Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Season recap: Oklahoma
By David Ubben
Record: 9-3 (6-3)
Oklahoma embraced the preseason expectations and didn't shy away from any talk of a national title. Before the season, coach Bob Stoops even told an audience of boosters it was "about time" the Sooners nabbed their eighth national title, first since 2000 and second under Stoops. Oklahoma didn't really even come close to making it happen. Texas Tech embarrassed the Sooners on their home field, ending a 39-game win streak at Owen Field, the nation's longest and one that dated back to 2005. That offered the first evidence that the Sooners weren't the juggernaut they looked in the preseason. Tech finished 5-7 and the Sooners got a road win against a then-top 5 Florida State team, but the Seminoles fell to 8-4 and 5-3 in the weak ACC.
Oklahoma was hurt by late-season injuries to Ryan Broyles and Dominique Whaley, as well as a knee injury to Ronnell Lewis, but the Sooners lost two of their three final games and finished basically fourth in the Big 12, since Baylor holds the tiebreak over OU. The late-season swoon made the Sooners rival Texas A&M as one of the Big 12's biggest disappointments.
Offensive MVP: Landry Jones, quarterback. Jones' career, which may be over if he enters the NFL draft, is a bit unfortunate. He's always been undervalued by Oklahoma fans and really, most everyone. That's what happens when you follow Sam Bradford, a Heisman winner and No. 1 draft pick and make a few mistakes in big spots. Jones struggled at times as a freshman (he's the only guy to ever do that, right?), but he's been outstanding the past two years. His numbers regressed this year, but he still threw for 4,302 yards, 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
Defensive MVP: Frank Alexander, defensive end. Easy pick here. Alexander's been the Big 12's best defender, and a huge disruptive force for every offense in the Big 12. He led the league with 8.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. He had 51 tackles and also grabbed an interception.
Turning point: Broyles' injury. The FBS leader in career receptions went down with a torn ACL against Texas A&M, and from that moment on, three games and a quarter-plus against Texas A&M, Jones didn't throw another touchdown pass and the Sooners lost two of three games. Broyles was missed in a big way, and though the Sooners improved in the short yardage by bringing in quarterback Blake Bell in the "BellDozer" formation, Oklahoma didn't rebound from the loss of Broyles.
What’s next: In the immediate future, Oklahoma faces Iowa, Bob Stoops' alma mater, in the Insight Bowl. After that, it's decision time. The defense loses Alexander, Ronnell Lewis and Travis Lewis, but brings back a lot of talent with guys like Tony Jefferson, Aaron Colvin and Tom Wort. Offensively, if Jones returns, the Sooners could be in for a 10-win season in 2012 with a bit of upside. If Jones leaves, the Big 12 is wide open in 2012 and Oklahoma will have a quarterback competition between Bell and Drew Allen on tap for the spring. Running back Dominique Whaley will be back with Brennan Clay and Roy Finch, but the Sooners will be without a lot of experience if Jones leaves.