The Oklahoma Sooners come into this season fresh off of their 6th straight Big 12 Title. They were also able to secure Lincoln Riley his first bowl win as a head coach, as they defeated the Florida Gators easily by the score of 55-20. The start of the season last year was rough for the Sooners, but after the way the season ended, the expectations are high in Norman this year. Many are saying this is Oklahoma’s best chance to win a national championship in a long time. But the Sooners are 4 trips deep in the College Football Playoff, and they’ve received 4 semi-final exits. Can this be the season the Oklahoma Sooners finally get over that hump? Possibly.
The road back to that College Football Playoff was supposed to start in New Orleans at the Caesars Superdome against Tulane. However, due to Hurricane Ida, the season opener has been moved to Norman. This will give the Oklahoma Sooners four straight home games to open the season. One of those games will bring old rival Nebraska to town. A game that eight years ago might have been exciting, the two programs are just not on the same level anymore. Nebraska is already 0-1, losing to Illinois in their season opener. Good chance that one gets out of hand.
Oklahoma Sooners Conference Play
Every game on the Sooners schedule is a winnable game. But this is college football and any team can beat anyone on any given day. Just ask the Sooners themselves, who have lost to Kansas State the past two years.
This season, there are two games that I think the Sooners need to circle on the calendar. The first one comes in their annual rivalry game against the Texas Longhorns. It’s the start of the Steve Sarkisian era in Austin, and he would love nothing more than to be able to win this game in his first attempt. The last Texas coach to do so was Mack Brown. Ultimately though, simply because of the rivalry, Texas is always a game to watch out for.
Th second team to look out for is the Iowa State Cyclones. The Sooners lost to them in the regular season last year, but were able to win the rematch in the Big 12 championship. The game is in Norman this year. However, just two short years ago it took a Sooners stop on a two point conversion to secure the win against the Cyclones in Norman. And this years’ Iowa State team is much better than that one.
Key Players For The Sooners
Offensively, the Sooners return starting QB and Heisman Trophy favorite Spencer Rattler. Although he had a shaky start to the season, Rattler began to perform like everyone thought he would. When he returned to the Texas game after sitting out a few series, Rattler steadily improved throughout the season. He threw for over 3,000 yards and 28 touchdowns last season. Impressive numbers for a shortened season due to Covid-19. Rattler, along with weapons around him like Marvin Mims, Austin Stogner, Kennedy Brooks, Tennessee transfer Eric Gray, etc. The offense has a ton of talent, and it has the ability to put up video game numbers this season.
Defensively, this team will look the best it has in at least 5 years. Maybe more. Players such as Nik Bonnito, Perrion Winfrey, and Jalen Redmond are threats to get in the backfield every play. Yes, they lost Ronnie Perkins, but there are many players on this defense capable of stepping up to take over that role. They also lost players at the corner, like Tre Norwood and Tre Brown. But, just like at edge rusher, there is talent waiting to shine. Woodi Washington and DJ Graham are both players who saw a huge bump in playing time for good reason. Alex Grinch has done a great job coaching these players and instilling the “Speed D” mentality. If the Sooners want to get over that playoff hump, the defense is going to play a huge part.
It’s Now Or Never For The Oklahoma Sooners
Here’s the bottom line for the Oklahoma Sooners. They have had great teams in the past that had national championship talent on the offensive side of the ball. Unfortunately, they were held back by shaky defenses, often needing to score 40+ points to get the win. That excuse is no longer valid. Since the addition of Alex Grinch at defensive coordinator, the Sooners defense has done a complete 180.
The defense has become the real deal in Norman. And with many regular contenders, such as Alabama, Clemson, and Ohio State, having new QBs at the helm, the pieces are all there for the Sooners to finally win that National Championship that they have not won in over 20 years. But the pieces of the puzzle will not put themselves together. It is in their hands, and it is up to the Oklahoma Sooners themselves to execute on the level that they know they are capable of.
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