College Football Playoffs
If Bob Stoops, coach of the Oklahoma Sooners, can help his team simply make it to Columbus Day without them burying themselves in an insurmountable hole, then the 2016 University of Oklahoma Sooners football team should be in the driver’s seat for the Big 12 Championship game, and a repeat appearance in the College Football Playoff.
Oklahoma may very well have the most demanding non-conference schedule this season, featuring their season opener against the 15th ranked University of Houston Cougars (which will be played in NRG Stadium in Houston on Labor Day weekend), and their match-up with the sixth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes just two Saturdays later (thankfully, at least that game takes place in Norman).
After a merciful week off, the Sooners then get 13th-ranked TCU (in Ft. Worth), followed by a return trip to the Metroplex for the Red River Shootout against the University of Texas (the only team to defeat Oklahoma in the regular season last year). Past that, the only two real threats on the Sooners schedule — the University of Baylor Bears and in-state rival Oklahoma State University Cowboys — both travel to Norman for their match-ups.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield
Wherever the Sooners end up by the end of this season, it’ll likely be a direct correlation to the performance of star quarterback Baker Mayfield. Mayfield finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting a year ago, thanks to an “organized chaos”-style of improvisation that the Big 12 hasn’t seen since the days of Johnny Manziel. He threw for 3,700 yards and 36 touchdowns last season (and only seven interceptions), and added 405 yards and seven more scores rushing as well.
Mayfield won’t have to do it all himself, though. He still has running backs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon in the backfield. Perine’s blend of size, power, and toughness, complimented by Mixon’s explosive, game-breaking ability, gives the Sooners offense a very dangerous level of balance for when Mayfield isn’t orchestrating this high-flying passing attack.
Sooners will be hard to beat
It might seem strange to say this for a team coached by Bob Stoops, but if the Sooners defense can do just enough to get the football back in the hands of the offense, this team will be very hard to beat. Oklahoma did lose four key starters to graduation, but they’ll still have Ogbinnia Okoronkwo on the outside and Charles Walker on the inside of the defensive line, headlining one of the best groups in the conference. While the pass rush is supremely important in the pass-heavy Big 12, this team will go as far as the run defense takes them. In the two games the Sooners lost last season — against the Longhorns and the Clemson Tigers in the playoffs — they surrendered over 300 yards rushing in each game.
The back seven of the Sooners defense features Jordan Evans and a group of young and athletic options to fill in for the departed Dominique Alexander and Blake Martinez. Junior cornerback ,Jordan Evans, and junior safety, Steven Parker, headline an experienced secondary that’ll feature five upperclassmen when the team goes into nickel looks.
Still, no player will have the spotlight shining as brightly on him as Mayfield. If he — and the offense — can overcome a still-coming-together interior of the offensive line, and if one of the team’s receivers steps up to become Mayfield’s new favorite target (especially after the departure of wide receiver Sterling Shepard), there’s little reason to think the Oklahoma Sooners won’t be among college football’s “Final Four,” and Mayfield won’t receive another invitation to the Downtown Athletic Club in New York this December.