August 26, 2008

The full 20 of this year's 20 bold predictions!

As it's the opening week of the season, this Just Joshin' is going to combine your traditional musings of mine along with my annual '20 fearless'. For our new members it's a scary look inside my mind mixed with a few opinions on just what might take place in the 2008 season. And what better time to offer such things than the Monday of Oklahoma's first game week of the season?

20. Demarco Murray will rush for roughly 1,500 yards this season.
Analysis: Early on I think that this prediction may end up looking a little crazy as Murray figures to be slowly let loose again as he recovers from the season-ending knee injury that he suffered in Lubbock, Texas late last season. As the season wears on I think Murray's explosive ability will become even more of a problem against Big 12 defenses heavy-legged from the season that's already taken place.

19. As I predicted two years ago (missed the boat last year), Oklahoma will lose a game they aren't supposed to. But unlike past years, I'll go ahead and pick it.
Analysis: Predicting a loss is probably more outlandish than picking troubles in College Station. First year coach Mike Sherman will have the Aggies as ready as they can be and of course Kyle Field will be it's always imposing self. I don't love what A&M has on the roster this year but in years past Oklahoma teams with more experience have had problems in B/CS so it may be something the Sooners just can't avoid.

18. Ignore the hype: for the first time in some time, expect an impressive performance in Stillwater.
Analysis: In breaking the trend of the second prediction, the Sooners will break the curse of the past few trips to Northern Oklahoma and put together a solid performance in Stillwater. Add in that I think this Aggies team is being a bit overhyped because they've got a very underrated quarterback. While it's a position that makes up for shortcomings elsewhere I think Oklahoma State's defense still has a lot to prove and I'm not convinced of many playmakers on the edge.

17. Joey Halzle won't see much more playing time this year than he did last year.
Analysis: This has been something that been a big cause for complaint the past few years, but in 2007 Sam Bradford receiving the lion's share of snaps was a good, and understandable, decision from Bob Stoops as Bradford needed the experience. In 2008 he is a much more prepared and experienced player but I have no reason to think the trend of back-up quarterbacks and limited playing time will change.

16. Oklahoma and Texas Tech will enter their game waiting to decide the Big 12 title, and as usual in Norman the Red Raiders will struggle mightily.

Analysis: I know I know, I can't seem to get a grip on the trends of the Sooners Big 12 season's. In seems to depend on my mood as I type. However, this is one trend I don't see changing, and honestly think if not for the freak injury Bradford suffered this game wouldn't be receiving the hype it already has. Would it shock me if this one is close? Of course not, Leach has one of his most talented teams. However, Norman has been a serious scene of nightmares for him, at least when he wasn't on the West Sideline.

15. For the first time in a few years safety may again be a strength of the defense with Nic Harris and Lendy Holmes.
Analysis: I really like these two as Oklahoma's safeties and the way in which they compliment each other's game. Holmes is a coverage player who is a surprising hitter while Harris is a big hitter who doesn't get enough credit as a pass defender. I also think with both being heavily experienced seniors they bring a calm to the reality that Oklahoma is breaking in two new cornerbacks in the secondary.

14. Jimmy Stevens will struggle early in the season but steady himself as he gains experience.
Analysis: As Stevens chased down the national high school career record for field goals he showed a tendency to get a bit shaky, which makes me think that changing from a 7,000 person audience to nearly 90,000 may cause him a bit of hesitation early on, particularly in Seattle, Wash. However, Stevens is an accurate kicker who I think can calm himself as the season wears on.

13. Jermaine Gresham will be playing his final season of college football.
Analysis: I know what he has said recently but Gresham comes from a tough background and is another kid that you can't fault for leaving early if he can help his entire family out with his first NFL paycheck. Not to mention that he figures to have another monstrous season this year and further vault his NFL expectations.

12. While there are only a few players left from the 2005 squad, look for some serious retribution for TCU when they hit Norman on Sept. 27.
Analysis: There have been some insinuations around the TCU game in Norman a few years ago that are eerily similar to those of the national title game against LSU. While no one has ever said anything it's clear that this game is an early season priority to right what was so wrong with the start of the 2005 season. Look for a strong performance from the Sooners.

11. The first quarter of the Washington game will be a struggle for Oklahoma, but the Sooners will eventually win in the vicinity of 38-10.
Analysis: Oklahoma struggled on the road last year, let's not kid ourselves. And to continue with the honesty they didn't play in a road environment like they will see in Seattle. Husky Stadium is a well-kept secret around the country as most don't realize just how loud it can be and what a great program the Huskies once were. Bear with the team, it may not look beautiful early on.

10. I picked it last year, and I'm picking it again; Oklahoma over Texas.
Analysis: Honestly last year I felt a lot shakier about this but this year I feel pretty confident. I just don't buy into what Texas is bringing on offense and as much of a believer as I am in Will Muschamp I think there may be a lack of difference makers in the front four for Texas. Time will tell but I feel pretty good about this one at this point in time.

9. 10 Demarco Murray will score touchdowns on a kick return, a running play of over 50 yards, and a touchdown catch of over 30 yards.
Analysis: I know, I know, I found the most long-winded version possible of telling you what you already knew; Murray is scarily dynamic. I just think it's amazing the way Murray can, and most likely will, be used with Oklahoma's gameplan. Don't be surprised to see him find yet another way to score this season as I expect big things from one of the most talented players in the country to get so little respect.

8. For some reason the games against Kansas and Kansas State smell like a problem for this season.
Analysis: Last year I was really concerned about Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, obviously I was one for two and even that one was on something of a fluke injury. However, the fact that a solid Kansas team comes to town the week after the Red River Shootout and the idea that Manhattan is no easy place to win makes both of these potential stumbling blocks for the team. I think both will go a long way to finding out how much this team has grown since last year.

7. By the end of the season Brandon Walker will be considered Oklahoma's best lineman by those paying attention.
Analysis: I know many of you already feel the way that I do about Walker, but for some reason nationally this guy just never gets his due behind the likes of Loadholt, Robinson, and Cooper. The three players are very good in their own regard but for me there is no steadier player than Walker.

6. Gerald McCoy will be competing for All-American honors by the end of the season.
Analysis: You wanna hear it? Ok, I'm hoping this one is true. After getting to know Gerald and his parents through the recruiting process there are simply few people I've ever known I hold in higher regard than the McCoy clan. Add in that I've thought since the first time I laid eyes on Gerald as a would-be high school junior that he was a prodigious talent. I'm thinking this year he proves me right and starts the licking of lips among NFL teams.

5. Auston English will win Big 12 defensive player of the year honors.
Analysis: When I saw English the summer before his senior year at Oklahoma's camp I freely admit that I had no idea he'd be this good. I thought he'd be a capable two or three-year contributor but nowhere in my mind's eye was there an inkling that I would be posting this prediction about him. English may struggle a bit early while figuring out how to deal with becoming the focal point of each offense's gameplan, however he'll get it figured out.

4. Sam Bradford will break Jason White's season yardage total of 2003.
Analysis: I know this will surprise some of you but with all the weapons that Bradford has at his disposal I just see this as a huge year for him. White's numbers at the time seemed staggering but with an average of roughly 50 yards per game more than last year Bradford could have the record. That seems like a lot but taking into consideration several very mediocre games from the Oklahoma City native last year it's not asking all that much.

3. In the vein of Auston English and Nic Harris before him Jeremy Beal will emerge as a star Big 12 defender.
Analysis: I've been a big fan of Beal since I first saw his senior film just following his commitment to Oklahoma. After English went down with an injury last season Beal quickly became the Sooners top pass-rusher and was a never-ending nuisance for Chase Daniel in the Big 12 championship game. Look for that to continue as a starter this season.

2. Perhaps not so bold of a selection, Oklahoma will play Missouri in the Big 12 Championship game.

Analysis: Yeah, this one is probably more of a softball but then again there are a few teams around the Big 12 that with the right breaks (or wrong from a Sooner perspective) could challenge both the Sooners and Tigers. Look out for both Colorado and Texas Tech in each division.

1. Oklahoma will once again return to the Orange Bowl to play Ohio State.
Analysis: If I'm right Jim Tressel and Bob Stoops will get a chance to right their collective recent resumes in national title games. I'm not sure I'm ready to make a pick on this one but with USC on the Buckeyes schedule and Oklahoma having a late history of tripping up late in the season this pick seems bold enough for now.

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