With the college football season a week away, we take a look at the Sooners schedule. This covers the first six games, while the next six games will be released tomorrow.
Game One: August 31, Home vs. Louisiana-Monroe
The Sooners open the season against a Warhawks team that should not be taken lightly. 15 starters return from a 2012 squad that started last season by stunning Arkansas on the road, and then nearly beating Auburn on the road and Baylor at home. The most notable returning starter is senior quarterback Kolton Browning, who threw for more than 3,000 yards last year while running for over 500 yards. The offensive line returns four starters from a year ago and four of the five top pass catchers from 2012 are also back. Defensively, ULM returns all five secondary starters in their 3-3-5 defense. However, that unit gave up 276 yards per game through the air last season. The Warhawks are thin up from with only two starters back in the front six. There's plenty of possibility for an upset if the Sooners don't come to play. Oklahoma fans remember the near-disaster in 2010 against Utah State to open the season.
Game Two: September 7, Home vs. West Virginia
The Mountaineers are in full rebuilding mode on offense, replacing their quarterback, top receivers and most of the offensive line. Most of the offensive coaching staff is new as well. However, knowing the potency of Dana Holgorsen's offensive system, it will still be a dangerous offense, just with new pieces. Former Florida State quarterback Clint Trickett looks to be the starting quarterback and he'll have a couple of solid running backs behind him in Andrew Buie and Cody Clay. Defensively, it'd be hard for the Mountaineers to be any worse than last season. Safeties Darwin Cook and Karl Joseph should be the anchors of the defense while linebacker Isaiah Bruce will anchor the middle of the field. This season's matchup between the two teams probably won't be as high-scoring as last year, but West Virginia could be playing the role of spoiler in 2013.
Game Three: September 14, Home vs. Tulsa
The Golden Hurricane come into the 2013 season after a conference championship season in 2012 that ended with a thumping of Big 12 foe Iowa State in the Liberty Bowl. Offense will be the theme for Tulsa in 2013, as they return almost every key skill position player from a year ago. Quarterback Cody Green is back, along with running back Trey Watts and wide receiver Keyarris Garrett. Ja'Terian Douglas also returns at running back after averaging more than six yards per carry a year ago. The offensive line needs to be retooled, but two starters return. On defense, Tulsa is completely rebuilding one of the best units in Conference USA last season. Linebacker Shawn Jackson and safety Demarco Nelson will be the cornerstones of the unit, even more so now that senior defensive tackle Jack Jewell has been ruled ineligible for the year. Like Louisiana-Monroe, the Golden Hurricane will come to Norman with a chance at making some big noise.
Game Four: September 28, Away vs. Notre Dame
Part of the Fighting Irish's run to the national championship game last season was a thumping of the Sooners in Norman. Now, the Irish are looking to continue their return to college football's elite in 2013. After the academic dismissal of quarterback Everett Golson, Notre Dame turns to senior Tommy Rees to lead the offense. He'll need some players to step up at the skill positions, particularly running back and tight end, where Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick and Tyler Eifert leave gaping holes. George Atkinson will shoulder more of the load at running back, but he'll have plenty of help. TJ Jones leads a young but talented receiving corps, while the offensive line returns three starters. Defensively, the Irish should be stout once again, returning eight starters from the nation's No. 7 overall defense. Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt anchor the defensive line, while Prince Shembo and Dan Fox will hold the fort at linebacker and try to replace the production of Manti Te'o. Bennett Jackson will anchor a veteran secondary that allowed 200 yard per game through the air last season. This will be one of the toughest road trips for the Sooners this season, and a win here would make a big statement.
Game Five: October 5, Home vs. TCU
The Horned Frogs come off their first season in the Big 12 with a legitimate chance to win the conference in 2013. After leaving the team in the middle of last season, quarterback Casey Pachall is back and is ready to lead the TCU offense. The Frogs have talent at both running back and wide receiver, but the offensive line is a question with both guard positions breaking in new starters. Defensively, the Frogs should be as dominant as always, with Chucky Hunter and Devonte Fields leading the defensive line and Sam Carter and Jason Verrett anchoring the secondary. The linebackers are a bit of a question right now, as leading returning tackler Joel Hasley quit the team earlier in August. It's a big loss for TCU, but one the Frogs should be able to deal with. This game comes at the worst possible time for OU: right after a big road trip to Notre Dame and before the game with Texas. TCU can't be overlooked.
Game Six: October 12, vs. Texas (Dallas)
Texas has been the most underachieving program in the country since appearing in the national title game three years ago. However, this season may be the year Texas returns to greatness. Quarterback David Ash returns for his junior campaign as the most experienced quarterback in the Big 12. The entire offensive line is back, along with the Longhorns' three-headed monster at running back in Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron. Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley headline the receivers, but depth may be a bit of an issue there. Defensively, Texas can't be much worse than they were a season ago. The Longhorns return star talents at every level of the defense, starting up front with defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. Steve Edmond and Jordan Hicks are poised for big years at linebacker, and Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom are back at cornerback. Talent has never been a problem in Austin and 2013 may be the year the Longhorns put all the pieces back together.