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2006 Season Preview: Oklahoma

The season previews continue with an early look at our neighbors to the north, the hated Oklahoma Sooners.

When Oklahoma Has The Ball

Run, Adrian, Run!
It's no secret that the Sooners plan to stuff the talented tailback down opponents' throats, but AP will be asked to shoulder an even larger load than before now that Bomar has, say it with me, pulled a Bomar.

His goal? 1,000 carries and 8,000 yards. Or something obscene like that.

Two potential problems for this plan:

1) Running backs - even great ones - require blocking. The Sooner offensive line, questionable before the loss of Quinn, is awfully thin. Can they open holes against Texas' talented D-Line?

2) Unknown passing game. People forget how effective Jason White was against Texas. The Sooners featured a balanced attack, punishing us with the run and keeping us honest with a legit passing attack. Can Paul Thompson provide balance? We don't know yet, but OU fans must be worried.

Same Song, Sure. Much Different Tune
Sooner nuts will try to tell Longhorn fans that a repeat of 2004 is in store. If you recall, Adrian Peterson went hogwild berserk against Texas, inserting himself into the Heisman race and ending Texas' title hopes.

That defense, though, was much, much different from this year's. The arrival of Gene Chizik has brought a speedy, swarm-the-ball approach to the unit that is a welcome improvement from the risky, power blitzing schemes of Robinson and Reese.

We haven't seen this defensive unit play yet, but all indications are that it's going to be a well above average run stopping unit. Will Peterson be able to thrive with our unit keyed on stopping him? He's not invincible, even when healthy. Thompson will have to produce.

About That Thompson Fellow
We're starting to hear murmurs about how the loss of Bomar may turn out to be a net positive for the team. We can't know that until we see how Thompson performs this year, but there's plenty of evidence to suggest he's not suited to be a major collegiate quarterback. After getting the starting nod against TCU last year, he was passed over for the freshman Bomar, his coaches telling him they didn't think he had what it took to be a successful starter.

With the Bomar crisis, the coaches had no choice but to backtrack, and it's only natural that they'll try to spin this into a positive. We won't bury Thompson just yet, but I've got my shovel in hand. I really think this is a big problem for the Sooners. New offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson will need to be creative.

When Texas Has The Ball

The JC Show
9 carries, 116 yards, including an 80 yard touchdown. Jamaal Charles buried the Sooners last year. What was most pleasing was that the cocky Sooner coordinators told their defenders to focus on stripping the ball from the Longhorn runners.

In the video below, watch Charles' run at the 30 second mark. (Hell, watch the whole thing for enjoyment.)

Poor tackling from the Sooners, followed by a huge burst of speed from college football's fastest tailback. I keep hearing about how great the Sooner defense is going to be, but they're not exactly loaded - not like they were during their run of Big 12 dominance.

O, The Lines
Another fun thing to watch in the above video is how much pressure the Longhorns got on Bomar. We've noted the questions surrounding the Sooner offensive line, but the news is better for Texas, where three potentially all-conference linemen return. Giving the new quarterbacks time to make decisions, especially in a hostile rivalry game like this one, will be instrumental in helping them succeed.

Lookin' At You, Greg
Probably the biggest question heading into this season, and this game, is how Greg Davis will manage the offense, post-Vince. There are two important considerations:

1) We don't want to fall into the trap of uber-conservatism that plagued pre-Vince Horns teams.

2) We're starting a freshman at QB.

For the fans, some amount of patience is required, as we can't, and shouldn't, try to do too much with such a green quarterback. Still, we'll be in trouble if we fall into overly predictable play calling patterns. It's one thing when you've got Vince Young, and, well, no one can stop him - whether they know what's coming or not. It's quite another story when you're talking about mere mortals.

We'll learn much more about what the Horns and Greg Davis intend to do as the season unfolds, but this is a key concern for many Longhorn fans. With the ridiculous talent at tailback and wide receiver, Davis will need to find ways to get them the ball.

Oklahoma Can Win The Game If: Paul Thompson outplays McSnead. Given Texas' advantages on the lines, that seems unlikely to me, but if Kevin Wilson molds Thompson into an effective player, the Sooners will be dangerous.

Texas Can Win The Game If: They take care of the football and win the battles in the trenches. Texas' offensive and defensive lines are better than OU's, and the defense is deeper as a whole. The key will be keeping the Sooners from knowing what's coming, and limiting turnovers. A costly interception or two will give OU every opportunity to hang in and win.