In recent years, the Oklahoma Sooners football team has been the dominating force of the Big 12 football.
They’ve taken this conference by storm and have the team to do much the same in the 2019 season. But many pundits believe they will have their hands full with a resurgence Texas Longhorns program. The Horns have a Heisman candidate at quarterback, a defense that is steadily improving, and an offensive line that can control most of their games in the trenches.
But I’m here to tell you today that Oklahoma’s reign at the top of the conference is far from over. In fact, there are eight specific reasons why they will win the Big 12 again, and why you should bet on them to do so.
Their offense is certain to be a juggernaut once again. That’s easy to see with their supreme skill talent and one of the brightest offensive minds in the game, Lincoln Riley. And their defense can probably only get better after finishing 84th in S&P defense last season.
Texas, Iowa State, even TCU and Baylor, are all talented teams bound to make waves in the Big 12 this season. But these are the reasons why they won’t catch the Sooners in 2019.
Odds can be found MyBookie, where the Sooners are still a great value at -165.
And you also can take a look to the Oklahoma Sooners 2019 win total prediction.
Lincoln Riley Simply Makes Quarterbacks Their Best
First, he took a transfer named Baker Mayfield, who had plenty of improvisation skills and moxie. He turned him into a better pocket passer and a Heisman winner.
Then he did the same thing with Kyler Murray, an incredible athlete who he turned into a top overall pick in the NFL Draft this season.
Now he brings in a third straight transfer quarterback who could become the third straight Heisman-winning QB for them. That would be Jalen Hurts, who comes over from Alabama with 48 career touchdown passes in 28 starts.
Hurts may not have as much mobility as Murray or the creativeness of Mayfield, but he was still good enough to start (at least for 28 games) with the greatest program of the decade. He has plenty enough arm strength to work within this wide-open offense and the intelligence to pick up the philosophy quickly.
Riley has proven in these last few years to have an unprecedented amount of successes with his quarterbacks. That’s why even though Hurts is being thrust straight into the starter’s role, it’s safe he’ll be prepared.
And if not, expect Riley to have prized freshman Spence Rattler ready behind him.
Too Many Skill Players on the Perimeter
I could talk at length about the wide receivers’ groups at Alabama and Clemson. But I think Oklahoma’s could be just as good, if not better.
Even with Marquise Brown being drafted in the first round this year, his departure isn’t that impactful. That’s partly because Ceedee Lamb is a Biletnikoff Award favorite for the best receiver in the game.
And Charleston Rambo could very well be the next great Sooner receiver across from him. Not a lot of people are talking about this sophomore yet, but they will be. And he’s at least third or fourth option in the passing game behind Lamb, Grant Calcaterra (TE, six touchdown receptions in 2018), and possibly A.D. Miller.
Mykel Jones is another guy who will be on highlight reels. He made an impact on the 2017 unit but had a nagging injury that kept him out most of last season.
Based on stats alone, this group looks good. But throw in their recruiting profiles and the Sooners’ pedigree of receivers, and this will certainly be an overpowering group.
Just as Balanced as 2018
After missing time because of a Title IX investigation, star running back Kennedy Brooks may take a little time getting up to speed. But the fact they have another guy who had 13 rushing touchdowns last season is a spoil of riches.
Trey Sermon and Brooks combined for 25 scores on the ground last season and over 2,000 yards. Brooks had 8.9 yards-per-carry, video game-like numbers. And with another mobile quarterback at the helm, this team will once again be lethal in the ground game.
A lot of that will come from having the best offensive line in the conference. But more on that in a minute.
He could see an expanded role in the passing game. That creates even more of a problem for opponents who have to cover burners like Lamb and Rambo deep. He’s already elusive and bruising enough in the run game.
And with Brooks back on the field without penalty from the NCAA, this will be a two-headed monster that sizes up with anyone in the country. And more importantly, it’s a combo that no defensive line in the Big 12—except maybe Iowa State—can contain.
Lack of Concern Replacing O-Line
Now on to the offensive line.
Yes, this is a group that lost All-Americans in Ben Powers and Dru Sarnia, along with an early draft pick, Cody Ford. They did lose a combined 103 starts on the line.
But they have a center in Creed Humphrey who is better than any guys in the conference at his position. Tyrese Robinson at guard should make a huge impact as only a sophomore.
This group never fails to deliver. They were a key component to the top-scoring offense in college football last year and also ranked 4th in line yards by Football Outsiders. Over the last five years, the Sooners have finished 4th, 2nd, 12th, 21st, and 10th in the latter category, showing their incredible consistency.
Don’t expect anything different this year.
Enter the Grinch
The Sooners are extremely excited about hiring away defensive coordinator Alex Grinch from Ohio State.
Oklahoma finished 89th in S&P pass defense last season. It’s still a huge concern this year and could be an even bigger one if corner Tre Norwood Jr. has to miss time with a knee injury. Still, this team has the experience, just not great results.
Enter Grinch, who turned a mediocre Washington State secondary into a top 25 S&P pass defense in 2015, a year after they’d been 109th. The Ohio State unit he co-coordinated last season gave up way too many explosive plays but was still able to finish 26th in overall S&P defense.
He’ll have tougher quarterbacks to handle in this conference, from Sam Ehlinger (Texas), Charlie Brewer (Baylor), and Brock Purdy (Iowa State). But he may be the top up-and-coming defensive coordinator in college football right now and has a proven track record to match the hype.
This defense may not be what it was back when they beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl in 2014. But they will be a much-improved group nonetheless.
They Will Have a Top-5 Defense Within the Conference
This may seem outlandish even if it isn’t a great feat. After all, this team gave up the most yards-per-play of any team in the conference and were next-to-last in points allowed.
Texas, Iowa State, TCU, and Baylor are all team that should be better defensively. After that though, it’s a wide-open field. And if Oklahoma were to find the No. 5 spot behind these teams, that in combination with perhaps college football’s most lethal offense would leave them untouchable in the Big 12.
The front-seven has several key pieces sticking around. Ronnie Perkins and Neville Gallimore could both compete for all-conference honors on the defensive line. The first had five sacks and eight tackles for a loss as a true freshman last year. Gallimore is a massive run-stuffer at 330lbs.
And perhaps neither is the most talented player on this defense. That title likely goes to Kenneth Murray at linebacker, who compiled 155 tackles and 12.5 tackles-for-loss in 2018. He’s considered a first-teamer in the Big 12 by several publications, and it’s easy to see why with his instincts.
I think having four other returning starters in the secondary should alleviate the process of replacement a bit. They still have a long way to go, but it’s hard to see them no making a big step up from being 119th in defensive efficiency.
How It All Sets Up
Oklahoma will have a bye before they open up conference play against Texas Tech.
Having two weeks to prepare for a home game and seven straight wins against the Red Raiders should make that win all but a surety. The Sooners also get the luck of the draw having Kansas and Kansas State as two of their Big 12 road opponents.
Kansas may be a team with more enthusiasm under Les Miles, but the talent gap is extremely wide. Same goes against Kansas State. They’re also adapting culture-wise to the departure of Bill Snyder at head coach.
Extra time to prepare for Iowa State will give Lincoln Riley a slight edge in that one too. Matt Campbell is a mastermind of sorts for ISU, but he has a lot more holes to cover in his offense.
Finally, OU will have two tough road games, at Baylor and at Oklahoma State for bedlam. It’s a tough four-week stretch overall. But at least these two games aren’t back-to-back. By comparison, Texas has to play back-to-back road contests against Iowa State and Baylor are way tougher.
Even the schedule is in Oklahoma’s favor this season.
Their Competition Isn’t as Close as Many Think
Texas is getting a lot of hype for what they did in the Sugar Bowl last year against Georgia. No one can take that result away from them.
But there are only three returning starters on defense and eighth overall. They lost their best receiver and one of only two elite ones. That’s on top of having to replace three o-linemen and the top rusher.
You can also take away the three players that had over three sacks and the top trio of tacklers.
It’s still a well-coached team with a fair share of individual gems. But it’s not necessarily a complete product. The same goes for Iowa State.
I think the Cyclones could finish second in the conference. They have a high-volume passer in Purdy and a strong front-seven for winning trench wars and covering tight ends. But the secondary doesn’t impress me aside from Greg Eisworth (CB) and they don’t have high-caliber weapons on the perimeter.
If the secondary improves, the Sooners are going to coast to a Big 12 title. Sure, there will always be a barn-burner here and there. But I’ll trust the greatest offensive mind the college game (Riley) when that time comes.