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Underachievers: Can Oklahoma be on top again?

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

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(US Presswire)

It's finally here. The final installment of Dr. Saturday's underachiever's series, which has profiled last year's underachieving teams and their prospects for 2012.

Notre Dame, Nebraska, Texas A&M and Florida State took the first four spots and it's fitting that the top team on our list started last season as the top team in the country.

No. 1 Oklahoma
2011: 10-3 (6-3 Big 12)

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Oklahoma wasn't the consensus No. 1 heading into 2011, but a lot of people had high hopes for the Sooners, who were returning quarterback Landry Jones, a Heisman candidate, receiver Ryan Broyles and top linebacker Travis Lewis. The Sooners were coming off a 12-2 season and were facing a schedule that despite games at Florida State and Oklahoma State, appeared to be a fairly easy road to the national championship. That's why they opened the season No. 1 in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches polls.
What Happened?
Oklahoma started the season looking like a team that could win a national title. It traveled to Doak Campbell Stadium and beat Florida State then demolished No. 11 Texas a few weeks later. The Sooners won their first six games by an average of 29.5 points per game and allowed no more than 28 points in any game during that span.

But on Oct. 22, the dream season came to an abrupt end. Texas Tech strolled into Oklahoma Memorial Stadium and handed the Sooners their first home loss in 39 games. The Red Raiders, who were a four-touchdown underdog, came into the game having suffered back-to-back double-digit losses to ranked opponents.

And then the wheels slowly started to come off. Lewis blasted some of his teammates in the media for not playing through injuries, which created a bit of a rift in the locker room. Two games later — after Oklahoma had seemingly righted the ship — Broyles tore his ACL and was done for the year. Running back Dominique Whaley also was lost for the season with injury.

Oklahoma would lose to Baylor and the season finale to Oklahoma State. The Sooners did beat Iowa in the Insight Bowl, but it was a weak consolation prize for a team that started the season with so much promise.

Key Losses
Texas Tech 41-38; No. 3 Oklahoma State 44-10.

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What Now?
Oklahoma will be back in the Top 5 to start the season, but it will have to prove it deserves to be there. Jones is a legitimate Heisman contender — again — and he won't have to deal with the shock of losing Broyles (he didn't throw a touchdown pass in the final three regular-season games). He'll have Kenny Stills as one of the nation's top receivers. However, the rest of the receiving corps is a little suspect. Trey Franks is gone, but Jaz Reynolds will complement Stills as will freshman Trey Metoyer.

The Sooners also added an offensive wrinkle with Blake Bell and the Belldozer goal line package, which helped them into the end zone while Jones was struggling and Whaley was gone. Even though Whaley is back, but the Belldozer could come in handy as the season progresses.

The Oklahoma defense is it's typical stout self and should be just as strong as it was a year ago. The Sooners return four of their top six tacklers..

And of course there's the schedule. There is not a game on Oklahoma's slate that isn't winnable. The toughest two contests might be at West Virginia and at TCU, but it's hard to see the Sooners caving in during those games especially since they're late in the season.

Should You Believe?
Oklahoma should use Alabama as a model. In 2010, the Crimson Tide was picked No. 1 and finished 10-3. The following year they rebounded to win the national championship.

The Sooners could do the same.

The Sooners have 15 returning starters, including nine of offense and have a chance to be one of the nation's most offensively explosive teams. The Sooners do have to prove that they can stay focused for an entire season, but if they can, they'll have a legitimate shot at playing for the national title.

2012 Prediction: 12-0 (8-0 Big 12)

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