After the Sooners logged impressive blowouts over Texas A&M (77-0) as well as the Longhorns (65-13), the only thing Oklahoma fans were worried about was where there beloved Boomer Sooner would be listed in the history books as one of the greatest teams ever.
That all changed on a cold Dec. 6 night in Kansas City.
Heading into the Big 12 Championship Game, it was projected the Sooners could afford to lose the game and still end up in the Nokia Sugar Bowl. Oklahoma held tremendous advantage in all of the Bowl Championship Series polls and seemed to be a lock for the title game. Who would have thought the Sooners could have even lose to Kansas State, much less be dominated 35-7?
In the wake of a four-touchdown loss to K-State, the Sooners, who failed to even win their own conference championship, advanced to the Sugar Bowl and will meet LSU on Jan. 4 in the BCS Championship Game.
This will not be the first time the Sooners and the Tigers have faced off in New Orleans. In the teams only other meeting, Oklahoma shut out the Tigers 35-0 in the 1950 Sugar Bowl.
Although Sooners head coach Bob Stoops concludes just his fifth season in Norman, the former Florida defensive coordinator comes in as perhaps one of the most successful coaches the history of Oklahoma football. Stoops has led the Sooners to five straight bowl games, two conference championships, and the school's seventh national championship in 2000, that coming in only his second season at the helm. Stoops has amassed an amazing 54-10 record.
Once known for its vaunted "wishbone" offensive attack, Stoops has made the forward pass fashionable even in Norman. Featuring a base three-wide receiver set, the Sooner offense has become one of the most prolific passing and scoring attacks in recent history. Averaging over 300 yards passing and 150 yards rushing per game, the OU offense totals 461.4 yards of offense each game. The staggering stat is the Sooners national-best 45.2 points a game.
The man in charge of the Sooners' record-setting offense is senior quarterback Jason White. The 6-3, 221-pound senior has had a season to remember. Starting all 13 games this season for the first time in his career (his past two seasons have ended early due to knee injuries), White has thrown for 3,744 yards on 265-414 passing and 40 touchdowns to only eight interceptions. While White's statistics are impressive, remember White saw little fourth quarter action due to lopsided Sooners leads.
White's has become a regular at post-season award banquets and telecasts listed as a finalist for the Maxwell, Walter Camp, and Unitas Award. He has already staked claim to the Davey O'Brien Award. White was also one of four finalists for the Heisman Trophy.
A pair of running backs lead the OU rushing attack.
Sophomore Kejuan Jones (5-9, 187) and Renaldo Works have done most of the running for the Sooners. Starting all 13 games this season, Jones leads OU with 866 yards on 205 carries. Averaging 66.6 yards a game and 4.2 yards a carry, Jones tops the Sooners with 11 rushing touchdowns. Jones has also been a threat out of the backfield catching 16 passes for 183 yards. His only receiving touchdown of the season is the longest for Oklahoma this year, 77 yards.
Works has rushed for 714 yards on 145 carries scoring eight touchdowns. Works' 64.9 yards a game is second only to Jones and his 4.9 yards a carry leads OU running backs who have at least 50 carries. Similar to Jones, Works has been proven to be a threat out of the backfield, catching 17 passes for 150 yards.
Perhaps the strength of the offense is the bevy of wide receivers the Sooners will throw at opponents. For the season, 10 different Oklahoma players are listed in double-digit with receptions and five have at least 20 catches. Biletnikoff finalist Mark Clayton has emerged this season as White's favorite target amongst the OU receivers. The 5-11, 187-pound junior from Arlington, Texas has caught 79 passes for 1,393 yards and a team high 15 touchdowns. Clayton leads the team in average yards per game with 107.2 as well as per catch with 17.6
Junior Brandon Jones (6-3, 208) has caught 45 passes this season for 704 yards and eight touchdowns.
Sophomore Jejuan Rankins (5-11, 172) rounds out the starting lineup at receiver and has caught 33 passes for 406 yards and six touchdowns.
Juniors Will Peoples (24 catches, 299 yards, 3 TDs) and Mark Bradley (10-185 yards, 2 TDs), sophomore Travis Wilson (22-264 yards, 2TDs), and senior tight end Lance Donley (13-157 yards, 2 TDs) have all been major contributors to the Oklahoma receiving corps.
On the offensive line, the Sooners are experienced as well as very big. Junior left tackle Wes Sims (6-5, 317), sophomore left guard Kelvin Chaisson (6-5, 303), junior center Vince Carter (6-3, 289), sophomore right guard Davin Joseph (6-4, 312), and junior right tackle Jammal Brown (6-6, 313) provide the Sooners with an effective front for the rushing attack.
Carter leads the offensive line and was a finalist for the Rimington Award, given annually to college football's top center.
While the OU offense has had a tremendous season thus far, the Sooner defense may be even better. With a list of players that would make a NFL General Manager drool, the Sooners surrender just 255 yards per game just under 15 points a game (14.8).
Running a base 3-4 attack, the OU defensive line is one of the deepest and most experienced in the country. All juniors, defensive end Jonathan Jackson (6-3, 238), tackles Tommie Harris (6-3, 289) and Dusty Dvoracek (6-3, 282), and defensive end Dan Cody (6-5, 270) have allowed opponents only 109.7 yards per game on the ground.
Harris, a finalist for the Bednarik and Walter Camp Award, took home the Lombardi Trophy after a season in which he faced constant double-teams. However, Harris managed 34 tackles, nine stops for loss and four sacks.
While Allen and Jackson have had tremendous seasons, Lehman emerged as college football's top linebacker. Following in the footsteps of former OU greats such as Brian Bosworth and Rocky Calmus, Lehman beat out Harris for the Bednarik Award and took home the Butkus Award as well. Lehman led the Sooners with 109 tackles and an unbelievable 17 tackles for losses.
The Sooner secondary allowed just 145.9 passing yards per game and only 11 touchdown.
OU may have the best two cover corners in America in junior Antonio Perkins (6-0, 188) and senior Derrick Strait (5-11, 195). Perkins listed as a finalist for the Mosi Tatupu Award while Strait won the Nagurksi and Thorpe Award, given each year to the top defensive back in the country. Strait had a phenomenal season with 69 tackles, seven stops behind the line of scrimmage and three interceptions.
Senior Brandon Everage (6-0, 202) and Donte Nicholson (6-2, 210) give the Sooners an effective 1-2 punch at safety. Nicholson ranked second on the team with 83 tackles and had five sacks while Everage had 59 tackles and four TFLs.
Groza Award finalist Trey DiCarlo gives the Sooners yet another threat, this time in the kicking game. The senior kicker has nailed 86.4-percent (19-22) of field goals and is 7-of-8 from beyond 40 yards with a long of 46. Blake Ferguson handles the punting duties, averaging 41.2 yards on 48 punts and has pinned opponents inside the 20-yard line 15 times.