This story is part of the KU Edition, a special section that runs in the Lawrence Journal-World.
Sooners at a glance
Coach: Bob Stoops
Coach Year at school: 12th
2010 record: 12-2, 6-2 Big 12
Last year vs. KU: Did not play. Last time these two met, No. 25 Oklahoma beat No. 24 Kansas, 35-13, on Oct. 24, 2009.
Returning starters: 13
Impact newcomers: Brandon Williams 5-11, 189, RB; Trey Metoyer 6-2, 198, WR.
Key games: Sept. 17 at Florida State; Oct. 8 vs. Texas in Dallas; Nov. 5 vs. Texas A&M; Dec. 3 at Oklahoma State
Vs. Kansas: Oct. 15, in Lawrence.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops doesn’t mind admitting the truth about the most powerful conference in college football. For the past several years, that conference has not been the Big 12.
“(The SEC) has won that last game here for five (straight) years,” Stoops said at Big 12 media days in Dallas. “It’s our job as other conferences to win it. Then, you can claim it. When you say unseat them, someone else needs to win it for that to happen. That’s what needs to happen.”
Chances are Oklahoma will have a better shot than just about any team in the country to snap the SEC’s streak of five consecutive BCS titles (Auburn, Alabama, Florida, LSU, Florida) when the preseason college football polls are released.
The Sooners were ranked No. 1 in the country on Aug. 4 when USA Today released its preseason college football coaches’ poll. They figure to be ranked close to the top of every major poll to start this season.
“It’d be an honor being ranked No. 1,” OU junior quarterback Landry Jones said. “But if you don’t play like you're the No. 1 team in the country, it doesn’t matter.”
Reasons for Sooner optimism are plentiful.
Jones, who passed for 4,718 yards and 38 touchdowns against 12 interceptions last season, returns. Ditto for senior receiver Ryan Broyles, who owns 10 OU school records after a monster 2010 that saw him pull in 131 passes for 1,622 yards and 14 scores. Senior linebacker Travis Lewis, who has led the Sooners in tackles for the previous three seasons, will miss eight weeks with a broken bone in his left foot. It may not put him back on the field until Oct. 8 for the Texas game, but Lewis is one of the top linebackers in the country when healthy.
How about an explosive offense, especially in the modern-day Big 12 era of scoring in bunches?
Jones will have Broyles as his No. 1 option, but sophomore wideout Kenny Stills is an emerging threat with big-play potential (61 catches, 786 yards, five scores in 2010). Sophomores Roy Finch, Brennan Clay, and highly-touted five-star freshman Brandon Williams will operate OU’s running back by committee.
What about stopping people on defense?
Cross that off the list, too.
OU surrendered 21.8 points per game last season, third in the conference and 33rd in the country. Senior defensive end Frank Alexander should reach double-digit sack totals after accumulating seven last year.
OU’s defense forced 32 turnovers last season (eighth nationally), which contributed to the Sooners’ stellar turnover margin of +14, first in the Big 12 and seventh in the country.
No one in the Big 12 is more qualified.
Oklahoma has won five of the past seven Big 12 Conference championships, and seven in the Big 12 era, which began in 1996. The Sooners won the Big 12 last season and finished 12-2 with a victory over Connecticut in the Fiesta Bowl.
“I think the chase for eight (Big 12 titles) is almost like a motivating factor,” Jones said. “I don't think that it's necessarily a distraction because at the end of the day, that's our goal.”