Can the Oklahoma Sooners Win the Big 12 in 2013?

By Jamie Plunkett
Richard Rowe-USA TODAY Sports

It’s well known that the Oklahoma Sooners are, and always have been, one of the top dogs in the Big 12. But, with a new quarterback at the helm for 2013, does Boomer have what it takes to once again sit atop the Big 12 mountain?

Offensively, the Sooners lose quarterback Landry Jones and wide receiver Kenny Stills but other than that, they seem to be in good shape. Running backs Damien Williams and Brennan Clay both return after having breakout seasons in 2012, thanks to the consistently injured Dominique Whaley. Williams and Clay will look to establish a strong two-headed running monster in 2013.

At wide receiver, the Sooners will have to replace the production of Stills and Justin Brown, but they have an abundance of talent, albeit unproven talent, in line to step up. Jalen Saunders looks to be the frontrunner for the No.1 receiver spot after catching 62 passes for 829 yards and three touchdowns in 2012.

However, sophomore Sterling Shepard is not to be overlooked. As a freshman, Shepard had 621 yards receiving and three touchdowns, and looks to establish himself as the receiver of the future for the Sooners.

Most importantly for Oklahoma though, as far as the offense is concerned, is the return of four of five starters on the offensive line. the Sooner hogmollies gave Landry Jones a good pocket to throw out of for the majority of the season, and success in 2013 hinges on this unit allowing the new OU quarterback to progress through his reads and find open receivers.

The line will also need to ensure that holes open up for Williams and Clay. It would make sense that the Sooners would rely on a proven running game while their new quarterback gets his feet wet.

Defensively, the Sooners are looking relatively thin, something that doesn’t bode well in the Big 12. Specifically, they are only returning one starter in their secondary, cornerback Aaron Colvin. returning only one starter in the secondary has to be terrifying for Oklahoma fans, simply because the pass happy Big 12 will look to exploit any weakness downfield in a nanosecond.

While there’s a little depth at linebacker and on the defensive line, it comes at the price of youth. The early departure of linebacker Tom Wort leaves the Sooners especially lacking depth at linebacker.

This could prove interesting, as there’s also a rumor swirling that Oklahoma will be switching to the 3-4. A deficit at linebacker when you’re switching to a defensive scheme that requires more depth at linebacker could prove to hurt the Sooners in two ways.

First off, a weak linebacking core hurts against the run. Linebackers that cannot fill a hole on the line and put a hat on the ballcarrier are almost completely worthless. Weak linebackers in a 3-4 also tends to afford opposing offenses opportunities over the middle of the field.

If a team’s linebackers are slow to cover slot receivers, or cover receivers coming through their zones on slants and drags, things can really open up for an offense.

It’s these weaknesses on defense that make me question Oklahoma’s ability to compete for a conference championship this season. There’s just too much offensive firepower in the Big 12.

It’ll be interesting to see how things play out as the spring progresses into summer, but for now Sooner fans, start preparing for a “down” season (ie. 8-4).

You can follow Jamie on Twitter @thedsportsrant

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