Is the University of Oklahoma football program starting a downward trend under Coach Bob Stoops or was the disappointing 2014 season a fluke? OU has a wins total of 8.5 on 5Dimes NCAA odds for 2015 with the 'over' a -125 favorite.
I urge you to not overreact to what a team does in a bowl game in determining how said team might fare the following season. These are college kids. They don't carry over momentum from a bowl win eight months later. But College Football odds boards and poll voters clearly were swayed heavily by what Oklahoma did in the Sugar Bowl following the 2013 regular season. OU dominated third-ranked Alabama 45-31 in that one, with QB Travis Knight the star. But the Tide obviously didn't care much about that game after having their national title hopes dashed in an Iron Bowl loss to Auburn.
Oklahoma had Knight back and was No. 3 in the preseason USA Today Coaches Poll and No. 4 in the Associated Press Top 25 last summer. But the Sooners struggled to an 8-5 record, their worst since the same mark in 2009. To be fair, three of those losses could have gone the other way as Oklahoma lost by just four at No. 25 TCU (which was obviously underrated at the time), by 1 at home against No. 14 Kansas State, and by three at home in the annual Bedlam game against Oklahoma State.
That said, the Sooners were totally outclassed in a 49-14 home loss to Baylor; it was the Bears' first road win in 12 tries against the Sooners. And then Oklahoma didn't bother showing up in a 40-6 embarrassment to No. 17 Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl. The Tigers didn't even have injured starting quarterback Deshaun Watson for that one.
As we mentioned, don't be fooled by the reactions from those setting the polls. If anything, it could have opened up some value for our College Football picks on the Sooners this season. Lets take a look at how this team has geared up for this season and figure out just where we can aim to profit.
Mayfield Will Be Under Center
We are starting to see head coaches around the country name their starting quarterbacks for the season and that happened at Oklahoma on Monday when Stoops announced that Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield had beaten out Knight and Cody Thomas. Knight completed just 56.6 percent of his passes last year with 14 touchdowns and 12 picks, while Thomas hit on just 45.5 percent for two touchdowns and four picks.
Mayfield was the Big 12 Freshman of the Year in 2013, winning the starting job at Texas Tech as a walk-on. He completed 218-for-340 passes for 2,315 yards, 12 touchdowns and nine picks. He had a falling out with the coaching staff and decided to transfer before TTU's bowl game against Arizona State and had to sit out last year. The QB claimed that TTU didn't give him a scholarship as promised and Texas Tech originally denied Mayfield's release even though he was a walk-on. There is not good blood between that school and the Mayfield family.
Because of his experience in Tech's up-tempo Air Raid offense, Mayfield was long the favorite to win the OU job because the Sooners' new offensive coordinator is Lincoln Riley, who ran a similar system while at East Carolina. OU should be passing more this season even though they have one of the nation's top returning running backs in sophomore Samaje Perine, who rushed 263 times for 1,713 yards and 21 scores in 2014. He set the single-game FBS record with 427 yards rushing on Nov. 22, 2014, against Kansas. He had two other games with at least 213 yards. Perine is +2700 to win the Heisman. Overall, OU is set to return 13 starters.
As for the schedule, the Oklahoma Sooners will roll Akron in the season opener on Sept. 5 but then have a tough one at No. 25 Tennessee on Sept. 12. OU beat the visiting Vols 34-10 last year, but UT is a program on the rise. Then Oklahoma will pummel Tulsa before starting Big 12 play. It's not impossible that the Sooners are 9-0 entering their Nov. 14 game at No. 4 Baylor. The two biggest Big 12 challenges before that are against Texas in Dallas on Oct. 10 and at Kansas State the following week. Baylor has won three of the past four meetings. OU's regular season ends at home vs. No. 2 TCU and at Oklahoma State. So it's clearly a loaded back end.
NCAAF Free Picks: Oklahoma is +4000 to win the national title, +600 third-favorite to win the Big 12 and +800 to make the four-team playoff. I'm going 'over' the wins total as OU shouldn't be worse than 9-3, but I don't see it winning the Big 12 or making the playoff.