We received great feedback on the local perspective included within the Ohio State Team Preview. As a result, we reached out to Oklahoma Insider, Andrew Gilman (@andrewgilmanok), for his take on the 2017 Sooners, which you will find in the italicized text below.
Out are running backs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon, both lost to the NFL. Out is leading receiver and Heisman finalist Dede Westbrook, also to the NFL, and most importantly, out is Bob Stoops, who retired in June.
That’s a lot of departures for a team that’s expected to start in the top 10.
But as much as change as there has been, fans around Norman and beyond are excited about offensive coordinator-turned head coach Lincoln Riley. And then there’s quarterback Baker Mayfield and an established offensive line that should definitely help ease the transition of not only Riley to head coach, but to whoever it is the Sooners decide will be the feature running back and top receiver.
Optimism is high despite all the newness, because this is a team that made the playoff two seasons ago and has won the Big 12 the past two years, too. After last season’s 1-2 start, which included losses to Houston and Ohio State, the Sooners finished 10-0.
Mayfield and an experienced offensive line will make up for a lot of deficiencies and questions on offense, but the defense, which allowed 854 yards and 59 points to Texas Tech last season, while improved later in the year, will need to improve.
Mike Stoops is back as defensive coordinator, but he doesn’t have the life preserver of brother Bob anymore. Mike’s first change is moving back to a 4-3 defense that should suit his best players a lot more. Watch for Ogbonnia Okoronkwo to fill the Erik Striker role as a rush Linebacker. He will be joined by outside linebacker Caleb Kelly, a rare five-star Linebacker recruit in the Big 12, who is expected to be flexible enough to play some in coverage, too.
The defense does need to figure out a way to get more takeaways; they only had 17 a year ago after managing 27 in 2015. The secondary, featuring returnees Steven Parker at strong safety and Will Johnson at free safety, has to figure out a way to pile up some interceptions.
But, this is the Big 12. All it really takes in this conference is a handful of stops per game, especially when you have Mayfield, who has thrown for 76 touchdowns and only 15 interceptions in his two seasons at OU. The question beyond making up for the 2,435 yards rushing from Mixon and Perine from last season is whether Mayfield can play under control and not feel like he has to make up for all of the departures.
Jeffery Mead and newcomer Jeff Badet from Kentucky are the biggest names at receiver, but Rodney Anderson and Abdul Adams will also get their chances. Ultimately, everything is fluid at both slots. There are no set answers as of right now.
Real good chance the Sooners struggle at Ohio State, no shame in that, but there’s a real good chance they get settled as the Big 12 season moves on. If Mayfield stays healthy, the Sooners will be in the Big 12 Championship Game.
Expected Win Totals
CW Projected Total Wins: 10.4
CW Projected Big 12 Wins: 7.9
Posted Total Wins: O 9.5 -135
Home Field Advantage: 3.5
Opening Power Rating: 67
|Sep 2||UTEP||Oklahoma||OKLA -37.5|
|Sep 9||Oklahoma||Ohio St.||OSU -7.5|
|Sep 16||Tulane||Oklahoma||OKLA -28|
|Sep 23||Oklahoma||Baylor||BAY +7.5|
|Oct 7||Iowa St.||Oklahoma||OKLA -21|
|Oct 14||Oklahoma||Texas||TEX +6|
|Oct 21||Oklahoma||Kansas St.||KSU +5.5|
|Oct 28||Texas Tech||Oklahoma||OKLA -19.5|
|Nov 4||Oklahoma||Oklahoma St.||OKST +3|
|Nov 11||TCU||Oklahoma||OKLA -14|
|Nov 18||Oklahoma||Kansas||KU +26|
|Nov 25||West Virginia||Oklahoma||OKLA -22.5|
|Legend: Coming off bye / Overlook watch / Back to Back road travel / Neutral site|
- OU is currently the odds-on favorite to win the Big 12 at +100, which I don’t see much value in. However, books posted OU -295 to make the Big 12 Championship game, which seems short for the most talented team in the conference finishing top two in the Big 12.
- The season win total of 9.5 looks about right. The list of talented teams (Oklahoma State, Kansas State) and talented head coaches (Texas, Baylor) is rising in the conference.
- Oklahoma will travel to Ohio State in early September seeking revenge for an embarrassing 21-point loss at home last season
- Take UTEP at anything over +42 week one against Oklahoma, who should rest starters very early in the second half with Ohio State on deck. They also could have a letdown the week after Ohio State vs. Tulane before they begin conference play.
- Be careful if you are anticipating a letdown from the Sooners after the Red River Rivalry, as OU has throttled Kansas State the past two seasons the week after playing Texas.
- Jeff Badet (WR) – The graduate transfer was an accomplished receiver last season at Kentucky where he had a team-best 670 yards, 31 catches and four touchdowns. He also led the SEC last season in yards per catch, averaging 21.6 yards per game. OU has had good success with transfers at receiver in the past, getting great production from Justin Brown (Penn State) and Jalen Saunders (Fresno State). Badet is somewhat proven, but what makes him an X-factor at OU is how he’ll fit in a system at OU that doesn’t have a No. 1 receiver.
- Mark Andrews (TE) – The 6-foot-5, 254-pounder has had great moments at OU, but he’s also been on a team with a No. 1 receiver each year of his career. This is the first year it’s the opposite. Andrews is a matchup issue. Good speed and size. Great ability, too. Will the Sooners actually use him? He has 14 touchdowns in his career, but only 50 catches total. Sterling Shepard and Dede Westbrook had a lot to do with that. This season, there’s no better option who’s proven than Andrews.
The over is 10-1 in games following the last 11 Boomer straight up losses.
Baker Mayfield is 8-0 against ranked Big 12 teams.
The Sooners have won 16 Big 12 games in a row. Their last loss came to unranked Texas in October of 2015.
It all goes right if…
OU is going to go somewhere between 8-4 and 12-0. There’s just no chance outside of OSU, Texas, Kansas State and Ohio State the Sooners drop a game. It hardly seems possible. So, things will trend toward 11-1 or better if Baker Mayfield finds form with a new receiver like he did last season with Dede Westbrook and Sterling Shepard before that. Meanwhile, if the defense can play better, not great, but better, the Sooners won’t have to ask Mayfield to do more than he needs to. I assume OU will find a running back who’s capable and they will have no issue compiling rushing yards behind this offensive line. Even a loss to Ohio State won’t keep OU out of the playoff if the Sooners win the rest of em – and that could easily happen.
It all goes wrong if…
The defense doesn’t improve and the Sooners lose badly to Ohio State, which could send the team into a downward spiral. Yes, that happened last year, but the chances of OU bouncing back with this defense a second year in a row without the steadying influence of Bob Stoops is unlikely. If the Sooners can’t find a reliable receiver and don’t settle on a running back, fans will start worrying. A loss to Oklahoma State could be devastating, too, especially if their in-state rival keeps them out of the Big 12 Title game.
- UTEP +44 Week 1