NORMAN — Once again, Oklahoma’s 2010 non-conference football schedule should rank among the toughest in the nation. Three of OU’s four non-league foes are coming off bowl appearances, including one BCS bowl showing. Like last season’s, this year’s slate won’t be easy to roll through unscathed. But if the Sooners do, it could set the table for what could become a special season.
Utah State→Top offensive returnee: Running back Robert Turbin, who ran for almost 1,300 yards and 13 TDs and averaged 6.3 yards a carry as a sophomore last season. Turbin, however, will be entering 2010 coming off a torn ACL. →Top defensive returnee: Outside linebacker Bobby Wagner, who comes back after leading the Aggies with 114 tackles, including seven for loss, last season. Wagner anchors a veteran and experienced front seven. →Early breakdown: Like most WAC schools, Utah State is not short of offensive firepower, and the Aggies are better than they were in 2007 when they were blasted 54-3 by the Sooners. But physically, Utah State will struggle to match up with OU.
Florida State→Top offensive returnee: Quarterback Christian Ponder, who threw for 2,717 yards and 14 TDs last season despite missing the final four games with a shoulder injury. Turnovers have plagued the Colleyville, Texas, native, but Ponder is plenty talented and capable of big plays with his arm and his feet. →Top defensive returnee: Linebacker Nigel Bradham, who had 93 tackles last season, hopes to lead the defense back to respectability. →Early breakdown: The Seminoles boast enough talent to make a run at the ACC title, and are capable of knocking off the Sooners in Norman. But whether FSU comes close to achieving either hinges heavily on whether first-year defensive coordinator Mark Stoops (brother of OU coach Bob Stoops) can revive a defense that was last in the ACC last year.
Air Force→Top offensive returnee: Fullback Jared Tew, who finished 2009 with a team-high 970 rushing yards and nine TDs. →Top defensive returnee: Cornerback Anthony Wright Jr., who last season had seven interceptions, including three in the Armed Forces Bowl. →Early breakdown: The Academy is coming off a 47-20 over Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl, in which the Falcons picked off Heisman hopeful quarterback Case Keenum six times. Air Force’s option attack is difficult to prepare for, but the Sooners should be able to overwhelm a Falcon offensive line that will be breaking in five new starters.
at Cincinnati→Top offensive returnee: Quarterback Zach Collaros, who was so effective in relief of injured starter Tony Pike last season, he nearly kept Pike on the sidelines for good. In four starts, Collaros completed 78 percent of his passes for eight TDs to just one pick. →Top defensive returnee: Linebacker J.K. Schaffer, who last season was second on the team in tackles and interceptions. Schaffer earned a 4.0 grade-point average this past school year. →Early breakdown: The Bearcats endured a tough end to their otherwise magical season, first losing coach Brian Kelly to Notre Dame, then losing the Sugar Bowl to Florida. All eyes will be on Kelly’s replacement, Butch Jones, who will be asked to sustain the resurgence UC has recently enjoyed. The Bearcat faithful will be energized when OU comes to town in a game that will be viewed as a benchmark of the program.
OU's 2010 football scheduleSept. 4: Utah State (2009 record: 4-8) Sept. 11: Florida State (7-6) Sept. 18: Air Force (8-5) Sept. 25: Cincinnati (12-1) Oct. 2: Texas (13-1) Oct 16: Iowa State (7-6) Oct. 23: at Missouri (8-5) Oct. 30: Colorado (3-9) Nov. 6: at Texas A&M (6-7) Nov. 13: Texas Tech (9-4) Nov. 20: at Baylor (4-8) Nov. 27: at Oklahoma State (9-4)