Editor’s note: This is the final installment in a 10-part series of articles previewing 2013 Big 12 football and the prospects and projections for all of the conference teams this season.
(2012 record: 10-3 in all games, 8-1 in the Big 12, co-champions)
Oklahoma has a new starting quarterback for the first time in four years. If you believe that alone is enough to write off the Sooners’ title chances in 2013, you may want to consider that coach Bob Stoops has won eight Big 12 championships with six different starting quarterbacks.
Stoops continues to maintain that the starting quarterback spot is not yet decided, but most everyone is presuming that, in the end, it will be junior Blake Bell, who has seen quite a bit of action since midseason 2011, mostly in short yardage situations because of his size and strength running the ball. The Wichita, Kan., native has 24 rushing touchdowns, four more than the total number of passes he has attempted at QB for the Sooners.
Whether its Bell or redshirt freshman Trevor Knight as Stoops’ choice to replace four-year starter Landy Jones at quarterback, one thing is for sure, there will be changes in the OU offensive attack with a quarterback who is mobile and able to make plays with his feet as well as with his arm. Jones and Sam Bradford before him were both pocket passers and very seldom called on to run with the football.
There have been concerns about the Sooners’ passing attack coming into the 2013 season with the change at quarterback. Stoops doesn’t share those concerns. “Blake is a guy that does throw the ball well,” Stoops said in his press conference comments at Big 12 Media Days in late July. “We have a history in my going on 15 years of having guys that are really excellent throwers (e.g, Josh Heupel, Heisman Trophy-winning QBs Jason White and Sam Bradrord and, most recently, Landry Jones), and Blake fits that mold.
“We would never recruit a guy that we didn’t think would be a great passer,” the OU head coach said.
All of that remains to be seen, but regardless of whom gets the nod to start at quarterback in the season opener against the University of Louisiana-Monore, he will have plenty of weapons to call upon, as has typically been the case throughout Stoops’ 14 seasons in Norman.
The bigger question for the Sooners, heading into the 2013 season, is: Will what has been struggling, inconsistent defense the past couple of years hold up its end of the game planning. OU needs to replace seven defensive starters ona unit that was very un-Oklahoma-like and un-Stoops-like a year ago, yielding almost 400 yards of offense and 26 points a game.
The Sooners biggest hold on the defensive side of the ball is in the guys up front in the trenches. They also lost three of the best defensive backs in the Big 12, but sophomore Cortez Johnson, who transferred from Arizona, where he played for then-head coach Mike Stoops, will take over at cornerback opposite preseason All-Big 12 corner Aaron Colvin.
Bell certainly won’t have to do it all alone. He will have a deep and talented running back corps led by seniors Damien Williams and Brennan Clay, and an equally talented group of wide receivers headed by senior Jalen Saunders and sophomore Trey Metoyer.
According to Phil Steele’s 2013 College Football Preview publication, Oklahoma has the second most difficult schedule in the country this season. The Sooners have difficult road assignments at Notre Dame, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. OU has only won once in 10 tries against Notre Dame all-time, but the one win was at Notre Dame, when Bud Wilkinson’s 1956 national champion Sooners shut out the Fighting Irish 40-0.
Although road trips to Kansas State and Oklahoma State always prove to be difficult tests for the visiting team, Oklahoma has won its last four games at K-State and four of the last five at Bedlam rival Oklahoma State.
“Our (fans) here are bored with winning the Big 12 championship (and not another national championship),” Bob Stoops said. But ask the other (nine) teams if they wouldn’t like to have eight of them.”
Projected 2013 finish: 1st, 10-2, 8-1 (Sooners to win the tiebreaker over Oklahoma State)
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