August 31, 2009

20 Fearless: Texas, BCS, Big 12, who wins?

As we now approach the start of Oklahoma's college football season, this Just Joshin' is going to combine your traditional musings of mine along with my annual '20 fearless'. For's new members the '20 Fearless' is a scary look inside Associate Editor Josh McCuistion's mind mixed with a few opinions on just what might take place in the 2009 season. And as count down the days to BYU in 'JerryWorld' on Sept. 5 we'll count down five predictions each Monday leading up to the game. This week we get close to the top 10.

20. Jermie Calhoun will rush for at least 750-yards this season.
Analysis: With the chance to get even more carries this fall camp due to Demarco Murray's hamstring injury this one seems even more probable than it did. Add in that anyone who was listening heard the rave reviews from coaches and teammates following Calhoun spring's performance. Calhoun is a bigger more physical back than any Oklahoma has had since the days of a guy named Peterson, and while he may not have that kind of speed if reports from the spring are true Calhoun is a lot quicker than most had anticipated. He'll get his chances and here is betting a few big runs aid his total.

19 Sam Bradford will repeat as a Heisman finalist but will fail to bring home any hardware at all this year.
Analysis: I think with all the perceived good fortune that befell Oklahoma late in the season last year I can't help but think there will be some kind of backlash and Bradford may be dead in the water before the race starts in my opinion. When you add in the reality that Bradford will be behind 80-percent of a new offensive line and getting the feel for a near-equal number of green receivers and it seems that his massive numbers last year may be unmatchable. Besides the defending Heisman trophy winner wasn't a unanimous pick as all-conference and no public apologies had to be issued to appease of all people…the media.

18. There will be no such luck in Lubbock this year for Texas Tech.
Analysis: Sure there are always trying moments in big road games but no team has faced less luck in the last four years on one patch of grass, or in this case turf, than Oklahoma in Lubbock. In 2005 it was the mysterious calls that more or less robbed Oklahoma of several defensive stops. In 2007 Oklahoma's star freshman quarterback was knocked out while making a tackle. This year the Sooners face a depleted Texas Tech crew who while undoubtedly motivated after the drubbing in Norman last year simply won't have the horses, pardon the pun, to keep up.

17. Be very wary of the Kansas game in Lawrence this year.
Analysis: Yet again the Jayhawks fall into a great scheduling situation but this year surpasses even the good fortune of 2008. That's because unlike them pushing the Sooners in Norman last year after the big game in Dallas, they'll have a chance to knock off Oklahoma a week after the showdown at the Cotton Bowl. The Jayhawks also have plenty of offensive weapons and have already shown an ability for big plays in Norman, can they keep it up in Lawrence?

16. Gerald McCoy will take home Big 12 defensive player of the year honors.
Analysis: Before the season the honor was handed out to the very worthy Ndamukong Suh but as the season wears on it's hard to imagine people not noticing just how special McCoy is. Statistically, due to a defensive line stocked with NFL talent his stats probably again won't match Suh and while it's hard to separate the two McCoy's national exposure and the reality that he'll be playing in one big game after another should help push his notoriety well beyond that of his counterpart in the Big 12.

15. Auston English will prove last year, not 2007, was the blip on the radar.
Analysis: The only doubt that I have with this prediction is whether or not English will get enough snaps to regain his status as arguably the Big 12's best defensive end. That seems a silly argument but when you consider that both Jeremy Beal and Frank Alexander may soon have a place in that argument you realize it's as much a statement of English's talent as the depth Oklahoma has across it's defensive front four. English does however bring something that is almost unmatched, a motor that won't stop running.

14. Chris Brown will end the season as Oklahoma's No. 6 all-time rusher.
Analysis: Few realize how close Brown is to striking some of the great names in Sooner history. With a duplication of last year he'll jump ahead of names like Lydell Carr and Greg Pruitt with a completely reasonable 1,400 yards he'd end up No. 6 on the all-time list a few hundred yards behind No. 5 Quentin Griffin. Brown will reach such a mark, as usual, with little notoriety and respect outside of those who watch him week in and week out.

13. Sam Proctor will emerge as a difference maker at the safety position much as Quinton Carter late last year.
Analysis: Just looking at Proctor he has looked like a budding superstar from near day one on campus. Proctor has the size of a SAM linebacker but plays with the speed and footwork of a bigger cornerback. Proctor has been slowed at times by responsibilities to his family off of the field but if he can truly dedicate himself to becoming the player he is capable of Oklahoma's safety pairing of himself and Carter may leave every receiver they face fearing crossing routes.

12. Tom Wort will be talked about all season as the guy who will get everyone excited in the coming seasons.
Analysis: Honestly this one may not even be that bold as people are already talking about Wort's physicality and overall playing style as something that is fun to watch, even for his teammates. Wort may find playing time tough to come by at this point in his career but expect players and coaches to continue to whisper about the English assassin learning the ropes as a freshman.

11. It will be Bradford's fourth pass of the season that sees him break Jason White's Sooner career passing yards record.
Analysis: It surprises me that no one is talking about the fact that Bradford is on the verge of shattering Oklahoma's career passing record set by it's only other Heisman winning quarterback. With just 81-yards to spare Bradford's record-breaking total is definitely a when, not if, situation. It's a safe bet Oklahoma will be aggressive early on trying to make a statement to start the season. The only question that seems to remain is who will catch the record-breaking pass from the Heisman winner?

10. By mid-season Bryce Easley will be Oklahoma's place-kicker.
Analysis: It's been well documented that Jimmy Stevens had any number of problems last year but the difficult thing to discern is whether or not physical ailments were the soul cause of his issues or if perhaps some of the mental problems will continue to be an issue. Anyone who has watched Easley star for the Timberwolves in the shadow of Memorial stadium realizes leg strength is something he possesses that figures to exceed his competition. The question will be whether he'll be used solely as a kickoff specialist or if he will get a legitimate shot as the Sooner placekicker.

9. Although it appears likely Bradford will be playing his final year in Norman, Landry Jones will see no playing time other than to handoff for three downs late in big wins.
Analysis: Honestly, I feel guilty even hitting this soft ball but I guess it's to prove a point as much anything. Even the most heart-led Sooner fans would probably concede that in all likelihood this will be Bradford's final year under center. And while the Sooners pursuit of a national championship is the focal point of how to handle things this year there is no denying that going into next year with almost zero experience at the position is a scary proposition for a team next year that again figures to be highly competitive.

8. BYU will be down for the count by halftime in Dallas.
Analysis: For a few weeks I had discussed that I felt Oklahoma might struggle early on with BYU but the more I look at this game and the reality that BYU has questions on defense and is replacing the same amount of offensive linemen as the Sooners are and to me it becomes highly questionable how the Cougars can keep up with an Oklahoma defense that figures to be out to prove something this year after an up and down few years. This may be a surprise but I just don't see it.

7. Travis Lewis will enjoy his final season as a Sooner with another tremendous year.
Analysis: Rumors have swirled that if Lewis could have turned pro after last year, he might have. It's not that Lewis doesn't enjoy Oklahoma, from all accounts he simply is one of those guys that would like to earn a paycheck for all of the work he is putting in. Maybe he will prove me wrong but this one looks like a safe bet with several folks all whispering that Lewis put in some real work this summer to have himself as prepared as humanly possible for another monster season.

6. Jermaine Gresham will become Oklahoma's first-ever tight end to have an 1,000 yard receiving season.
Analysis: Gresham nearly reached this level last year but as he figures to be flexed out even more this year and in all likelihood will be Bradford's No. 1 security blanket it seems nearly a certainty. The most amazing thing to realize that with all of the Sooners great tight ends through the decades none had ever come within 250-yards of Gresham's production last year. When does some conversation begin that Gresham is the best of the bunch?

5. Dominique Franks will go from well-respected to potentially All-American cornerback this year.
Analysis: Nationally Franks is little more than another name on the roster but folks around the Big 12 have begun to learn just how dangerous it can be to challenge Franks. Early in the year last season Franks struggled at times but as the year wore on he quickly found himself entirely worthy of conversation as one of the Big 12's elite defensive backs. If he can continue to develop and improve on his numbers from last year there is no question he, along with a few of his defensive teammates, will receivie some All-American nations.

4. Adron Tennell will at least equal Mark Clayton's eight (2003) 100-yard games in a season.
Analysis: This one seems really bold, I know. But Tennell just seems like the guy who has really stepped up to try and take the reins from a graduating group of players that caught the boat load of Sooner passes over the last few years. Tennell's size, leaping ability and the chane to stretch the field should see him make several big plays down the field. This one probably won't be right but I'm betting by the end of the season it doesn't sound nearly as crazy as it does now.

3. Oklahoma's offensive line will surprise and take advantage of an equally unproven Texas defensive line.
Analysis: In the last two years I've split on my picks of Oklahoma. Two years ago I felt really unsure about picking against Colt McCoy while last year I really thought Oklahoma's offense would be too much for Texas to keep pace with. If Oklahoma's kickoff coverage isn't solved this year, this one will be wrong again but here is betting on no game-changing plays by the Longhorns in the kickoff game. Also, I expect Trent Williams to have much more success with Sergio Kindle than did Phil Loadholt with Brian Orakpo last season.

2. Oklahoma will face Nebraska in the Big 12 title game.
Analysis: As mentioned above, I think Kansas is the best team in the Big 12 North but with their monstrous schedule I just don't see how they can make it through to the Big 12 title game. As such Oklahoma will get a rematch with Nebraska after a trip to Lincoln in early November. Of course after the first match-up we'll all have a much better idea of how things will play out in this one but Nebraska has a few solid pieces but it's quite unlikely they'll be able to keep pace with the Sooners over four quarters.

1 Oklahoma will enjoy a rematch with Florida.
Analysis: I don't know about you all but if this one were to take place the hype might be more than I could bear over the course of a month. While the Sooners would undoubtedly be the underdog it's hard to predict how many might actually look at how close last year's 24-14 loss was to being a very different game. Also you'd have to think the many who would question both Bradford and Kevin Wilson for the offense slipping up in the game last year would serve as a great motivational tool.

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