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Oklahoma wide receiver Ryan Broyles had 131 catches for 1622 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. He will make Oklahoma tough to beat. Photo by Associated Press
Around the Nation: College Football
Oklahoma No. 1 with a bullet, and how will Auburn fare after Cam Newton?
By Michael Brown,
Sentinel Sports Writer
[Oklahoma Sits atop Preseason Rankings]
This past Saturday, the Oklahoma Sooners became the first team of the 2011 college football season to have a bull’s-eye planted squarely on its back.
Indeed, Associated Press and USA Today voters pegged the Sooners the nation’s No. 1 team in both polls.
Oklahoma garnered 36 of 60 first-place votes in the AP and 42 of 59 in the USA Today. Alabama, Oregon and LSU are ranked next in both polls, respectively. Boise State was ranked fifth in the AP while Florida State occupies the same spot in the USA Today.
Sitting atop the preseason poll is nothing new for Oklahoma. It’s the tenth time Oklahoma has been ranked No. 1 in the AP.
Coach Bob Stoops’ squad returns 14 players on offense and 15 on defense who have starting experience.
Quarterback Landry Jones will lead the Sooners’ offensive attack in his quest for not only a national title, but also the Heisman Trophy.
Jones finished last year with more than 4700 yards passing, 38 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions.
Although leading rusher DeMarco Murray declared early and left for the NFL Draft, Jones will have no shortage of weapons.
Top wideout Ryan Broyles returns after foregoing the NFL. He piled up impressive numbers last season with 131 catches for 1622 yards and 14 touchdown grabs. Kenny Stills is another receiver to keep an eye on.
On defense, Stoops’ team returns a bevy of talent. Oklahoma’s been plagued by inconsistent defensive play the past few seasons, and last year was no exception, judging by their surrendering of 21 points per game.
Jamell Fleming and Tony Jefferson lead a secondary dubbed “The Sharks.” Their bite will be tested early this season when they visit the Florida State Seminoles September 17.
The jury’s out on the Sooners. Last year, they actually won a Bowl Championship Series game after losing several in a row.
I think Jones has the pedigree to pull out close games, particularly on the road. Games at Baylor and Oklahoma State will test his mettle late in the season.
However, points won’t be a problem. Oklahoma will go as far as their defense takes them.
For the record, Auburn and Oregon, who played for the national title last season, were ranked No. 22 and No. 11 in the preseason polls.
[Life after the Cam Newton era…err year]
Yes, he came and went.
In Cam Newton’s tumultuous, exciting, and ultimately Heisman-championship winning season, he drew the praise of devoted Auburn fans and the ire of critics for the discrepancies surrounding his recruitment to Auburn.
Well, he’s gone now. There will be no more pesky questions about his eligibility. Instead, he’ll be collecting riches in the NFL and likely starting at quarterback for the Carolina Panthers.
So where does that leave Auburn? Well, according to the preseason AP poll, nearly the same place they were before Newton stepped on the field.
Currently ranked No. 23, I’m guessing Auburn isn’t planning on any back-to-back BCS title celebrations. Not only did they lose Newton’s 4000-plus yards in total offense and 51 touchdowns, defensive anchor Nick Fairley will also be playing on Sundays.
Newly named starting quarterback Barrett Trotter and super-sophomore tailback Michael Dyer will have to shoulder the load.
Nebraska was the last school to win back-to-back titles in 1995 and ‘96.
[Pac-12 has the Nation’s best Quarterbacks]
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell: “And with the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, the (insert horrible team here) selects Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.”
Applause is sure to follow that announcement next year for a quarterback NFL scouts have been saying is the best prospect at the position since John Elway and Peyton Manning.
Luck may not be the only Pac-12 quarterback to have his name called early in the draft if some of the conference’s signal callers forgo their eligibility after this season.
Luck has a legitimate shot at the Heisman and the national title if the Cardinal can upend the Oregon Ducks, the consensus pick to win the conference.
Oregon’s quarterback Darron Thomas excelled last season during his first campaign as a starter.
Thomas passed for more than 2800 yards to go along with 30 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He added more than 450 yards rushing while helping the Ducks compete for the national title.
USC’s Matt Barkley finished poorly last season and was hindered by injuries, but if he improves, an outside shot at the Heisman is not out of the question. Barkley must cut down on interceptions and become more poised in the pocket.
Arizona’s Nick Foles is another player NFL scouts are excited about. He battled injuries and a late-season slump, finishing with more than 3100 yards passing, 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Foles played in five games where he threw 40-plus passes. With a serviceable running game, he can become a more efficient quarterback.
Oregon State’s Ryan Katz and six-foot-eight, 240-pound Brock Osweiler at Arizona State are other players to watch.