The Orlando Sentinel has ranked all 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. The Sentinel staff will take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 120 to our projected No. 1 team. We will not be including the four teams the NCAA lists as still reclassifying to the Football Bowl Subdivision level.
Today at No. 5: Oklahoma
Coach: Bob Stoops (139-34, 14th season)
2011 record: 10-3 (6-3 in Big 12 Conference, tied for third in league)
Look back: Oklahoma opened the 2011 season as the preseason No. 1 team and looked the part early on. An impressive 23-13 victory over 5th-ranked Florida State in the second week of the season was just part of six straight victories to open up the 2011 campaign. A stunning 41-38 loss to Texas Tech knocked the Sooners out of the national championship discussion even after defeating 10th-ranked Kansas State the following week. A last-second loss to 25th-ranked Baylor and a 44-10 loss to Oklahoma State in the regular season finale ended any chance of a BCS bowl game. The Sooners did claim their 27th bowl win with a 31-14 win over Iowa in the Insight Bowl.
Offensive starters lost/returning: 3/8
Defensive starters lost/returning: 4/7
Key losses: WR Ryan Broyles, C Ben Habren, LB Travis Lewis, DB Jamell Fleming
Top returnees: QB Landry Jones, RB Roy Finch, DB Aaron Colvin, DB Tony Jefferson
Strengths: Oklahoma fans have had a love-hate relationship with Landry Jones. The senior quarterback has had a record-setting career in Norman but has yet to help the Sooners win a national championship. He wasn’t even voted Most Valuable Player in the Big 12 this preseason. That honor went to West Virginia QB Geno Smith. Funny, considering Jones was one of eight quarterbacks in FBS to throw for over 4,000 yards last season. … Dominique Whaley and Roy Finch combined for more than 1,200 yards on the ground. Whaley suffered a season-ending injury in the middle of last season and still hasn’t been 100 percent going into the fall. Brennan Clay and Damien Williams could each make an impact this season. … The Sooners lost defensive coordinator Brent Venables in the offseason but filled his spot with a familiar face. Mike Stoops, brother of head coach Bob Stoops, returned to take over the defense. He coached the squad from 1999 to 2003 before taking the head coaching job at Arizona.
Weaknesses: Oklahoma got its first taste of life with All-American wide receiver Ryan Broyles, when the senior went down with a knee injury mid-season. Teammate Kenny Stills will step into that starring role this season. Stills had 61 catches for 849 yards and eight touchdowns. The biggest question in the offseason is what sort of help will Stills get. Jaz Reynolds and Trey Franks were serving suspensions leaving the job to fall to freshman Trey Metoyer, who had a big spring. … Back and neck issues forced longtime center Ben Habern to retire from the team, forcing Bob Stoops to find a suitable replacement this fall. … The defense lost several key components including linebacker Travis Lewis, defensive back Jamell Fleming and tackles Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis. Finding players to step up and take over those roles will be key.
Outlook: Landry Jones told the Sentinel earlier this spring that his decision to return to the school for his senior season was based on “unfinished business” and the fact that this group of players hasn’t won a national championship has been hanging over the program. Jones has proven he is an elite quarterback and with the pieces around him, Oklahoma shouldn’t have problems scoring points. Wide receiver will be a key spot going into the fall. The defense shouldn’t miss a beat with the return of Mike Stoops as defensive coordinator. All in all, the pieces are there for the Sooners to make a title run.
Sept. 1 at UTEP
Sept. 8 FAMU
Sept. 22 Kansas State
Oct. 6 at Texas Tech
Oct. 13 vs. Texas
Oct. 20 Kansas
Oct. 27 Notre Dame