For the second year in a row, the Oklahoma Sooners were invited to the College Football Playoffs in 2018. Just like in 2017, the team was bounced in the semifinals. While there’s no shame in finishing as one of the four best teams in the nation for two straight years, questions abound as to whether or not Oklahoma can get over the proverbial hump.
The team’s offense was prolific during both of its fine years, and we can expect more of the same as long as head coach Lincoln Riley is patrolling the sidelines. Once again, a new signal caller will be behind center and tasked with leading the way.
Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts will have the keys to the offense. He immediately enters the conversation of Heisman Trophy hopefuls, but he also has a tough act to follow. Kyler Murray ran the Riley offense to perfection before heading off to the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals.
Based on recent history, the Sooners offense will be just fine. The defense is a different story. In the Big 12, that works out alright. The conference is known for shootouts which favor whoever has the ball last. However, that style of play makes it tough for Oklahoma to compete with the nation’s other top programs in the quest for a national title.
The Sooners enter 2019 as the favorites to take down the Big 12. They’re also one of the top choices to reach the playoffs once again. Current lines have Hurts installed as the third favorite for the Heisman. Said another way, expectations are high in Norman that another stellar campaign is on the way.
So with the season mere weeks away, are those expectations within reason for the Sooners? Can the team qualify for the playoffs for the third consecutive year? If they do get that far, is this the year they play for a national crown?
Let’s take a look and find the answers to those and many other questions looming around Oklahoma in 2019.
Oklahoma Sooners 2018 Season Recap
Record: 12-2 | Standings: 1-Big 12 | Playoffs: Lost CFP Semifinal
Florida Atlantic came to town for the Week 1 opener, but it wasn’t much of a game. After roaring out to a 42-0 lead at the half, the Sooners would coast to a 63-14 victory. UCLA came to Norman the following week with similar results, this time a 49-21 win for Oklahoma.
A road trip to Iowa State proved to be a solid test, but the Sooners still walked off the field with a 10-point win. The following week, Army came to town and pushed Oklahoma to the limit. The Sooners escaped with a 28-21 overtime victory.
Oklahoma lit the scoreboard up like a Christmas Tree the following week with a 66-33 win over visiting Baylor. They headed into the 2018 edition of the Red River Showdown with Texas with a mark of 5-0. A shootout erupted. When all was said and done, Texas picked up a 48-45 upset win.
That would be the only regular-season loss for Oklahoma. The team ripped off six wins in a row, but they did receive a couple of scares along the way. Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, and West Virginia all kept the margin of victory to five points or less while going down to defeat.
In the Big 12 title game, the Sooners would once again be matched up with Texas. Murray was outstanding with 379 passing yards and three TD throws as Oklahoma prevailed by a score of 39-27. When seeds for the CFP were announced, the Sooners had their tickets punched for the second year in a row.
Back in the 2017 playoffs, two overtimes were needed to decide things before Georgia knocked off Oklahoma by a score of 54-48. This time around, it wasn’t as close. Alabama controlled the game and advanced with a 45-34 win.
Murray was the Heisman winner last year for his stellar season. All told, he threw for 4,053 yards, 40 TDs versus seven picks, and ran for another 892 yards and 11 scores. For the year, Oklahoma ranked 1st in the nation for points for per game. Defense was not a strong suit as the program checked in at 96th in fewest points allowed per contest.
Oklahoma Sooners Offseason
Riley and offensive coordinator Bill Bedenbaugh both return to lead the Sooners lights out offense. Alex Grinch, formerly of Ohio State, has been brought on board as defensive coordinator. We’ll see if he can bring some much-needed improvement to that side of the ball.
On the attrition front, a whopping eight Oklahoma players were selected in the NFL Draft. Murray and wideout Marqise Brown were selected in the first-round. The team lost four offensive linemen in the middle rounds, and RB Rodney Anderson in the 6th round.
The program did a solid job on the recruiting front. The incoming class has been included among the Top 10 in the nation by a number of observers. The school landed a trio of five-star prospects and a bevy of four-star recruits. WRs Jadon Haselwood and Theo Wease join QB Spencer Rattler as potential future stars.
Hurts will be behind center this year, while Kennedy Brooks and Trey Sermon are penciled in atop the RB depth chart. Top targets for Hurts should include CeeDee Lamb and Grant Calcaterra. On defense, names to watch include DL Kenneth Mann and LB Kenneth Murray.
Oklahoma Sooners 2019 Schedule
|1||Sun. Sept.1||vs. Houston Cougars||7:30 PM||ABC|
|2||Sat. Sept.7||vs. South Dakota Coyotes||7:00 PM||TBD|
|3||Sat. Sept.14||at UCLA Bruins||8:00 PM||FOX|
|5||Sat. Sept.28||vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders||TBD||TBD|
|6||Sat. Oct.5||at Kansas Jayhawks||TBD||TBD|
|7||Sat. Oct.12||vs. Texas Longhorns*||12:00 PM||FOX|
|8||Sat. Oct.19||vs. West Virginia Mountaineers||TBD||TBD|
|9||Sat. Oct.26||at Kansas State Wildcats||TBD||TBD|
|11||Sat. Nov.9||vs. Iowa State Cyclones||TBD||TBD|
|12||Sat. Nov.16||at Baylor Bears||TBD||TBD|
|13||Sat. Nov.23||vs. TCU Horned Frogs||TBD||TBD|
|14||Sat. Nov.30||at Oklahoma State Cowboys||TBD||TBD|
*Game to be played at Cotton Bowl in Dallas
The Sooners open up the year with a potential shootout in Week 1. These two programs hooked up back in 2016 with the Cougars walking away with a 33-23 win. A cupcake matchup is on tap for Week 2, followed by a road trip to UCLA.
After a week off, Big 12 play kicks into a gear. The most interesting tests over the next five weeks will be the annual game with Texas, and a home game with West Virginia the following week. Another bye week follows before Oklahoma closes out the year with four interesting games in a row.
The span opens with a home date versus Iowa State and closes with a road tilt with rival Oklahoma State. All told, the schedule is pretty challenging. There may be some land mines built in for the Sooners to navigate around.
Oklahoma Sooners 2019 Outlook
Oklahoma is the favorite to take down the Big 12 with current odds of -125. Next up is Texas at +250, West Virginia at +1000, and Iowa State at +1100. The Sooners play Texas at a neutral site, and they’ll welcome West Virginia and Iowa State to town.
While that trio of games looks like the toughest on the schedule, there are other challenges on the 2019 docket. The opening game with Houston should at least be interesting, as should a Week 3 trip to UCLA. The regular season finale at Oklahoma State won’t be a cakewalk either.
Oklahoma Sooners 2019 Win Total Odds and Pick
Here is where the NCAAF betting sites have set the bar for the Sooners in 2019. The team won 11 regular season games and picked up another win in the Big 12 title game for each of the last two years. Both seasons would see the team head to the CFP and fall in the semifinal round.
Total Regular Season Wins:
Betting odds provided by: MyBookie.ag
Hurts is a talented prospect who should adapt nicely to the Oklahoma offense, but we will naturally have to wait and see. We don’t expect the Sooners to have any trouble putting points on the board. Holding opponents in check is a different animal, but perhaps the new DC will at least spark some improvement for this year.
As for the schedule, there are six games for which it wouldn’t be shocking to see Oklahoma lose. They’ll win most of them, but the Sooners could legitimately lose two regular season games this year. That places us on the Under for the Sooners.