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Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Fixing the Big 12's best title contender

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Oklahoma enters the season as the Big 12 favorite and the league's top contender to win the national title.

Brian Fremeau of Football Outsiders Insider broke down the biggest questions for each of the nation's top five teams.

What do the Sooners need to fix?
There's no way to sugarcoat the disappointing 2011 season for Oklahoma, but the struggles might be a net positive motivator for a championship run this fall. The Sooners ranked fourth in our end-of-year drive-based FEI ratings -- similar to Alabama in 2010, Oklahoma was better than its final record suggests. What needs to happen for the Sooners to make a similar leap themselves?

The offense was productive last year, but there's still plenty of room to improve in efficiency. The Sooners' 39 points per game ranked 10th nationally, but only 18th in points per drive and 84th on points per explosive drive (possessions that average at least 10 yards per play). Big plays were a problem on defense, as well. Oklahoma's overall defensive efficiency was strong (sixth best at forcing three-and-outs), but the Sooners gave up explosive drives on 13 percent of opponent possessions. The departures of Big 12 playmakers at Oklahoma State and Baylor will be helpful, but Oklahoma will need to limit explosive plays to truly be a contender.

You'll need ESPN Insider to see the rest, but I'd agree with that sentiment. Outside of Ryan Broyles, who was injured late in the season, the Sooners lacked a home-run hitter. Running back Roy Finch looks like he has the potential, but he has yet to truly give Big 12 defenses a reason to be scared of him.

Defensively, look no further than the losses to Baylor and Oklahoma State for evidence of the Sooners' troubles stopping big plays.

This spring will be fascinating in Norman, getting a look at what new coordinator Mike Stoops is able to do with a talented, but underachieving defense.