After coming so close to playing in the national championship game a season ago, the Oklahoma Sooners aren’t going to settle for anything less than a national title in 2018. An October loss to Iowa State was Oklahoma’s only blemish during the regular season in Lincoln Riley’s first season as head coach. The Sooners knocked off Ohio State, Oklahoma State, and TCU twice on their way to another Big 12 championship. However, the Sooners lost a double-overtime thriller to Georgia in the national semifinals to keep them out of the title game.
It goes without saying that Riley and the Sooners will be looking for some redemption in 2018. That’s not to say a fourth-straight Big 12 championship wouldn’t be an outstanding accomplishment for Oklahoma. But getting back to the CFP and winning a national championship is the team’s primary goal for the upcoming season.
The oddsmakers seem to agree that the Sooners are legitimate national championship contenders. Oklahoma is listed at +2000 to win the CFP title, tied for the sixth-best odds in the country. The Sooners are also projected to win 10 games in 2018. Considering their recent track record, it’s a good bet that they’ll be able to match or exceed that amount.
The biggest question Oklahoma faces is at quarterback. Replacing reigning Heisman winner Baker Mayfield won’t be easy. However, the Sooners have two viable candidates in Kyler Murray and Austin Kendall. Neither won the job outright in spring practice, so the competition continues. However, the Sooners should be able to win games with either at quarterback.
Regardless of who starts at quarterback, Oklahoma should have a healthy running game behind Rodney Anderson, who rushed for over 1,100 yards and 13 touchdowns a season ago. As usual, the Sooners are stacked at wide receiver. CeeDee Lamb and Marquise Brown will be the big-play receivers to watch.
To be fair, Oklahoma’s defense may not be an elite group this season. Fortunately for Oklahoma, it’s possible to get away with a mediocre defense in the Big 12. The Sooners are a little young in the secondary and their not yet sure if they have game-changers along the defensive line. But there’s enough talent on the roster for Oklahoma to find answers to questions as the season moves along.
A team with a modest defense and an unproven quarterback may not sound like a national championship contender. But Oklahoma is one of the best programs in the country at plugging in new faces without a drop-off. Just look at the way Riley took over for Bob Stoops without a hiccup. In short, they should have no problem picking up where they left off last year and putting together another 10-12 win season.
|Sep 1||Florida Atlantic Owls||12:00 PM|
|Sep 8||UCLA Bruins||1:00 PM|
|Sep 15||@ Iowa State Cyclones||12:00 PM|
|Sep 22||Army Black Knights||1:00 PM|
|Sep 29||Baylor Bears||1:00 PM|
|Oct 6||@ Texas Longhorns||1:00 PM|
|Oct 20||@ Texas Christian Horned Frogs||1:00 PM|
|Oct 27||Kansas State Wildcats||1:00 PM|
|Nov 3||@ Texas Tech Red Raiders||1:00 PM|
|Nov 10||Oklahoma State Cowboys||1:00 PM|
|Nov 17||Kansas Jayhawks||1:00 PM|
|Nov 23||@ West Virginia Mountaineers||8:00 PM|
The Sooners should be aware of several of potential speed bumps on their schedule. They’ll get Lane Kiffin’s Florida Atlantic the opening week of the season. The next week, they’ll see Chip Kelly and UCLA. Those two teams are not the usual early-season cupcakes. That will force the Sooners to start fast and have their quarterback situation figured out by the end of camp.
Oklahoma will then open the Big 12 season at Iowa State, the team that picked them off last season. There are also road games against TCU and West Virginia, two teams with a chance to challenge Oklahoma inside the Big 12 this year. There’s also the Red River Rivalry game against Texas on neutral ground at the Cotton Bowl. In short, once the Sooners start the Big 12 portion of their schedule, their toughest games all come away from home.
Of course, having three or four potential challengers in the Big 12 also means that Oklahoma can sustain one loss and still be in contention for a spot in the College Football Playoff. With the return of the Big 12 title game, the Sooners can also add an extra quality win late in the season, which should help secure a playoff spot as long as they don’t lose more than once.