As the Sooners prepare for the second game of their 2012 college football season we're wondering just how much improvement we'll be able to measure against an FCS school like Florida A&M. After a lackluster victory over UTEP last Saturday night, some Oklahoma fans want to see improvement to move them back from the edge. Will we be able to notice a difference? That's just one of the topics we discuss in this week's roundtable.
1. Oklahoma's offense only puts 24 points on the board against UTEP. Tell us why it is or is not time to panic.
Jordan: It's one game, so that alone is reason enough for it being too early to panic. That said, after one year and one game I'm beginning to really wonder if Josh Heupel is still learning on the job and, perhaps more importantly, really has no idea what he wants the offensive identity of this team to be. And that last part is a major concern of mine. I'm not just sure Oklahoma is the kind of program where you get the luxury of learning on the job. Couple that with the lack of a true identity, or even a readily obvious plan towards one, and it makes things doubly bad in my opinion.
Rich: I'm certainly not in panic mode at this point for a few reasons. In 2010 the Sooners played Utah St. in a home opener to begin the season. While OU started out with a couple decent drives, Utah St. quickly made up the ground thanks to two turnovers. The end result was a 31-24 win in Norman, "the toughest place to play in the country." The following week, Oklahoma bounced a ranked Florida St. team and would have scares against Air Force and Cincinnati in the following two weeks. The upside is the end result was a Big XII Championship and a BCS Bowl win. Good teams find a way to win no matter how high the odds are stacked against them.
My overall take on the offense against UTEP is that they are a young but talented group. Inexperience showed as crisp route running was lacking along with pass blocking. These are things that can be fixed. However, the major factor here is that Landry Jones is making the right decisions. There was not forcing a ball that wasn't meant to be and in he end he had no turnovers. I'm still holding out that it was first game jitters and we played down a bit. I never expect us to come out in November form here early September.
Matt: I don't believe that its time to panic and there's three reasons why. 1) Landry Jones hits Kenny Stills at the four yard line but its called back due to a chop block againstDominique Whaley. 2) Whaley drops a pass where the middle of the field was wide open. Don't think it would have gone for a touchdown but it would have put the Sooners in scoring position. 3) Jones hits Metoyer for a touchdown but he made a freshman mistake and stepped out of bounds before making the catch.
All three of those are examples of small/easy adjustments that need to be made. Let's just say that the Sooners turn those three plays into 17 points. Then we're talking about a 41-7 win.
2. Landry Jones is the most talked about player on the Sooner offense be it good our bad. Grade his performance in El Paso last Saturday night.
Jordan: I'd give him a solid B. He had some really good throws (both TDs) and showed a noticeable improvement in this footwork early, but there were also more than a few moments were we saw our old friend, Bad Landry. It was expected for he and his receivers to be a tick off and that proved to be accurate. However, that's a two way street so it would be unfair to put all of the blame for that on his shoulders.
Rich: I'll give Jones a B this go around. As mentioned before, he did not have any turnovers and made solid decisions. For example, when the blitz got to Jones, he could have attempted to lob it up field hoping it would land in a friendly's arms much like the game against Oklahoma St. last season. Instead, he swallows it and takes the sack. The throws to Kenny Stills as well as Brannon Green were spot on and in stride. How can you complain with that? However, there were a few times he wasn't planted causing the ball to sail a bit high on his target. Landry has left some room for improvement.
Matt: Of the guys on this site, I'm probably the most vocally supportive of Jones. Because of that, I may have spent more time looking at post game film of him. The verdict? He did pretty well. Jones showed a new poise in the pocket and much improved footwork. However, he struggles to get set up and follow through on his throws while on the run. This haunted him multiple times.
I know that he's taken some criticism for the sacks but I actually believe that's a sign up maturity and improvement. Old Landry would have tried to force that pass before the rush got to him which many times resulted in a turnover. No one likes a sack but I'll take one over a turnover any day. My grade: B
3. The defense scored a shutout but did show some reasons for concern. What are you most confident in and most concerned about with the defense?
Jordan: Obviously, you have to be most confident in the secondary. They were, for the most part, outstanding the entire night. Prior to the comments from Tom Wort and the new scheme with which the LBs are playing within, I might have said the linebackers because they seemed so non-existent against UTEP. So simply by process of elimination, clearly my only remaining option is the defensive line. I think getting Stacy McGee and Casey Walker back would make a significant difference, but at the moment that seems to be in a fairly in doubt for both. So if we're assuming the worst (i.e. neither make it back), the fact they were pushed around against the likes of UTEP is, potentially, very worrisome.
Rich: There are very few doubts in my mind with this secondary. For the majority of the night, they played exceptionally well and should have come up with two interceptions. Limiting a team to 48 passing yards is quite the accomplishment given the situations that developed last season.
The biggest area of concern in the run defense and the defensive line. Oklahoma was consistently gashed to the tune of 5.8 yards per carry. The conference is solid within the top 8 teams and is going to have heartbreak eventually. If OU doesn't resolve the issue, it will cost a few games down the road.
Matt: I'm pretty sure that this is going to be unanimous. How can you not go with the defensive line? It appeared as if they were pushed back for most of the night as UTEP literally ran all over Oklahoma. Regardless of the status of Stacy McGee and Casey Walker, this group has to get better or the Sooners will be in trouble.
Looking forward to this Saturday night, will be be able to measure any improvement against an FCS school?
Jordan: In a word, no. I know we've seen some people say teams make the biggest "jump" from Game 1 to Game 2, but the level of competition Saturday night will remove any semblance of tangible improvement. It's your classic lose-lose scenario, one OU fans are all to familiar with given some of our more recent bowl opponents. Winning proves absolutely nothing while doing just that in anything but an overwhelmingly impressive fashion will surely cause mass hysteria throughout Sooner Nation.
Rich: I'll keep this one simple...absolutely not!
Matt: There won't be much that we can measure from this game in terms of improvement. About the only thing that we'll be able to take from it is how clean the Sooners play and how well they execute. By that I mean, can they play penalty free and be in the right places on any given play?
Power Ranking time. Rank the Big XII from first to worst.
Jordan: WVU, OU, KSU, OSU, UT, BU, TCU, ISU, TTU, & KU.
Rich: WVU, OU, KSU, OSU, Texas, Baylor, TCU, Texas Tech, ISU, Kansas
Matt: WVU, OU, Baylor, Texas, ISU, TCU, OSU, KSU, Texas Tech, Kansas