Today is the fifth installment in our breakdown of Big 12 schedules, and it’s time to examine the Oklahoma Sooners:
Aug. 31: Louisiana-Monroe
Sept. 7: West Virginia
Sept. 14: Tulsa
Sept. 28: at Notre Dame
Oct. 5: TCU
Oct. 12: Texas (Dallas)
Oct. 19: at Kansas
Oct. 26: Texas Tech
Nov. 7: at Baylor
Nov. 16: Iowa State
Nov. 23: at Kansas State
Dec. 7: at Oklahoma State
Non-con challenge: Notre Dame. Oklahoma is 1-9 all time against the Irish, including last year’s 30-13 loss in Norman. Notre Dame, with several starters back from its national title game team, will probably be favored to win again. The Sooners will likely begin with their lowest preseason ranking since 2000, but a victory in South Bend would instantly place them in the national title conversation.
Eyeing revenge: at Kansas State. Collin Klein and the Wildcats stunned Oklahoma the second week of the 2012 season with a 24-19 win in Norman. With Klein gone and K-State expected to go through some rebuilding, Oklahoma would love to put it on the ‘Cats in their home stadium.
Gut-check game: at Oklahoma State. If the Sooners have any aspirations of winning the Big 12, they’ll almost certainly have to win in Boone Pickens Stadium. The last time they went there, they were embarrassed by 34 points, and Oklahoma State basically outplayed them in Norman last season, too -- until the fourth quarter and overtime. That game showed that the Cowboys don’t fear their Bedlam rival like they once did, meaning Oklahoma will probably have to bring its best to Stillwater to have a chance to win.
Chance to impress: at Notre Dame, TCU, Texas. This will be the defining three-game stretch in Oklahoma’s season. Win all three, and the Sooners will be in control of the Big 12 title picture, and a serious contender to reach the national championship game. But this stretch could easily derail the Sooners, too. Whoever wins the starting quarterback job among Blake Bell, Kendal Thompson and Trevor Knight will have to be on top of his game -- a tall task considering the defensive talent the Irish, Horned Frogs and even the Longhorns all possess.
Final analysis: The Sooners are capable of winning every game on this schedule. But with a rookie quarterback and few experienced starters on defense, Oklahoma is capable of going 8-4 against this schedule, too. Given that Oklahoma’s first six opponents are coming off bowl appearances, it won’t take long for the Sooners to determine just what kind of team they have.