NORMAN — Chatter is starting to really pick up among Oklahoma fans where the Bowl Championship Series is concerned.
What happens if this?
What happens if that?
While the 8-1 Sooners are still to some degree relevant in the national championship discussion, the real question should be this: How will the Sooners play without Ryan Broyles?
Because that answer will determine and dictate interrogatives about the BCS. It's fun to speculate about the postseason possibilities and prospects for OU, but they're all predicated on how the team plays in the final three games of the regular season — and especially the last one, on Dec. 3.
With the bye week in the rearview and the stretch run ahead, it's now time for Oklahoma to demonstrate what its offense will look like without Broyles, the dynamic All-America receiver from Norman.
Landry Jones immediately acknowledged after Broyles' injury that it would be different for him on the field without No. 85 open all over it. Bob Stoops made the same admission about Jones.
How many times in his career did Jones, consciously and subconsciously, train himself to seek Broyles?
This, Baylor, is an important game for the junior quarterback, to demonstrate that his numbers and success transcend having a dependable target of Broyles' ilk. We'll learn a lot about Landry Jones in (possibly) the final four games of his OU career.
Of course, it's not as if the Sooners are completely bankrupt at the position without Broyles.
But OU is now leaning hard on a pair of sophomores, Kenny Stills and Jaz Reynolds. Both have shown they have otherworldly talent, in a variety of ways.
Can they be game-to-game consistent, though? Because that was Broyles.
Can they be down-to-down consistent, though? Because that was Broyles.
No one person will be able to replace Broyles, because he played every receiver position – and was adept at returning punts. Collectively, though, Oklahoma has the players to make this work. After all, the Sooners were going to have to do it in 2012, anyhow. The future is now, as Reynolds pointed out.
Behind Stills and Reynolds, Trey Franks and Dejuan Miller must do more. Miller had flashes in the Kansas State game. Franks was special in the opener against Tulsa. The Sooners could use the help; those guys have played in enough games by now, Miller in particular.
Those lobbying to get the tight ends, James Hanna and Trent Ratterree, more involved could get their wish as OU works to spread out targets that previously went to Broyles.
Game-planning now takes on a greater importance, as well. The wrinkles such as the Belldozer package? It's going to take more of those from Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell as the Sooners work to gloss over the fact it lost one of the nation's top receivers.
Already you have seen Oklahoma go to Blake Bell in short-yardage situations all over the field. Expect that to continue. And don't be surprised if more nuance parts of the package — Ronnell Lewis in on it, the former high school running back maybe even getting the ball — emerge in the coming weeks.
This Sooners team isn't sunk without Broyles — not by any means. But it does have something to prove in the next three weeks, beginning Saturday in Waco.