Hello to all the subscribers of Sooners Illustrated and SoonersIllustrated.com, my name is Peter Davis and I'm one of the new columnists this year here on the site. I'd like to take a moment before I get started and introduce myself.
I'm formerly of OUInsider.com and still a student at the University of Oklahoma (6YSR), who took a five-year detour to college through the Army. I wrote it, you're reading it, so let's get started.
I used to do this column/opponent preview/prediction and at times it got downright creepy in 2010. I base all my predictions off of accurate game rosters and simulations in EA Sports NCAA Football 2013, stats and mathematical data, play calling trends, injuries and suspensions and historical data.
It's actually the longest piece I have to study for in a week. Including my capstone! So take it in stride and in fun, I hope to chat more with you all as the season progresses.
The No. 4 ranked Oklahoma Sooners open up the 2012 season on the road against the University of Texas – El Paso Miners at Sun Bowl Stadium at 9:30 p.m.
The Miners enter the year with very low expectations and the toughest out of conference and conference schedule in Conference USA. The Miners go on the road to Oxford, Miss., to play Ole Miss next week and in two weeks up to Camp Randall to face Wisconsin.
The Miners are returning eight offensive starters that averaged 381 total yards a game and 26.6 points per game. Unfortunately for UTEP, or perhaps fortunately they only return five on the defensive side of the ball that gave up nearly 442 YPG and allowed 30.3 PPG.
In the past few years the season opening opponents for the Sooners haven't always been gracious or easy for OU. The Miners with absolutely nothing to lose may give their the best performance of the year to play spoiler tonight the Sooners.
UTEP is going to have to follow the game plans used by TCU, BYU and Utah State to try and slow down the up-tempo Sooner offense by establishing a running game and the use of the big play through play action pass.
The Miners were among the best in the big play category; tied for fourth nationally in offensive plays that were 70+ yards, tied for sixth in offensive plays of 60+ and 17th in plays more than 50 yards.
If UTEP can create havoc in the OU secondary, returning defensive coordinator Mike Stoops could have a tough night getting his defense under control.
For the Miners to stay in this they will have to prove the Sooners secondary has not improved and preseason Conference USA first team QB Nick Lamaison will need to play a perfect game exploiting any weaknesses the Sooners show.
Lamaison, however has already made the news in the offseason that caught the attention of the media and Sooners QB Landry Jones. Lamaison will have to play at a Heisman level tonight to save face, if he can get a deep strike or two, Lamaison could make it interesting.
One of the last things for OU to keep their eye on is the only other glaring weakness over the years for the Sooners: Special Teams.
Miners head coach Mike Price puts a premium on special teams, UTEP finished fourth in the nation last year averaging 26.4 yards per kick return. The Sooners lack a "Hammer," and have been prone to giving up big return yards in recent years.
Players To Watch:
QB Nick Lamaison – With his belief he'll have to be the best QB on the field, Lamaison painted a target on his back by the Sooner faithful. The problem is for those who think he insulted Landry Jones, he's not wrong.
Lamaison will have to play the game of his career and not turn the ball over to keep UTEP hanging around. Which I think is the best thing the Miners can do. If Lamaison can manage the game, keep the clock running and not let the scoreboard get away, UTEP could realistically keep it close and have a shot to win.
WR Mike Edwards – Last year Edwards led UTEP in most of their major receiving statistical categories. He also caught passes in every game and broke out for a career best at Rice with 187 yards.
Edwards moves the chains for UTEP, 24 receptions were for first downs and he looks to be Lamaison's go-to guy.
P Ian Campbell – Campbell is going to get plenty of work throughout the game, what the Miners need from him could be the difference of being in the game or being blown out. The Ray Guy watch list candidate averaged 40.5 yards in net punting, if he can keep the Sooners backed up with little or no return yards it could be huge for the Miners.
QB Landry Jones – This is supposed to be Jones' year. If it is, Jones needs to make a statement right here. Last year after WR Ryan Broyles went down for the season with his injury Jones looked lost.
Jones' inability to find receivers late in the year bogged down the potent Sooners offense leaving the door open for backup QB Blake Bell and his Belldozer package to become the Sooners biggest offensive threat.
If Jones wants to be in New York at the Heisman ceremony and play in January in Miami this is where it begins.
CB Aaron Colvin – Colvin moves over from safety to corner under DC Mike Stoops, the coaches are raving, the players are raving, it's time to see what all the fuss is about. Colvin feels slighted along with the rest of the secondary about last year's disappointment.
OU needs him and the rest of the unit to step up and play big or the question will begin to creep in about how good the Sooners really are in coverage. UTEP is a middle of the road team that could give a minor glimpse into the 2012 season.
The O-Line – Normally, I wouldn't call an entire unit out, but it's time. If OU wants to make it back to the promise land of BCS Champion, the offensive line has to step up and be physical blocking for those running the football. There is no doubt about the ability to protect Landry Jones; it's going to be about opening the holes for the running backs.
UTEP has a few hog mollies, but there should be room to run the football, the Sooners will have to get out there and dig in the trenches on first and second down. The Sooners can't afford to wait for gimmick formations like the Belldozer to run the football effectively.
Peering into the Crystal Ball for my game prediction…
While the reception for my crystal ball in the mountains isn't the best and it has become additionally cloudy with the losses of defensive tackles Stacy McGee and Casey Walker and the suspension of TE Geneo Grissom, the Sooners should win this one pretty easy.
This is the first and only true tune up for the Sooners before Kansas State comes to Norman. The Sooners behind a renewed vertical attack take to the air often.
The Sooners also find creative ways to get Dom Whaley the ball early in the game, but while Whaley will put it in the endzone once or twice, don't look for Whaley to stay long in this one. In fact, while the other starters play a lot deeper than they should Whaley will be rested and protected during this game.
Normally I'd peer into the ol' ball for a quarter-by-quarter breakdown, but not for tonight's game.
Sooners explode big time 65 - 13