Oklahoma Football Preview Part IV: Conference Breakdown II

image via wvillustrated.com

Let’s recap what I have so far: A close win against Houston (37-34 on a Seibert field goal). A blow out against Louisiana Monroe (66-17). A comfortable, emotional win against Ohio State (38-24). A loss at the hands of Gary Patterson (45-41). Oklahoma responds to the loss with a hard fought win against their Red River rival Texas (31-27). Oklahoma obliterating the fighting Bill Snyder’s once again (52-20). And finally, I have Baker Mayfield returning to Lubbock and winning with ease while throwing the football 8 times and handing it off 8o times (55-36).

This puts Oklahoma at 6-1 heading into the final stretch of their conference schedule. 6-1 with wins against Ohio State and Houston, who will still be in the polls by week eight in the college football season. Also, Oklahoma will have that “quality” loss in their back pocket with their loss to TCU, who will likely be one of the top four teams in the entire country this season.

The Sooners will be inside the top ten heading into their last five games, with a chance at the College Football Playoff still alive. They start this last stretch with games against Kansas and Iowa State, luckily. Coming off an emotional game in Lubbock, Oklahoma will have a bye week to really focus on themselves (sorry Jayhawk fans) getting healthier and working on their base offense and defense. With Iowa State, you get a team that has a big time quarterback, running back, and wide receiver trio in Joel Lanning, Michael Warren, and Allen Lazard. It could arguably be the best trio at those positions in the Big 12. Unfortunately for Iowa State, they are going to be awful in the trenches. Things tend to get tricky in the month of November in Ames, but the advantage goes to Oklahoma.

After those two games, Oklahoma goes through their last gauntlet with Baylor in Norman, a trip to West Virginia, and then coming back home for Bedlam to end the year. These three games will determine if Oklahoma reaches their goals for the 2016 season by ending up in the College Football Playoff.

Kansas in Norman

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Poor David Beaty. The Head Coach of the Kansas Jayhawks will get them turned around. It is already apparent that he has upped his recruiting, but he is still three to four years away.

PREDICTION: This one is ugly, but it moves Oklahoma to 7-1. Sooners win 48-10

Iowa State in Ames, Iowa (Thursday night game)

Oct 3, 2015; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones running back Mike Warren (2) runs for a first down against the Kansas Jayhawks at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 3, 2015; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones running back Mike Warren (2) runs for a first down against the Kansas Jayhawks at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Nothing better than a Thursday night in Ames to cause stress to Oklahoma’s fan base. Things tend to just get weird in these situations. As I mentioned above, I am huge buyer in Joel Lanning, Michael Warren, and Allen Lazard. I think they are arguably the best quarterback, running back, and wide receiver trio in the Big 12. The problem? Iowa State is going to be awful in the trenches.

Usually, I would mark this game as a potential hiccup. However, with Kansas the week before and this game coming on a Thursday night, Oklahoma doesn’t have to look ahead to a big game the week following.

Add in the fact that Iowa State’s offensive and defensive line will be sup-par, and the build-up of this game goes down dramatically. Oklahoma should be able to control this game in the trenches.

PREDICTION: Michael Warren and Iowa State throw the first punch of this game, but Oklahoma responds to win this one comfortably heading into their last three games of the season.

Oklahoma wins 41-20.

Baylor in Norman

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image via Tony Gutierrez / AP

This game is going to be a slug fest. It has for the last three years. Despite Oklahoma getting blown out in 2013 and 2014, they were able to respond impressively in a win in Waco in 2015. With Baylor, can they play for themselves and their pride? These players are having to deal with a Penn State-like scandal that they had nothing to do with. It is truly unfortunate, but football must be played despite all the other headlines heading into the 2016 season for Baylor.

OFFENSE: You know what you are going to get out of Baylor: 10 personnel, with the four receivers lined up as wide as they can get. Oklahoma will stay in their nickel package all game once again, and put their trust in their front six to make it happen. Shock Linwood and Johnny Jefferson return in the back field, creating an underrated one-two punch. Seth Russell (coming off neck surgery) and wide receivers, K.D. Cannon and Lynx Hawthorne, also return for Jim Grobe. This creates a quality offensive nucleus that should be able to put points at will.

I do think we will see Baylor throw the football more this year than even when Bryce Petty was with the Bears. The reason? They return only one offensive lineman. With K.D. Cannon, you have a replacement for Corey Coleman, but the receiving corps after that is somewhat suspect. Expect to see Baylor throw the football in short and intermediate routes 20-30 times a game in 2016.

DEFENSE: Defensively, Baylor loses five of their six players in their front six. They do return four of five in their secondary. If we learned one thing from last year’s game between Oklahoma and Baylor, it is that you must be good in the trenches to win. From years past, we learned Baylor was very good along their defensive front. The Bears’ defensive line in 2016 is going to be a major downgrade, which I think will be the determining factor in this series yet again. Although Phil Bennent can coach some defense, I just do not see them being anywhere near as good as they have been.

PREDICTION: Oklahoma should be able to dominate this game in the trenches. This is probably the first time in a while I have been confident in that Oklahoma can and will beat Baylor. All the factors (matchups, previous game (Baylor has TCU), and location) point towards the Sooners winning this one.

It may be ugly at first, as all the Baylor-Oklahoma games have been the last three years, but Oklahoma ends up wearing down the Bears. Sooners win 45-31.

West Virginia in Morgantown, West Virginia

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image via wvusports.com

An Oklahoma football season never goes smooth. They always lose to someone who they are not supposed to lose to. Traveling to Morgantown in late November is going to be a tough test for the Sooners.

OFFENSE: Dana Holgorsen returns a veteran offensive line, a quality receiving corps, a potential NFL running back in Rushel Shell, and return Skyler Howard, who only got better as the season went on last year. This is a scary thought for not only Oklahoma, but the rest of the Big 12.

The Mountaineer offense in 2015 was 16th in the nation in rushing offense. Wendell Smallwood is not walking through that door, but Rushel Shell is every bit as good. With receivers like Shelton Gibson and Daikiel Shorts also returning to help veteran quarterback Skyler Howard, West Virginia becomes my underdog pick to make some noise in the Big 12 this year.

DEFENSE: The Mountaineers do lose eight starters off their defense, but instead of replacing them with young players, Holgorsen is replacing them with juniors and seniors. Their secondary will take a huge drop in quality, but something tells me their front seven will still be serviceable. If West Virginia can hold teams under 28 points a game, they will be able to make a run at nine or ten wins this season.

PREDICTION: Oklahoma is coming off of Baylor, and West Virginia is coming off of Texas heading into this game. I think this may come into play if West Virginia is coming off a loss. If that is the case, I give the Mountaineers a huge edge in terms of non-football factors. Morgantown is not an easy place to play in the first place. Add in a top six ranked team, a chance at ten wins, and this environment is going to be tough to handle.

You truly do not know what either team is going to look like at this point in the season, but West Virginia’s offense may be the second most complete offense behind Oklahoma in the Big 12. Add in a serviceable defense, and this game becomes very difficult for the visiting team.

I see this being that one hiccup for Oklahoma this season.

West Virginia wins 35-34 in a heart break for the Sooners. This ends up knocking them out of the College Football Playoff.

Oklahoma State in Norman, Oklahoma

Oklahoma's Jordan Phillips walks off the field while the Oklahoma State Cowboys celebrate their Bedlam victory over the Sooners at Owen Field in Norman on Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014. The Cowboys beat the Sooners in overtime 38-35. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World

Oklahoma’s Jordan Phillips walks off the field while the Oklahoma State Cowboys celebrate their Bedlam victory over the Sooners at Owen Field in Norman on Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014. The Cowboys beat the Sooners in overtime 38-35. JOHN CLANTON/Tulsa World

Coming off a loss and a bye week, Oklahoma will be hungry on Senior Day against their in-state rival. A chance at a New Year’s Six bowl is still alive.

We all know what Oklahoma State brings to the table in 2016. They return 17 starters, including potential All-Americans in Mason Rudolph and James Washington. The two questions that remain are if Oklahoma State will be able to run the ball, and if they will be able to stop the run. I do not see them having the quality of rushers and blockers to do that. I think that will hinder them throughout 2016.

PREDICTION: I see Oklahoma State coming into this game with three losses. That means a New Year’s Six bowl is out of the picture for them. But for Oklahoma? A chance at the Sugar Bowl. Against who? None other than Alabama, as I do not see them making the College Football Playoff either.

I see Oklahoma winning this one comfortably. Of course no one knows how injuries and suspensions will play out, but based off today, I see Oklahoma winning 51-27.

 

2016 SEASON PREVIEW REVIEW (you like that?)

I see the West Virginia and Ohio State games going either way, but if Oklahoma can find a way to win both, they will join TCU in the College Football Playoff. Yep, two Big 12 teams in the Playoff. This will only happen if Oklahoma is the runner-up and TCU is the Big 12 Champion.

10-2 is what I have the Sooners going in 2016. This will put them in the Sugar Bowl facing an SEC opponent. I have Alabama losing twice as well, and that would set up another matchup for the two in New Orleans.

With this season outcome, I see Baker Mayfield returning in 2017, which could be one of the most talented and deepest teams in the Stoops Era.

 

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