Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Schedule analysis: Oklahoma
The Big 12's full schedule isn't out yet, but a few teams across the league have released their individual schedules. In no particular order, we'll take a look at them.
Next up: The Sooners of Norman.
Nonconference (with 2010 records):
Sept. 3: Tulsa (10-3)
Sept. 17: at Florida State (10-4)
Oct. 1: Ball State (4-8)
Home Big 12 games:
Sept. 24: Missouri (10-3)
Oct. 8: Texas (5-7)--at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas
Oct. 22: Texas Tech (8-5)
Nov. 5: Texas A&M (9-4)
Nov. 12: Iowa State (5-7)
Away Big 12 games:
Oct. 15: Kansas (3-9)
Oct. 29: Kansas State (7-6)
Nov. 19: Baylor (7-6)
Dec. 3: Oklahoma State (11-2)
Gut-check game: at Florida State. Winner doesn't take all, but it does get early season validation as a national title contender, and perhaps the favorite. The Sooners rolled the 'Noles in Norman last year, but both of Oklahoma's losses last season were road games in primetime in tough environments. This will be another one.
Preliminary hurdle: Texas A&M. The Aggies' shot at the Sooners takes its billing below Bedlam for two reasons: One, it's in Norman, where the Sooners have been known to transform into an NFL team. That's especially true when fans recognize that the 36-game home winning streak is in jeopardy and respond with big-time performances of their own. Ask Texas Tech in 2008 (65-21), Oklahoma State (27-0) in 2009 and Florida State (47-17) in 2010. All three posed big home threats, the biggest of the season for the Sooners. All three left with lopsided losses. Can Texas A&M buck the trend?
Snoozer: Ball State. Brady Hoke helped the Cardinals reach bowl games in 2008 and 2009. After he left, the Cardinals lost to Liberty in 2010. It's hard to imagine this team going from that to anything close to competing with Oklahoma in Norman. If you're a mean/ignorant person and insist on having your wedding or major family event on a fall home football Saturday in Oklahoma, your guests won't be as mad at you if you schedule it on Oct. 1.
Trap game: Missouri. Avenging last season's loss should be motivation enough, but the Sooners will be coming off an amped-up game against Florida State and returning home. Beating Oklahoma was one hump for the Tigers last season, but winning in Norman would be another. If the Sooners play at least close to their potential, they should win, but Missouri is one of the team's on Oklahoma's schedule with a realistic chance to beat the Sooners at home this season. For an alternate trap game, see the Sooners' return trip to Baylor on Nov. 19. They had something to prove in Waco last season. Not the case this season.
Must-see date: Oklahoma State. Last season's was a classic, and this season's should be the same. Plenty of offense to go around, and the Big 12 season finale might be a major player in more than just the Big 12 standings. How about the Heisman, Biletnikoff Award, Davey O'Brien Award and Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year? It's possible that all four could hang in the balance on the final Saturday night of the season in Stillwater, and be decided on the field.
Analysis: The Sooners' neutral-site date with Texas gives them a 4-4-1 home-away schedule, and it's fairly balanced, despite having to make return trips to both Stillwater and Waco, where Oklahoma won last season. The Sooners' nonconference schedule should rank among the Big 12's toughest, but the schedule is spaced out well.
The Florida State-Missouri back to back is probably the toughest two-week stretch for the Sooners, but every other big game is separated by at least one that Oklahoma should be heavily favored to win. The schedule hardly sets up a national title run, but it won't make one inordinately difficult, either.