at Norman, Okla. • Oct. 21 • TBA
Head Coach: Bob Stoops (8th season)
2005 Record: 8-4/6-2 Big 12 South
Series Record: 16-38-2
What To Know: For a team used to playing for a national title, last year's 8-4 record was a tough pill. But things were easier to swallow down the stretch, when OU played its best ball. That's when rookie quarterback Rhett Bomar began to mature, and the OU offensive line gelled.
Sooner Nation spent the offseason thinking a more seasoned Bomar would help put them back in the national title hunt. Now that Bomar has been kicked off the OU team (permanently) for accepting more money from a local car dealership than the work hours he logged warranted, the road back to national prominence is much more steep. (Complicating matters further is the dismissal of starting offensive lineman J.D. Quinn for the same sin as his roommate, Bomar.)
OU coaches quickly moved Paul Thompson back to quarterback from wide receiver as Sooners' fall practices began this week. Thompson played most of last year and all of this past spring at WR . Behind the largely untested Thompson is a depth chart of even more untested quarterbacks. But that's not the only reason to wonder how effective the Oklahoma offense can be in 2006, particularly in the early going. After losing four starters in the offensive trenches, how quickly the Sooners' offensive line gels this fall will be key to their season.
The good news for OU is that running back Adrian Peterson goes into fall camp healthy. A healthy AD could be running for a Heisman.
OU should be strong on defense, where nine starters return. WLB Rufus Alexander is a dynamic force who could contend for a Butkus Award. The secondary will be tough, while the defensive line is bolstered by the return of ends Larry Birdine (injured in '05), and last year's conference newcomer of the year, C.J. Ah You.
Colorado Connection: Dan Hawkins has promised a renewed emphasis on recruiting Colorado. OU boasts three players — including two starters — that got away from Colorado in recent years. LB Zach Latimer and C Jon Cooper are penciled in as starters, while C Jesse White backs up Cooper. All three prepped in the Centennial State.
Players To Watch: Peterson is probably the best back in the country, but even he needs a competent passing game to be consistently effective. Otherwise, defenses will put 10 guys in the box and key on him. Look for sophomore CB Reggie Smith — praised by Stoops for his play in the spring — to have a breakout year.
Returning Leaders: PASS: Thompson, 26-11/109 0 TD, 1 INT; RUSH: Peterson 220-1,104/5.0 14 TD; REC: Malcolm Kelly 33-471/14.3; TCKLS: Alexander 102; SACKS: Calvin Thibodeaux 10.