What the Loss of Adrian Peterson Means to the Sooners
by Trevor Whenham - 10/18/2006
The Oklahoma Sooners haven't exactly had fate smiling on them this year. They lost quarterback Rhett Bomar just before the season started because of his stupidity, then got knocked from the ranks of the undefeated by Oregon in what was quite possibly the worst case of officiating college football has seen this decade. Or longer. On top of that, Sooners' fans had to put up with another loss against hated Texas.
All of that pales in comparison, however, to the blow they suffered last week against Iowa State. With six and a half minutes left in a game that had long since been decided, Peterson made an arguably unnecessary dive into the endzone to score his second touchdown and he broke his collarbone. It's somehow fitting that the injury came at the end of a jaw dropping 53-yard run.
Peterson will miss the rest of the regular season, and is far from guaranteed to return for a bowl game. To say that the injury is a big blow to the Sooners is one of the biggest understatements you could possibly make. The team was already going nowhere fast, but without Peterson the second straight disappointing season will only get more frustrating.
The first impact that the injury will have is on anyone who holds a ticket in the Heisman futures pool. Peterson was already looking at Troy Smith's taillights in the race, but he was likely the only guy who was going to catch the Ohio State pivot unless Smith faltered terribly. With Peterson out, Smith better get his suit pressed, because he will be going to New York to collect the award unless something goes very wrong.
You don't have to feel bad for Peterson's future. If anything, this injury will improve his already massive draft potential. A broken collarbone is not an injury that will concern a pro team, because it heals easily and shouldn't cause ongoing or recurring problems. Pro scouts will actually be happy about the injury, since they already know what he can do and it means Peterson's body won't have to take any more abuse before he goes pro. In other words, if you don't tune into next year's draft soon after it starts then you will miss seeing Peterson get drafted.
Though this will be the longest stretch that the Sooners will be without Peterson, their fans won't soon forget that he also basically missed four games last season with an ankle sprain. If you need an indicator of just how good Peterson is, he is only a junior and he has really only played a bit over two seasons with all the missed games, but he was no more than two games away from setting the all-time Oklahoma mark for yards carried. With Peterson on the sidelines last year the team managed to go 3-1. That may make fans more optimistic, but the news isn't as optimistic for bettors. Without Peterson contributing, the Sooners had bad ATS losses as a favorite against Baylor and as underdog against Texas.
If Oklahoma coaches don't call their peers at Louisville, they will at least want to watch tape of the Cardinals' last five games. The impact of losing Michael Bush is about the same for Louisville as Peterson's loss is to Oklahoma. The teams are also similar in that they don't have a definite No. 1 option behind their star back and will have to settle for running back by committee.
Oklahoma's starter will be Allen Patrick, a junior who was converted from cornerback last year. He has never started and has just 43 career carries for 198 yards and two touchdowns. That's not a lot of experience, but it is a decent average per carry. Joining him in the backfield is junior Jacob Gutierrez. He has just 50 career carries, and 30 of those came last season when he filled in for Peterson with 173 yards and two touchdowns against Baylor. It's telling that, even with that solid fill-in performance, Baylor still easily covered the 14-point spread. That could be a trend for the rest of the season. In Louisville's case they have gone from 363 yards rushing in the game Bush played to 195 yards per game without him. The Cards have gone 3-2 in that stretch, but the usually explosive team has gone under in three of the five games. Louisville has a much better passing game to fall back on than Oklahoma does, however.
It seems odd to say, but the biggest blow to the Oklahoma running game could be a lack of depth in their secondary. Reggie Smith is probably the team's most talented remaining running back, with explosive running and good hands that he showed off in high school. With the shortage of bodies on defense, however, Smith has been shifted to defensive back. He's a solid starter, though he is nursing a minor injury, but he'll be missed when Oklahoma has the ball.
If the Sooners have something on their side, it's their remaining schedule. They have the surprising Missouri Tigers and the Texas A&M team that gave Missouri their first loss last week, but they have some softer spots against Baylor, Oklahoma State and the pathetic Colorado Buffaloes. That means that there are some winnable games left on the schedule, even with a severely challenged offense. It's not a schedule, however, that will likely provide a lot of betting opportunities. Until we see Oklahoma play a couple of times we won't know how they can handle their situation, both on the field and in their heads. That probably makes the soundest Oklahoma betting play a pass for at least a few weeks.