Thursday, July 28, 2011
Previewing Week 1: Oklahoma
You're counting down the days, I'm sure. We're so close, and yet so far from the season's opening weekend. I can't wait for it, and I'm sure every player in the Big 12 can't either. So, despite being a bit far off, we'll take a look at each team's opener, inspired by our friends over at the Big Ten Blog.
We started this series at the top of the alphabet, and it's time for the Sooners.
About the Golden Hurricane: At Big 12 Media Days this week, Oklahoma linebacker Travis Lewis said he spent 70 percent of his film time this summer watching Tulsa. He better. The Golden Hurricane can play, and though Sooners fans will be quick to remember a 45-0 beat down in 2009 the last time these two teams met, there's no room for underestimating a 10-win team from the FBS.
Blankenship replaces Todd Graham, producing plenty of the obvious questions, but Tulsa has plenty of offensive talent, and Blankenship coached the receivers and running backs, as well as special teams.
Quarterback G.J. Kinne led the Golden Hurricane to co-division championship in the C-USA West, and the 10-3 season included a win over No. 24 Hawaii in the Hawaii Bowl and a win over Notre Dame. That gave the program its third 10-win season in four years, and Tulsa won its final seven games, helping Kinne win C-USA Offensive Player of the Year after throwing for 3,650 yards, 31 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. Kinne, a Texas transfer, had one of the worst outings of his career (12-of-26, 106 yards, 2 INT) the last time he suited up against the Sooners, but it could be different this time around.
Kinne returns one of college football's most electrifying players, Damaris Johnson, who caught 57 passes last year for 872 yards and four touchdowns, and Johnson returned both a kick and a punt for a score last season. Johnson, an All-American, led the nation in all-purpose yards last season, averaging 202 yards per game.
Running back Charles Clay (the team's second-leading receiver) is gone, but Kinne was actually the Hurricane's leading rusher last season, with 561 yards and seven scores. Second on the team? Johnson, of course, with 560 yards and seven scores of his own. Running back Alex Singleton returns after getting the most carries among running backs, 87, which he turned into 399 yards and 11 scores.
Tulsa doesn't have an ordinary offense, and they'll prove a tough test for the Sooners D in the opener.
Random factoid: Tulsa's last win over the Sooners? A 31-24 win in Norman, of all places, in 1996. Dark days for the Oklahoma program, which went 3-8 in John Blake's first year. That was also the Big 12's first year of existence, and the third in a five-year stretch without a winning season before Bob Stoops arrived. Things have been a little better since then.
Totally unscientific percentage chance Oklahoma wins: 84 percent. The Sooners defense could struggle, but Oklahoma is more than capable of outscoring Tulsa. It may not have to do it, but if this game slips into the 30s or 40s, Oklahoma can still handle it.