The Oklahoma Sooners are looking to bounce back from a decent but disappointing 2020 season and return to the College Football Playoff. Their 9-2 record landed them in second place in the Big 12, though they ripped off eight straight wins to close out the season. Their young roster took early lumps but finished strong with their blowout win against Florida in the Cotton Bowl.
This is typical for a talented roster lacking experience. Unfortunately, college football is unforgiving, and at most the Sooners can afford one loss. They ended at No. 6 thanks to wins against Oklahoma State, Iowa State, and Florida.
Expectations are high again for Lincoln Riley’s crew. On the NCAAF futures odds, they’re No. 3 behind the usual suspects, Alabama and Clemson. Having the Heisman front runner at quarterback and entering another season under defensive coordinator Alex Grinch are their best assets.
Will it be enough? The conference is again loaded with troublesome teams and the Sooners must endure a tricky set of games to close out the season. They should take care of business until the Red River Showdown in early-October against Texas. Then things ramp up in a three-game stretch at Baylor, hosting Iowa State, and at Oklahoma State.
The offense will roll through many foes with ease. Rattler is the most physically gifted passer yet in Riley’s short but impressive time at Oklahoma, which is quite the statement considering he’s produced two No. 1 overall picks. His arm talent is phenomenal, and his ability to create plays outside of the pocket was uncanny in 2020. His sophomore season should continue to see jumps in efficiency and decision-making.
It’s also easy to love his playmakers. Running backs Kennedy Brooks and Rhamondre Stevenson are truly impact players at a position that can be filled with average talents who put up numbers. Instead, getting Brooks back, in particular, will give Rattler a legitimate star and workhorse to rely upon when the passing game bogs down.
The potential at wide receiver is insane as well. Former five-star trio Jadon Haselwood, Theo Wease and Trejan Bridges will finally play together, and join Marvin Mims as rotational contributors. Expectations should be extremely high for Haselwood and Wease in particular based on their high school film and skill sets.
The defense will ultimately determine their fate, as usual. Their defensive line sees a veteran cast of starters back and it’s paramount they have that type of leadership and physicality. Their losses over the years have often come back to issues on their defensive front, but having this deep rotation of seniors and an influx of talented youngsters can vault them to real contender status.
The back-end of the unit is certainly the issue on the roster, though. Even with a couple of returning linebackers, the secondary has multiple doubts. It’s good the Sooners can break them in softly against weak foes because there’s a real chance the starters are sophomores at corner and question marks at safety.
Some of this is just the reality of college football. Losing Tre Norwood to the NFL hurts badly, so now the unit will likely be relying on seniors who simply haven’t developed into worthwhile starters. Maybe they take the leap and help more, but my feeling is the Sooners should work in younger talents who have more potential to be helpful instead of just playable bodies.
The Sooners should be back in the playoff this year. Their schedule isn’t easy, but Iowa State must replace Brock Purdy, and none of the other programs in the conference have the same firepower or recruiting prowess right now. On the top sportsbooks, we’re going to bet on them making it, and Rattler continuing his ascent into 2023’s top overall pick by winning the Heisman.
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.