We're continuing our breakdown of Oklahoma's 2014 football schedule with the second six opponents. Be sure to check out part one here.
Saturday, October 18- Kansas State
Bill Snyder continues to defy Father Time and in the process, build the Wildcats into the Big 12's third-best team going into 2014. KSU is normally known for just getting the job done, but the Wildcats have the potential to have a pretty good offense, led by quarterback Jake Waters. Waters' emergence as the unquestioned starter did lead to the transfer of Daniel Sams, but with Tyler Lockett at wide receiver once again, the passing game should be humming. The Wildcats will need a replacement for running back John Hubert, but highly touted freshman Dalvin Warmack should be able to fill at least some of the void left by Hubert. The offensive line returns three starters from last year.
Defensively, Ryan Mueller is the unquestioned leader of the unit from his defensive end spot. Mueller notched 11.5 sacks a year ago, but needs help from tackle Travis Britz and others on the defensive line. Kansas State has a lot of experience on defense, which should help alleviate the burdens that come with just four returning starters. Jonathan Truman was second on the team in tackles last year, but needs help at his linebacker position from those around him. Dante Barnett anchors a secondary that has several players that could make it the strength of the defense.
Saturday, November 1- at Iowa State
The Cyclones are the standard for a decent team that just doesn't have enough to compete for bigger and better things in college football. This year, though, ISU has a lot of potential to make some noise, or at least be a major pest, in the Big 12. New offensive coordinator Mark Mangino inherits an offense that returns eight starters, including a complete offensive line, a running back (Aaron Wimberly) and a standout wide receiver (Quenton Bundrage). The only (and biggest) question mark is at quarterback, where a three-man competition is shaping up. Grant Rohach closed last season strong, but Sam B. Richardson was decent before being forced out of the lineup with injuries. Incoming freshman Joel Lanning will also throw his hat into the ring. It's anyone's guess who the starter will be, but Rohach's strong showing, and 86 points from the ISU offense in the last two games, may give him an edge.
The defense isn't looking as rosy, but there is a lot of potential for a good unit. The defensive line is very young and inexperienced and needs a lot of people to step up around seniors Brandon Jensen and Cory Morrissey. The linebackers have a lot more experience and depth, headlined by Luke Knott and Jevohn Miller. The secondary boasts two good cornerbacks in Sam E. Richardson and Nigel Tribune, but there is a lack of experience at safety that could prove problematic. Iowa State may not be challenging for a Big 12 title this year, but it could help decide the championship by playing spoiler throughout the year.
Saturday, November 8- Baylor
The Bears come into 2014 off their first Big 12 title, a phrase that still takes some getting used to. Baylor rode an explosive offense to an 11-win season a year ago and things should be similar this year. Quarterback Bryce Petty returns to lead an offense that averaged 52 points and 620 yards last season. Senior receivers Antwan Goodley and Levi Norwood lead the group and are joined by Corey Coleman and Robbie Rhodes who will provide depth. Shock Linwood will get the bulk of the carries this year, but there's not a lot of experienced depth at running back behind him. The offensive line is also replacing a couple starters which could limit the Bears' explosiveness.
On defense, there are deep concerns for a unit that quietly finished in the top-40 in scoring, passing, rushing and total defense a year ago. The defense lost eight starters from last year's unit and will rely on a lot of unproven youth to fill the voids left behind. Massive defensive end Shawn Oakman will anchor the defensive line along with Andrew Billings and Boise State transfer Sam Ukwuachu. Bryce Hager is back for his senior year after missing the final four games with a groin injury, but there are questions around him. In the secondary, Terrell Burt is back at safety, but that's it. The Bears will find last year's success hard to duplicate while counting on some much inexperience to produce big results in 2014.
Saturday, November 15- at Texas Tech
The constant with Texas Tech for nearly 15 years has been a high-octane passing game and 2014 should be no different. Davis Webb returns to quarterback the Red Raiders' system and will have a pair of excellent receivers to throw to in Jakeem Grand and Bradley Marquez. Tech is hoping Webb stays healthy this year because there are only two quarterbacks on the roster this season and the other one is a true freshman. DeAndre Washington will be running behind a veteran offensive line that returns three starters. Washington is finally healthy once again and gets the nod with Kenny Williams switching from running back to linebacker.
The defense is hanging on the performance of a lot of new players on the defensive line and in the secondary. The defensive line could be made up entirely of junior college transfers alongside end Branden Jackson. In the secondary, cornerback Justis Nelson has the potential to be very good, but there are a lot of question marks around him. J.J. Gaines showed promise at safety a year ago, and Tech will need more of that from him in 2014. The most stable position in the unit is the linebackers, where Pete Robertson and Sam Eguavoen return, as well as Williams, who voluntarily switched from running back in the offseason. The success of the Red Raiders will be determined by the defense's ability to make stops. The offense will be there, but Tech could be very good if the defense comes along for the ride.
Saturday, November 22- Kansas
The Jayhawks have nowhere to go but up, but should be better than the “pile of crap” coach Charlie Weis called them a year ago. The offense has a chance to be better with a new coordinator, a new system, and a quarterback that fits that system. Montell Cozart is a dual-threat QB that should thrive in new offensive coordinator John Reagan's run-first system. Wide receiver should be a strength for Kansas, led by Miami (Ohio) transfer Nick Harwell, who caught 229 passes in three years for the Redhawks. Tony Pierson provides another pair of experienced hands on the outside. Running backs Brandon Bourbon and Darrian Miller have to fill the big shoes of departed back James Sims, but running behind a veteran offensive line should help that transition.
Defensively, the Jayhawks are loaded with experience and return nine starters from last year's unit. Linebacker Ben Henney is one of the most unheralded players in the league, and finished last year as the fourth-leading tackler in the Big 12 and is the leader of the defense. The line is probably the weakest part of the defense but has good talent in Keon Stowers and Michael Reynolds. Another pass-rusher would make the unit a lot more stable. The secondary is good, but needs a second cornerback to step up to complement Dexter McDonald. Kansas will still probably struggle to make a bowl game this year, as the schedule is not very favorable. However, the Jayhawks have come a long way from the “pile of crap” from two years ago.
Saturday, December 6- Oklahoma State
The Cowboys are in for a big test in 2014. Oklahoma State enters the season after one of the biggest turnovers in Mike Gundy's tenure in Stillwater. This will test the OSU program and will show just how much of a national player the Cowboys are. On offense, J.W. Walsh returns to quarterback the offense, but could face some competition for the job from Daxx Garman and Mason Rudolph. Desmond Roland came out of nowhere to be the feature running back a year ago, but everyone knows about him this year. He'll carry the load, with Rennie Childs providing backup. Big 12 Newcomer of the Year Tyreek Hill can flat-out fly and Gundy wants the ball in his hands at least 15-20 times per game. Hill joins a young, but talented wide receiver group led by Jhajuan Seales and Marcell Ateman. None of the talent at the skill positions may matter if the Cowboys can't shore up the offensive line. Only two starters are back from a year ago and they're the only ones with any decent amount of game action.
On defense, the Cowboys are arguably hurting even more than on offense. They lost senior leaders on every level of the defense, as well as key depth. Now, players that have been backups for multiple seasons will be counted on to produce in big ways. James Castleman and Jimmy Bean will be looked at as the main guys on the defensive line, while Ryan Simmons will anchor the linebackers group. Kevin Peterson played well a season ago opposite Justin Gilbert at cornerback, but now will have to be the go-to guy in a secondary that may have the least experience of the defense. It's hard to know what exactly to expect in Stillwater this year, but after this year, we'll know just how strong the OSU program is.