The college football season can’t come soon enough. With every season comes new faces and possibilities. Who will be the teams to watch out for this season? This will be the 15th of many posts covering the top 25 teams in the country and will cover no. 11 Oklahoma Sooners.
Although Baker Mayfield is gone, the Sooners are the frontrunners in the Big XII. Lincoln Reilly is entering his second year as the head coach at Oklahoma after an appearance in the College Football Playoff last season. With 12 returning starters and a Big 12 that is possibly not at its peak in 2018, means Oklahoma should be thinking big once again.
In 2017, Oklahoma ranked third in scoring, 27th in rushing and third in passing. Six starters return on offense, but to truly find out how good this team can be, the quarterback situation needs to be figured out.
Kyler Murray is the frontrunner to win the job. Murray was formerly a highly-rated recruit who went to Texas A&M then transferred to Oklahoma. He is very athletic and was even selected in the first round of the 2018 MLB Draft. His specialty is being a dual-threat player. He will battle it out with Austin Kendall for the job, that may not be decided until after the season starts.
Marquise Brown emerged as a star last season at wide receiver. He finished the year with 1,095 receiving yards and seven touchdowns on 57 catches. Another talented receiver in CeeDee Lamb is back after an 807 yard and seven touchdown season. They may not get as many touches as last season with Mayfield at quarterback, but the duo are highly-skilled.
Last season, Rodney Anderson emerged as a star. He had 1,161 yards and 13 touchdowns on 188 carries. He will see an even heavier load this season and figures to be the focal point of the offense while the new quarterback gets their wet.
Even though Orlando Brown is now in the NFL, the offensive line has experience and talent. Bobby Evans will move over to left tackle to fill in for Brown and should be able to play solidly.
Defense hasn’t been the forte of the Sooners in quite some time. They ranked 68th in points allowed per game, 54th against the run and 87th against the pass. Six starters return, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be better because they lost some key players.
Two of the three starters from the three-man defensive front are back. Amani Bledsoe’s production will need to increase at defensive end. Marquise Overton did a good job of being disruptive at nose guard. Those two will be joined by newcomer Neville Gallimore on the defensive line.
Kenneth Murray and Caleb Kelly are back at linebacker. Both had over 50 total tackles last season and will now take on leadership roles. Outside of those two, there is some inexperience, but also some athleticism to work with.
Tre Norwood and Parnell Motley got some playing time at corner last season and are decent. The safety position needs to be figured out, especially against Big XII offenses.
The defense needs to be able to force turnovers, as they can’t fully shut down their opponents.
In their non-conference schedule, the Sooners play FAU (home), UCLA (home) and Army (home). Florida Atlantic will present a tough challenge in week one, as the Sooners will be breaking in a new quarterback and the Owls have a lot of talent on defense. If they play their best, they will win all of these games.
They’ll have tough games in the Big XII against Iowa State (away), Texas (Dallas, TX) and West Virginia (away). With a new quarterback and an average-at-best defense, the Sooners won’t win them all, but should win the majority of their games.
Lincoln Reilly can lead this team anywhere from nine to 11 wins.
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