Now the season can finally begin.
Now we can learn something about that retooled secondary and Brent Venables’ linebacking corps that returns just one starter and may still not begin things Saturday with would-be starter Austin Box on the weakside, though Box will play.
Now we can start to view Sam Bradford’s sophomore year, maybe even DeMarco Murray’s sophomore year, and if he catches nine passes every week, even Manny Johnson’s senior year, in a Heisman Trophy context. You know, assuming, each one turns in a big game against the Bearcats.
Because Oklahoma was idle last week.
The stadium was full and another team stood on the other side, but OU might have done everybody a favor by getting Central Oklahoma to drive down from Edmond.
Almost a half million bucks would have remained in the state and the fans would have gotten a better game. But these things happen in big-time college football and when you’ve got Bob Stoops and Joe Castiglione intent on delivering a testing slate, they don’t stay that way for long.
Cincinnati can play.
Brian Kelly, in only his second season to run the program, has won 12 of 15 games and his only bowl game. And should he exit Norman victoriously and should his quarterback, Dustin Grutza, somehow do to OU what he did to Eastern Kentucky, Kelly will have his own Heisman Trophy candidate to look after.
The truth is, Cincinnati is exactly the kind of team that might shock a team like Oklahoma.
The Bearcats are coached by a guy who’s known nothing but success. Kelly won in Division II, he turned Central Michigan around in the MAC and he’s winning at Cincinnati.
The Bearcats are unranked, but shouldn’t be. They return a bunch of starters (16) and, only picked fifth by Big East media in the preseason, have something to prove. They’re opportunistic, leading the nation with 42 takeaways a year ago; just the kind of thing that allows a weaker foe to take down a stronger one.
All the same, Cincinnati’s a model out-of-conference opponent, as is TCU, which comes to Norman Sept. 27. It’s a game OU should win and one that’s bound to look better and better as the season goes along.
It’s just not a victory OU can pencil in today.
I asked Stoops if all the first- week upsets were a favor to his team, serving as reminders that anybody can get beat. He said such reminders aren’t required.
“I don’t get the question …,” he said.
Seemed simple enough to me.
“… They’re a really good football team. That’s all we need to know. We need to be our best if we want to win.”
Me aside, he understands.
So, too, does Sam Bradford, who didn’t think he and his teammates needed to watch UCLA beat Tennessee or Arkansas State beat Texas A&M; to get the picture.
“I don’t think we need to see another good team lose,” he said, “to realize that we need to come out and play our best.”
Which is something else to think about.
If the season really begins Saturday, which it really sort of does, can OU be expected to put its best foot forward so quickly? Does it have to and, should it, what might it look like?
All good questions, while many more abound.
Now the Sooners can finally begin answering them.
Now the season can finally begin.
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