Time to talk about the three Big 12 South opponents Missouri doesn't play in 2009. First up, the Sooners of Oklahoma.
When Andre Ware got on national television and said that OU's offensive line was so bad that they were going to go 8-4 this season, I came to the realization that OU's offensive line struggles had officially jumped the shark. I'm enough of a contrarian that I now think it really won't be that much of a problem (you can make pretty good money going against whatever Andre Ware says, so that doesn't hurt matters).
Actually, here's how I think OU's green offensive line may hurt them. At some point, likely on the road, somebody with an athletic front four or front seven might figure out a way to confuse the visiting Sooners and get pretty decently-sustained pressure on Sam Bradford, forcing 2-3 turnovers in the process. If this team can also sustain some decent offensive progress, they can upset the Sooners. Looking at the schedule, the most likely candidates in terms of "athletic front seven" and "OU on the road" would have to be Miami and Nebraska. (Kansas and Texas Tech, the other two main road opponents, offer their own set of offensive challenges, but I'm not sure they can get to Bradford.) The question, however, is can Miami or Nebraska get pressure on Bradford AND succeed offensively as well? The Hurricanes and Huskers both have plenty of offensive question marks of their own, more than OU does.
2009 BTBS Projections
|Date||Opponent||Proj. W/L||Margin||Record||Conf. Rec.|
|11/21||at Texas Tech||W||+8.8||10-1||6-1|
First the touchdown test: if OU's a touchdown better than expected, they coast to 12-0. If they're a touchdown worse, if the OL really is a problem or if injuries sink in, then the KU game becomes losable (or technically, the NU and Tech games too), but that's really about it.
Oh, and I think OU's actually going to beat BYU by about 75. Between Andre Ware's idiotic prediction of a BYU upset and the fact that BYU's offensive line is even less experienced than OU's (plus, they have to go against the ridiculously good OU defensive line), the Cougars just don't match up well enough to challenge OU. Max Hall's decent, but a) he's going to have to do some serious heavy lifting, and b) he didn't respond well to pressure in the pocket last year, completing just 52% of his passes with a 0-7 TD-INT ratio against the two most harassing defense on the 2008 docket, TCU and Utah. Hall played well in BYU's first scrimmage the other day, but until I see him handling pressure better than he did last year, I'm going with a huge OU win here.
OU certainly has some concerns heading into 2009--the aforementioned offensive line could, as I mentioned earlier, randomly bite them once or twice this year, and the LB corps is pretty thin (though what they have should be quite stout)--but overall, this is still pretty clearly one of the best teams in the country, and depending on whether the OU-Texas cointoss of a game breaks in the Sooners' favor or not, they should be in the national title hunt once again.
Tomorrow: Texas Tech projections.