Nonconference preview: Oklahoma Sooners
Next up: Oklahoma.
Louisiana-Monroe, Aug. 31
- Coach: Todd Barry (17-20), fourth year
- 2012 record: 8-5, 6-2 Sun Belt
- Returning starters: Eight offensive, nine defensive
- Offensive headliner: Quarterback Kolton Browning earned a bit of Heisman buzz last season after the Warhawks' monumental upset at Arkansas. He threw for 3,049 yards, 29 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season.
- Defensive headliner: Linebacker Ray Stovall made 13.5 tackles for loss last season, leading the team. He had 63 total tackles.
- The skinny: The Warhawks turned heads with their two-quarterback offensive package in last year's game against Baylor, which could be a tough test for an underwhelming Oklahoma defensive line that will likely be playing without its only returning starter, Chuka Ndulue. He was arrested on suspicion of DUI this weekend. The Sooners should win, but if they play poorly like last season against UTEP or in 2010 against Utah State, this could be a nervous Saturday for the OU faithful.
- Coach: Bill Blankenship (19-8), third year
- 2012 record: 11-3, 7-1 Conference USA (No. 1, West)
- Returning starters: Seven offense, three defense
- Offensive headliner: Running back Trey Watts rushed for 1,108 yards and three scores on 186 carries, averaging almost six yards per carry. He set career highs for rushing in his final two games of 2012, capped by a 149-yard game against Iowa State.
- Defensive headliner: Tulsa loses its top two tackles and top four players in tackles for loss, but linebacker Shawn Jackson had 87 tackles and 9.5 tackles for loss. He forced three fumbles and had five sacks.
- The skinny: Oklahoma seems to always play well against Tulsa, and gets the Golden Hurricane back in Norman for the first time since a 47-14 win in 2011. That was an eight-win team, and Oklahoma beat a five-win Tulsa team 45-0 in Norman in 2009. Hard to see Tulsa winning this game, even though it's a quality squad.
- Coach: Brian Kelly (28-11), fourth year
- 2012 record: 12-1 (lost to Alabama in BCS National Championship Game)
- Returning starters: six offense, eight defense
- Offensive headliner: It would have been Everett Golson, but he's been suspended for the season. Receiver T.J. Jones caught 50 balls for 649 yards last season, and will catch passes from Tommy Rees to begin this season. The Irish lost their top two rushers from last season, too.
- Defensive headliner: Manti Te'o made a run at the Heisman Trophy last season, but defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt led the team with 11 sacks last season and scored a touchdown in the season opener. He had 45 tackles, blocked a punt and forced a fumble.
- The skinny: Oklahoma will be eyeing revenge in South Bend after the Irish used a late run to earn a 30-13 win in Norman. The Sooners caught a big break in Golson's suspension, but this won't be an easy win. Even without Golson, Oklahoma's still trying to beat what's likely a top-20 team on its home field.
Wrapping up: Give Oklahoma major props. It's got one of the most difficult nonconference schedules in the entire country. It's not a perfect measure of schedule difficulty, but good luck finding another program who's playing three FBS teams who combined to win 31 games last season. That's crazy. Oklahoma may very well be favored in all three games, but that Notre Dame game won't be easy. It looks like mostly a coin flip, but Oklahoma's signed up to host two more teams who could beat the Sooners on a bad night.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Play Podcast Part 2 of the articles on OSU's involvment in academic fraud was released. Some claim the expose is unfounded. Ian and Richard warn that there are two sides to all stories.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett discuss Mack Brown, Manny Diaz and all the latest with the Texas Longhorns.
Play Podcast Fitzsimmons and Durrett give you the latest on the Johnny Manziel story and Charles Barkley weighs in. You won't believe who the outspoken NBA Hall of Famer is disappointed in and what he thinks about the autograph allegations.
Play Podcast Kirk Herbstreit joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett for his weekly visit to preview the 2013 college football season.
Play Podcast Former TCU and current Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to discuss the expectations for the Bengals this season, give a prediction for the TCU-LSU game and talk about what it's like having the Hard Knocks cameras follow him.
Play Podcast Randy Galloway, Matt Mosley, and Mark Friedman react to Dez Bryant's comments regarding the NCAA's ongoing investigation of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Play Podcast Richard Durrett, Ian Fitzsimmons and Glenn "Stretch" Smith react to Dez Bryant sounding off yesterday after practice about Johnny Manziel and the shadiness of the NCAA.
Play Podcast Former NCAA investigator and Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to weigh in on the Johnny Manziel drama and give some insight as to what goes on during an NCAA investigation.