FanHouse's 2010 Preseason College Football Poll -- No. 6 Oklahoma
It was the season Bob Stoops never saw coming.
Coming off a national championship appearance and once again being picked to finish atop the Big 12 and likely compete for another BCS national championship, the Sooners' 2009 campaign began to unravel before it could get started.
First, All-America tight end Germaine Gresham never got to play a snap due to a knee injury. Then in the first game -- a loss to BYU in Dallas -- All-American and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Sam Bradford, the player the Sooners could least afford to lose, suffered a shoulder injury that all but shelved him for the season.
What it all meant for the Sooners is that careers had to be launched a year sooner than expected, most notably at quarterback where redshirt freshman Landry Jones was pressed into action. Quests for conference and national championships had to be put on hold as OU struggled through an ordinary 8-5 season with a 5-3 Big 12 record.
But now the Sooners hope to show the suffering and the losing wasn't in vain as they head into this season with an unexpectedly seasoned quarterback and some big-play potential skill players around him. What we don't know is how the offensive line in front of Jones will hold up.
The bulk of the attention will be placed on Jones to see if he has grown more into the role of leader as a sophomore. Jones proved last season he can throw the ball with the best as he passed for 3,198 yards and 26 touchdowns. But Stoops would certainly like to see his young quarterback cut down on the 14 interceptions.
Jones may have the best and most exciting receiver in the Big 12 to throw to in junior Ryan Broyles, who had 15 receiving touchdowns last season. Running back DeMarco Murray returns for his senior season and his versatility could be huge in the offense if he is able to stay healthy.
If there is a major question mark for the Sooners, it's on defense where just five of the team's 11 starters return. Oklahoma must replace impossible-to-block defensive lineman Gerald McCoy while also breaking in couple new starting cornerbacks, which could prove a problem in the wide open Big 12. But you just have to trust that a Bob Stoops-coached team will come up with some answers on defense.
The Sooners will also have to overcome a potentially tricky schedule that includes a home game against Florida State in the second week and then a road game at Cincinnati the week before the annual Red River Showdown against Texas. Stoops is feeling the pressure, having lost to the Longhorns in four of the past five years. The winner has traditionally gone on to win the South Division and the Big 12 title.
THE BASICS: Oklahoma is coming off a disappointing 8-5, 5-3 season in which it finished fourth in the South Division it has dominated with Texas this decade. The Sooners return 11 starters, including six on offense and five on defense.
KEY PLAYER YOU PROBABLY DON'T THINK OF AS A KEY PLAYER: Senior Jonathan Nelson has made the shift from strong safety to cornerback to give the Sooners more experience at cornerback. Nelson earned All Big 12 honorable mention from the coaches last season after moving from reserve to starter late in the season and making some big plays. But life will be different at cornerback where leveling a receiver isn't necessarily the first option.
FLY IN THE OINTMENT: Gerald McCoy leaves some major shoes to fill on the defense. But linebacker Travis Lewis, who has led the team in tackles the last two seasons, could be just the guy. He becomes the team's emotional leader this season, and that should be an easy task for a young man who never seems at a loss for words.
DON'T MISS: Oct. 2 vs. Texas at Cotton Bowl. There seems to be no way of getting around it, you win this game and good things seem to happen more often than not (though UT coach Mack Brown might strongly disagree). Unfortunately for Stoops, he has been on the wrong side of this rivalry too many times in the last five years. He's lost the annual rivalry game four times in the last five years. This should be the season it swings back to the Sooners favor.
PREDICTED RECORD: 11-2
FanHouse's Oklahoma team page with schedule