and play quarterback right away.  We all remember that it wasn't until Cade McNown's third year that he became, you know, Cade McNown.  So Bomar is dangerous, but he hasn't been able to live up to his potential yet.  Bomar has the ability to make big plays, but as an inexperienced QB, he's also liable to make mistakes.

The Bruins are almost certain to stack the box in an attempt to stop Peterson, and conventional wisdom says that you blitz a young quarterback.  This is supposed to increase the pressure on the young QB, hopefully increasing the likelihood of his throwing a pick.  However, the danger of this strategy is that the young QB will step up and make plays.  

George Schroeder of The Oklahoman makes a similar point about Bomar's inexperience:

Despite the recruiting hype and his bravado, Bomar remains a redshirt freshman. In terms of development, he's in the first mile of a marathon. As Hybl and Long suggested, everything is still a blur.

"I believe he'll get better as the year goes," Long said. "But there's gonna be some growing pains. It's gonna happen. But we'll live through it."

Here's CFN's take on the guys Bomar will be throwing to:

The loss of players like Mark Clayton, Mark Bradley and Brandon Jones would be a killer if it weren't for a slew of superior talent waiting to shine. Travis Wilson has to prove he can be a number one target and Jejuan Rankins has to learn how to hold on to the ball, but backups like 6-6 Quentin Chaney and speedy Lendy Holmes are reasons to get excited. Incoming freshmen Eric Huggins, Malcolm Kelly, Manuel Johnson and Juaquin Iglesias will get long looks early on. The tight ends are fine with James Moses, Joe Jon Finley and Willie Roberts all good enough to be used as reliable receivers. Moses is a solid blocker as well.

The real story, we think, is the offensive line.  The Bruins still have a big question mark on the defensive line, one that wasn't exactly answered even in demolitions of SDSU and Rice.  What of OU's OL?

Even with all the accolades given to Jammal Brown and Vince Carter last year, the line didn't get nearly enough credit only allowing nine sacks and paving the way for 4.8 yards per carry and 208 rushing yards per game. The production won't fall completely off the map, but there will be a drop-off with only two starters returning. Davin Joseph is a fantastic player to build around. He'll move from guard to tackle with Kelvin Chaisson getting even more time at guard. Chris Bush will move from guard to center, while undersized guard Chris Chester and tackle Akim Millington have to shine in starting roles. The reserves are a concern with little to no experience.

Here's Justin Harper noting that a number of freshmen are contributing to Oklahoma's OL.  Two man-mountains in particular are stepping up:

Now Oklahoma turns to this set of pups - albeit massive ones - to shore up an offensive line that was shoved around two weeks ago.

Saturday, in a 31-15 victory over Tulsa, freshmen George "Duke" Robinson and Branndon Braxton went from being the tackles of the future to being the solution of the present.

"We've got a long way to go with those guys, but I thought it was a positive week and the direction we need to move in," said OU offensive line coach Kevin Wilson


"It's something we can build on."

Good foundations to build on. Braxton goes 6-6, 328 pounds. He's the small one. Robinson is 6-6, 360. Both played major roles Saturday as Peterson rushed for 220 yards.

"That was encouraging," said OU coach Bob Stoops. "Those guys, with the limited time they've been here, came out and played hard, they were physical. They've got some extra size to them, that helps. And I like their attitude."

Running behind these behemoths is All-Everything Adrian Peterson.

OU's co-offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson says of workhorse Peterson:

If he needs one of those Steve-Owens-50-something-carry days, we'll have one of those."

Against Tulsa, Peterson rushed for 220 yards, 180 of them in the second half, carried the ball 19 times in the second half (out of 28 OU offensive plays from scrimmage), and personally accounted for more than 85 percent of the Sooners' offensive yardage.

"He's big enough and strong enough to carry it 30 times (a game)," Stoops insists. "We'd be criticized if we didn't give it to him 30 times."

In fact, Stoops believes Peterson is capable of up to 40 touches per game, including receptions.

Don't miss this juicy bit of tinfoil-hat speculation:

Conspiracy theorists will note that Peterson was suspended from practice Monday and Tuesday for violating OU's class attendance policy. Skeptics might be excused for wondering if it actually wasn't to give the poor guy some rest before he goes back to work on Saturday.

This game should be can UCLA's defense stop the Sooners.  But can the Sooners stop the Bruins on defense?

Again, the Sooners have talent, but have lost a lot of good players, and the question is whether the talented athletes can form a cohesive defensive whole.

This might not be the star-studded killer of past seasons, but it's still full of great athletes and should still be fantastic against the run. The main concern is in the secondary after OU only came up with eight picks. Top athletes like Eric Bassey and Chijoke Onyenegecha have to play up to their potential and new safeties Darrien Williams and Jason Cater have to shine right away. The front seven fill be more than solid thanks to the return of Dusty Dvoracek at tackle along with the emergence of an unheralded, but talented linebacking corps.

OU's DL was filled with dominating and speedy playmakers in past years.  The line has lost some players, but still has some players:

Many will write off the line after losing star pass rusher Dan Cody and tackle Lynn McGruder, but this will still be among the Big XII's best front walls. Tackle Dusty Dvoracek returns after getting booted off the team last year, and he should regain his all-star form. Remi Ayodele appears ready to be a star on the inside, while Larry Birdine and JUCO transfer C.J. Ah You will be in the backfield early and often. Outside of tackle Carl Pendleton, depth will be a bit of an issue early on.

OU's secondary wasn't as dominating as in past years, allowing over 200 yards per game and 15 touchdown passes.

The early departure of Brodney Pool to the NFL hurts when combined with the loss of Donte Nicholson, but the real problems are at corner with big-name recruits Eric Bassey, Chijoke Onyenegecha and Marcus Walker still looking to live up to their potential. On straight athleticism, 40 time and hitting ability, OU has multi-million dollar talent; now they have to cover someone on a consistent basis. The projected starting safeties (Darrien Williams and Jason Carter) will be good in time.

Good news for Marcedes Lewis?  The early returns on OU's pass defense suggest that Lewis may be able to run wild against the Sooners (if Karl doesn't forget about him).  Tulsa TE Garrett Mills caught 13 passes for 152 yards.

In conclusion, the Sooners have serious question marks at QB, OL, DB, and WR.  

In looking at the matchups, the OL question marks are fortuitous for the Bruins, as DL is a serious issue.  

The Bruins' secondary was a question in the minds of many beginning the season, and although SDSU had limited success, the DBs have largely played well.  The matchups look favorable here for the Bruins defense, if the assumed gameplan of stacking the box and stopping Peterson is successful.

The Bruins should also use Marcedes Lewis heavilly, which should in turn open up the running game.  The Bruins should also take some deep shots down the field.  While Drew Olson and the WRs finally got into the action against Rice, Oklahoma will obviously be more of a challenge, even with question marks.  

Still, the matchups are favorable, the Sooners are reeling, and Karl Dorrell needs to take advantage of this opportunity.

The Bruins can and should win this game.  A win will go a long way to Karl Dorrell and the Bruins proving themselves.  A loss will confirm our worst fears.

This is a must-win game.