The Oklahoma Sooners enter the 2011 season on top by a wide margin in the USA Today Coaches Poll. More importantly, the voters at Crystal Ball Run tabbed OU as their preseason No. 1 as well.
Guerin Emig has covered the Sooners for the Tulsa World since 2004 and knows the program about as well as Dan Beebe knows rejection. Guerin graciously agreed to answer “Five Burning Questions” about the prohibitive favorites for the national championship.
1. Many of the people who’ve covered OU for a while seem to think Bob Stoops is looser and more confident than he has been in the past. Do you agree?
I do. And it’s not just the media who have noticed. Ryan Broyles mentioned how often he ran into an easily-pleased Stoops around the locker room during offseason workouts. I think the coach senses his team is on the verge of something special this year.
2. “Landry Jones has overcome his struggles on the road.” True or false?
That’s a question better answered after the Sept. 17 game at Florida State. If Jones beats the Seminoles in Tallahassee, it is a resounding true.
3. How will the offense change with Josh Heupel running the show?
I know the company line is the offense won’t change much. But Heupel was a quarterback after all. He has a Heisman contender throwing to a Biletnikoff contender. Other targets include Kenny Stills and Dejuan Miller. And there isn’t a proven running back in the bunch. I think the Sooners come out passing, and don’t stop until January.
4. a) Tom Wort took his fair share of lumps in 2010, and now the defense is counting on him to replace Austin Box on a full-time basis at middle linebacker. Is he up to it?
Maybe. Wort and his coaches swear he’s “night and day” from a year ago, when he gave way to Box toward the end of the season. We’ll have a better idea Sept. 17, and then again Oct. 8 in the Cotton Bowl.
b) Travis Lewis… How much does this one hurt?
It will hurt Sept. 17 when OU goes to Florida State. The Sooners will need all of the experience and leadership they can muster to get out of Doak Campbell Stadium with a win. Losing Lewis will be a problem, especially if the Seminoles hurt OU with an early big play, whip their crowd into a frenzy and give new quarterback E.J. Manuel some confidence.
Otherwise, I think the Sooners can manage just fine until Lewis is able to return around the Texas game.
5. Do OU fans like me need to lighten up?
It’s easy to say “absolutely.” But then, look at the Sooners’ BCS record between Washington State and UConn. Look at the behavior elsewhere, where they’re poisoning trees and raising billboards. Look at those ticket prices. Let’s give OU’s general public a little leeway, realizing every fan base has its lunatic fringe.
Follow Crystal Ball Run on Twitter @CrystalBallRun.
Follow Guerin Emig on Twitter @guerinemig.