In an effort to educate, inform, preview and most importantly, poke fun of those who dare add the Ball State Cardinals to their football schedule, OTP is proud to present the Know an ’11 Opponent series. Some things to note… this isn’t heavy lifting here with broken down statistics, game film replays, or random things like that. It’s still preseason after all, and that kind of analysis and evaluation is best saved for game week. So buckle up kiddies… time to Know an ’11 Opponent!
Remember how we’ve said numerous times that streaks are made to be broken? Well, it looks like the Cards are going to get a chance to break quite a few when they match up against Oklahoma on October 1st. For starters, it would be only their first win against a ranked opponent in their last ten tries. Even more impressive is that Oklahoma stands a very good shot to be ranked #1 when the Cardinals head to Norman. It would also be only their second victory on the road over a BCS opponent in their last 40 tries. That’s a considerable amount of streak breaking should Ball State be able to do what many are considering the impossible when they lace it up against the Sooners. Considering the history of the program, the talent on the roster, their status as presumptive favorite for the National Championship, and BSU’s presumed “rebuilding year”, impossible isn’t that difficult of a reach for many to make. The thing about impossible is that it implies certainty, and in football, no matter the opponents, there is never anything that’s a certainty.
What Have You Done for Me Lately?
An argument could be made that there has not been a more dominant team in the 2000s than Oklahoma. While the Sooners have only claimed the national championship once in Bob Stoops’ twelve seasons, they have played in four national title games along the way. They’ve also played in twelve consecutive bowls, 8 of them BCS bowls, and every year seem to raise the bar a bit higher for what constitutes an offensive explosion. They’ve also claimed seven conference titles and, oh by the way, they’ve won eleven consecutive home games versus non-conference non-BCS automatic qualifying conference members.
The Man Who Wears the Headset
Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops is the predominant reason why the successes listed above have been obtained. Since his arrival in Norman, OU had five consecutive non-winning seasons. Barring some sort of mass chaos, and as long as Stoops remains at the helm, it’s a safe bet that won’t be happening any time soon for the Sooners. Oklahoma has been his only stop as a head coach, ringing up a 129-31 record and an impressive 85-19 slate against the Big 12. Critics often point to his .500 record in bowl games or his three lost national championships as some sort of indication that his coaching prowess isn’t as legendary as many think. What’s more likely is because of the impressive regular seasons that occur like clockwork, the Sooners play marquee bowls against marquee teams, and with stiffer competition comes a greater propensity for a loss. Having said that, if OU fans ever get tired of Stoops and his .500 postseason record, feel free to send him on up to Muncie. I’m sure we can tolerate that “failure”.
Players and Stats of Note
It may be easier to tell you about the inexperienced players on Oklahoma’s roster than to go into detail about who they have returning. But that wouldn’t be fair and the heading of this section would be a lie. Smarmy? Check. Inappropriate? Of course. Immature? Without a doubt. But OTP isn’t a liar. Eight starters return on offense, seven on defense, and offensively, junior QB Landry Jones is where the offensive story starts. It’s safe to assume that Jones is a Heisman trophy frontrunner and will be a first round draft pick when he enters the NFL. Last season saw Jones throw for 4718 yards and 38TDs, and his 405 completions broke the school record. his biggest target is senior WR Ryan Broyles, who racked up 1622 yards and 14TDs last year. OU’s rushing attack will potentially be paced by true freshman Brandon Williams, who has the dubious task of replacing DeMarco Murray. Gone for the Sooners is former offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, who left for Indiana, but continuity shouldn’t be a problem as Josh Heupel fills the co-offensive coordinator role for Stoops after coaching the QBs for the last six seasons. Joining him and the other half of that co- sandwich is Jay Norvell who held the same post with the now departed Wilson for the last two seasons. The Sooners also only replace one on the offensive line, in case you were looking for even more reason to worry. Defensively, the Sooners bring back senior CB Jamell Fleming who was #2 in the FBS in passes defended and sophomore LB Tony Jefferson used his 65 tackles, 2 sacks, 5 tackles for loss, and 2 INTs to be named Co-Big 12 Freshman Defender of the Year. Senior DE Frank Alexander returns also, along with his 7 sacks from last year. Yeah… this OU defense is a daunting mix of talent, skill, and experience.
If Oklahoma Football Was a Musician
This was a challenge for us here at OTP. We wanted to do something worthy of the opponent. You have a program with seven national titles, a great tradition, and recently one of the best runs in modern college football. They have more 10 win seasons than any other program, been ranked #1 more than any other program, have won more games in the modern era than any one else, and they’re the only program to have played in all five BCS bowls. A simple singular musician or band wouldn’t do. Oh no, Edge came through with a wonderful suggestion. We needed legends covering another legend. Congrats Oklahoma, you’re Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger, and Billy Joel covering the Beatles.
How Worried Are We?
CODE ARGYLE, MFers!! We rarely feel the need to “Go Plaid” here at OTP, as we are ever the eternal optimists about Ball State. If the Cards scrimmaged the Colts, we’d say there was a chance. Peyton could develop some unknown skin disorder, Reggie Wayne could have both hands lopped off in a Kuwaiti shoplifting scandal, etc. We’re saying there’s a shot. A slim shot. And in truth, that’s sort of what we’re saying here. Oklahoma is good. Real good. But they are not invincible. Whether or not Ball State happens to catch them on one of those days is what matters. Suffice to say, BSU needs some help. What kind of help? Oklahoma miscues, a picture perfect game from the Cards, and more than a little luck would be a good starting point. Most will write this off as a “body bag” kind of game, and they may be right when it’s over. But I remember Michigan. I remember Nebraska. I remember thinking BSU had no chance against either, but if a few plays went different ways, BSU would have walked out a winner. Having said that, I am simply praying for a good showing and an injury-free afternoon. It’s these sorts of potential blowout type games that prove that not all losses are created equal. I’m no fan of moral victories, but there are many plausible outcomes where an L goes in the ledger, but my optimism for the season increases. Plus, and not to be overlooked, this game is the one before the Red River Rivalry against Texas. It’s not a certainty they will look past BSU, as OU is a disciplined team, but if there ever was a chance to catch an opponent’s gaze drifting down the calendar to the next week on the schedule, this is it.
For your Oklahoma reading pleasure, there’s plenty of places to check out. SBNation has an OU fan site in Crimson and Cream Machine, there’s Blatant Homerism, and Boomer Shimko. There’s an OU aggregate site that compiles everything around the internet at SoonersETC and the official OU athletics site is here. Also, there’s a lively community among the standard Rivals and Scout sites. Plenty of reading, which is pretty much the norm for a premier program.