Danielson says OU could make a run in 2006

Former ABC and new CBS analyst Gary Danielson talks to OUInsider.com about the upcoming college football season, including Oklahoma's national championship hopes, OU-Texas, the importance of Rhett Bomar (pictured) and what Adrian Peterson needs to do to win the Heisman. (AP Photo)

Gary Danielson has spent the last 15 years as a college football analyst following a 13-year career as an NFL quarterback. This season, he will move from ABC to CBS and join their coverage of the SEC. Considered the premier college football analyst in the country by many national observers, Danielson doesn't confine his expertise only to the schools he covers on a weekly basis. He is well-versed on the entire college football scene and I had a chance this week to sit down and talk to him about the upcoming season, including the Sooners chances of returning to the BCS picture.

TS - How will your perspective change this season, making the transition to a new network and covering just one conference?

Danielson – I feel if I have any success in what I'm doing it's because I don't really put much into the teams that I'm doing. I don't get caught up in a lot of the emotions of the game; I try not to really take sides too much. I've done games when my own son was on one of the teams. I think what coaches like about me, and I hope what fans like about me is that I'm just very clinical. I kind of take to that TV show "House" and the way the doctor says don't get too emotionally involved because you can't make good decisions that way.

People don't care what I'm feeling about a game. I think they care about what I can see as a football guy about the game. They can be the emotional one. I have to be the clinical one. Whether I do Texas Tech/Kansas State or Virginia/Boston College or Michigan/Ohio State, they're all just as much fun to me.

I'm in a great conference, a great job, the football's unbelievable. You know, every week there's seven or eight teams that are very, very powerful. I can't really complain about the brand of football I'm going to get to produce in the next five years here.

TS - The national scene was pretty clear cut last year, with Texas and USC obviously being the two best teams. Going into this season, there is no clear cut favorite. Some people like West Virginia, some like Notre Dame, some think despite all the defensive losses that Ohio State is up there. And one respected national magazine, Phil Steele's, even picked Oklahoma, coming off a four-loss season.

Danielson - It's funny that you would say this – and I'm not doing this because I'm talking to you - but I kind of have a feeling that Oklahoma is going to make a run at it this year, too. It's practically impossible to keep up the level of play that Bobby (Stoops) had them at for four or five years there. Sooner or later you're going to get some combination of graduations, injuries and young quarterback that you have to take a step back. I just think that they're poised now to re-enter the national picture.

Now that doesn't mean I know who's going to win. I just think that they're capable of being one of those teams. And you're right; you got all the other ones. Notre Dame, I think, is right there. I think Louisville is another dark horse team that because of injuries last year didn't really make a run, but they're primed to be there and then the regular conference teams. Who knows which conference team is going to get hot, because if you get hot at the right time, you can just make a run at it from one of those power conferences.

Another team intriguing me is Pittsburgh. I just think that they're going to make a little step forward. Tyler Palko had a bad year last year, but I like senior quarterbacks. I think he's been through a lot. I think that Dave Wannstedt will do a good job with him.

I think Nebraska will be back this year, much better than people think.

TS- Looking at Texas, with Vince Young gone they aren't going to fall off the face of the earth, but what do you think of them without him being there?

Danielson - It makes sense that they're going to take a slight step back. Everything went so good for them last year. Even games when they potentially could have lost, Vince saved them. I'm thinking of Oklahoma State, USC game obviously, even the Ohio State game.

To go undefeated you've got to be a lot lucky. I just think it's not likely to me that they're going to run this thing again. They've had drop-offs at other positions, too. Cedric Griffin and Michael Huff and a couple of linemen. Of course they won't be bad, but I'd be surprised if they played to the level that they did last year.

TS – So, Oklahoma vs. Texas this year. Who would you like at this point in that game?

Danielson - Even when Oklahoma was making their run, it's always been a flip a coin type game to me. I mean, we've seen it all – guys diving over guys to make plays, interceptions, just everything. I just think it's going to be that way this year. I think it's going to be which team is tougher at the end and either team could win that. I think you've got to give the advantage to Oklahoma this year, but Texas now believes and they didn't believe for a while. That'll be a great game this year. That will be one of the top five games of the year this year.

TS - Even though they've signed an extension with the Cotton Bowl, there's been a lot more noise made about moving the series to home and home. I know you told me last year that it wouldn't make any difference in the magnitude of the game.

Danielson – No, look at all the great games and the rivalries that have already done it. People are afraid of change because they don't know what to expect. If they do make the move, and I kind of hope they do, I think the fans will love it. You know, seeing Texas come in to Owen Field and don't you think Oklahoma should go to Texas and play in Austin some day? I've always suggested that they do it on a rotating basis of home, home and then one game in Dallas and then home, home and one game in Dallas that way.

TS – You saw a quarterback in his infancy against Texas last year in Rhett Bomar. Fortunately for Oklahoma, he progressed from that point. Did you have a chance to see him late in the year and notice the improvement?

Danielson –I did see Rhett play a lot, yes. You could see him getting better. Sometimes, the pressure of these big name quarterbacks, sometimes it's just really hard to live up to those expectations. I felt as the year went along, finally Rhett was relaxing a little bit and just becoming they player that they expected him to be.

I think because of different reasons Bobby has continued to tweak his staff and I think that will benefit Rhett this year. I think you'll see a much sounder running game with Kevin Wilson running it, bringing in Northwestern's line coach (James Patton). I just think it's going to be more and more solid play. And they're amazing at defense; their speed on defense is going to be amazing this year.

TS - After watching him this spring, Adrian Peterson appears to be healthier than he's ever been since arriving at Oklahoma. He should be back in the Heisman race this year. What does he need to do to get back on the top of the list?

Danielson - I think, number one, that the team has to win. I guess he could have amazing numbers but I don't think that's likely with the number of athletes that Oklahoma has. They've got to use Bomar, too.

Here's the thing that people don't realize. If you just ride a running back and try to get him a bunch of yards, then you're going to come up in that one game when you really need that quarterback and wide receiver and passing game, and you haven't had to use it all year.

So I look for Oklahoma to be balanced all year. I think Adrian will get his normal yards – 145 to 185 in games – and everybody will be thrilled with that. But it's going to be, if he wants to win the Heisman, they're going to have to make a run at that undefeated season and then he's going to have to have that big game in a really big televised game, whether that's Texas or someone else. He's going to have to pop a big game where he goes 225 to 275; the type of game where everybody just says hands down he's gotta be the guy. And I think early, like the Oregon game, doesn't necessarily make the difference. I think late is when you have to have the big yards.

TS - It's fools gold to do it now, but in case you're right, you'll look like a genius. Who's you're early pick for the BCS Championship Game?

Danielson - How about Notre Dame and Louisville? Of course if that happens, the major conferences should, and I hope they do, start taking a look at the current setup. You can't tell me Notre Dame or Louisville would be undefeated playing in the SEC or the Big 10 or the Big 12. While all the major conference teams are beating each other up, Oklahoma playing Texas, Ohio State facing Michigan, Georgia and Florida, and so on, these other teams don't have it that tough.

I think what should happen is that all of the major conferences, like they used to, align their champions with a major bowl game and then all the major conferences should play in the bowl game, along with the two other top teams, to come up with the four teams that would advance to the national semi-finals and finals. I think that's the way it should be done and hopefully, it will be soon.

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