Helmer: Three Reasons....

SoonersIllustrated.com takes a look at three reason why the Oklahoma Sooners will win another Big 12 Title in 2009 and three reasons why they may stumble...

Could the Sooners repeat as Big 12 Champions for the fourth year in a row? Here are the top three reasons why it might happen.

3. Confidence–The Sooners have been there, done that, so to speak. OU has won the most Big 12 football titles of any school in the conference, winning it six of the last nine seasons. OU has been in the Big 12 Championship seven times and won it six of the seven. When the Sooners have went to the conference championship game, they have seemed in full command in almost every appearance. Since the 2000 National Championship season, OU has posted a 62-10 conference record in the regular season and a 66-11 record including those title games. In three of the last nine years, the Sooners have went undefeated in regular season conference play. So, the statistics are there to suggest OU has a swagger other teams in the conference don't have.

2. Motivation–Think the Sooners aren't motivated to play against Texas next season after all the bickering about how the BCS turned out? Think again. The Sooners will be amped to shut out the Longhorns' chance to win the conference when the two meet in the Red River Rivalry Game in October. The Sooners will be stoked to get a chance at revenge in Lubbock for the last time when the Red Raiders spoiled OU's chance at sneaking into the national championship. OU had to walk off the field after an upset loss and will be anxious to silence the crowd this time around. The Sooners will be ready to defeat in-state rival Oklahoma State again, too. So, motivation will be there for the Sooners to win their fourth in a row.

1. Returning players–Sophomore quarterback Sam Bradford recently announced his plans to stay for his junior season and take another shot at the Big 12 Championship and the National Championship. But that's not all. Sophomore defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, junior offensive lineman Trent Williams and junior tight end Jermaine Gresham all announced their plans to return for another season. The Sooners will have a veteran defense next year and that same explosiveness offensively. The leadership of the returning players should be an indicator of how much potential this time has going into the season. While the Sooners might not be the favorite to win the Big 12 for the fourth year in a row, this veteran group is a major reason why it might happen.

Here are the top three reasons why it might not happen.

3. Tough road games–The Sooners first play a nonconference game in the city where they lost the National Championship, against a 1980s rival, the Miami Hurricanes. But there are several other road games on the schedule that are very difficult. A mid-October game against an experienced Kansas Jayhawks team comes at a tricky time, the week after the Red River Rivalry Game. OU also must travel to Lincoln to face the Nebraska Cornhuskers who are looking to bounce back to national prominence. And the Sooners also must travel to Lubbock to battle Texas Tech, who has beaten OU twice in a row. Granted they don't have Graham Harrell or Michael Crabtree, but it is still a tough place to play.

2. Texas ' experience–The Longhorns will be extremely powerful next season with the return of quarterback Colt McCoy and wide receiver Jordan Shipley. The two constantly exploited the OU defense in last year's 45-35 Texas victory, and expect them to have some success again. The Longhorns lose running back Chris Ogbonnaya, wide receiver Quan Cosby and defensive lineman Brian Orakpo, but look for them to reload in those positions. The Longhorns will undoubtedly be ranked in the top five to start the season and will have the experience to run the table, if they can beat the Sooners. With an experienced quarterback like McCoy and the talented group of players to complement him, Texas will be an extremely dangerous team to reckon with in 2009. Their experience should help them through tough road games in the conference at Missouri , Oklahoma State , Baylor and Texas A&M.

3. Loss of key players–The Sooners are losing a number of key players, both on offense and defense. In fact, OU loses four of its five starting offensive linemen in Phil Loadholt, Duke Robinson, Jon Cooper and Brandon Walker. The only returning starter is Trent Williams, who decided not to declare for the NFL Draft, or the Sooners would have to completely replace their offensive line. OU also loses senior wide receivers Manuel Johnson, Juaquin Iglesias and Quentin Chaney. Defensively, the Sooners must find replacements for safeties Lendy Holmes and Nic Harris. This inexperience could be a reason why the Sooners don't repeat in 2009.

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