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Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Second-half outlook: Oklahoma

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Oklahoma Sooners

Record: 3-3

Remaining schedule: at Kansas, Kansas State, at Nebraska, Texas A&M, at Texas Tech, Oklahoma State.

The Sooners will have to pick up the pieces of the rest of the season almost assuredly led by backup quarterback Landry Jones after Sam Bradford injury against Texas. Bob Stoops has been able to conjure up comeback magic after falling to Texas before, claiming Big 12 titles in 2006 and 2008 after losing to the Longhorns. That might be asking a lot this time around, but the Sooners do have the ability to charge on a late spurt. Ryan Broyles' strong return against Texas shows the Sooners’ top receiving weapon appears back. DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown both need to emerge as running threats to balance what is being asked of Jones and the passing offense. The Sooners' defense has played well enough to keep them in every game this season, ranking 16th or better in all of the four major defensive categories. But it still hasn’t been good enough and they’ll have to raise their production even more to account for the injury-riddle offense. Oklahoma's unprecedented streak of three-straight Big 12 titles will end unless they receive some major help from an unexpected source. It just doesn't seem like it will happen.

Best-case scenario: Jones shows the form that allowed him to blister Tulsa for seven TD passes earlier this season and Broyles returns to deliver a monster receiving season after his return. The Sooners steer through their run of difficult upcoming road games with an 8-4 record that boosts them into a bowl game with momentum they can build on for next season.

Worst-case scenario: The struggles that Oklahoma’s offense have shows in their three losses continues during the rest of the season. Those problems cause the Sooners to drop all three remaining road games, finishing the season with a 6-6 record that is Stoops’ worst as a head coach. Those struggles start the understandable murmurs about staff changes soon after the regular season ends.

My prediction: Mid-level bowl. The Sooners will rebound by beating Kansas this week, but tough games at Nebraska and Texas Tech are a different story. The Sooners will lose both to finish at 7-5, but gain momentum from a resounding victory over Oklahoma State in their regular season finale to jump into the Holiday Bowl against Oregon. It's not nearly what Stoops or Sooner fans expected when they giddily learned earlier this season that Bradford, Jermaine Gresham, Gerald McCoy and Trent Williams would be returning. But it's still a bowl game.