Last January, four standout Oklahoma Sooners -- quarterback
On Saturday night against BYU, two of those players, Heisman-winner Bradford and preseason All-American Greshman, stood on the sideline in T-shirts (with Bradford's arm in a sling, no less) watching helplessly as kicker
It's astonishing to think that after months of preseason buildup in which the Sooners were near-universally regarded as a top-three team and Bradford sat at or near the top of every last Heisman list, both goals have likely been vanquished after just one game. Improbably, BYU now has the more realistic shot at Pasadena,
Yes, it's true that in recent years an early-season loss has been less than fatal for national title aspirants. Just last season, Oklahoma reached the BCS title game and Bradford took home the bronzed trophy despite enduring a loss to rival Texas much later than this one. But even before Bradford suffered his unfortunate shoulder injury late in Saturday's first half, it was clear these were not the same touchdown-happy Sooners of 2008.
Oklahoma's biggest question mark of the offseason -- an inexperienced offensive line that had to replace four decorated starters -- proved wholly unanswered. The Sooners committed three false-start penalties on their opening series alone and six offensive penalties in the first half. Bradford, who enjoyed the benefit of going virtually untouched most games the past two years, was knocked down three times on the Sooners' last possession of the half, the last one causing his injury.
It's a credit to Oklahoma's defense, which forced four BYU turnovers, that the Sooners managed to keep the Cougars at bay for nearly 57 minutes. But with 3:03 left, BYU receiver
The dagger: Yet another false-start penalty on third and 9 with 1:34 left.
BYU's upset was reminiscent of another opening-day stunner four years ago, when fellow Mountain West stalwart TCU went to Norman and knocked off the Sooners. That 2005 Oklahoma squad was also coming off a national-title game loss, and those Sooners were also breaking in a new O-line. The big difference: That team did not have the luxury of returning its Heisman-winning QB,
But can they beat Texas? Or Oklahoma State? Only if that offensive line gets better in a hurry.
Speaking of parallels, 25 years ago this weekend BYU stunned another third-ranked team, Pittsburgh, to begin its run to an undefeated season and national championship. In a
Hall, whose team also faces Florida State at home in two weeks, said at the time: "If you play big teams like an Oklahoma, or a Florida or a Texas -- teams that are in contention every year -- and then you go undefeated, I think you absolutely should get to play in [the title game]."
The Cougars are a long way from going undefeated, but they may have just cleared their most difficult hurdle.