2014 Oklahoma Sooners Team Preview
Head Coach: Bob Stoops
2013 record: 11-2 overall, 7-2 Big 12
2013 Bowl Result: Beat Alabama 45-31 in the Sugar Bowl
2013 Returning Starters: 5 offense, 9 defense
Odds to Win 2015 College Football Championship Game: 13/1
Odds to Win 2014 Big 12 Championship: -130
Regular Season Wins: under 10 -115 / over 10 -115
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The Oklahoma Sooners were supposed to have a down year in 2013, but the team overachieved and they ended the season with only 2 losses. The season ended on a high note with a come from behind last second victory against Bedlam rival Oklahoma State and a Sugar Bowl upset over Alabama. Now, the Sooners return 16 starters and look primed to at least win another Big 12 title and possibly contend for one of the four spots in the inaugural College Football Playoff in January. Let’s take a look at the Sooners on offense, defense and special teams along with the schedule.
Last season, fall camp opened with a three way battle for quarterback between Trevor Knight, Blake Bell, and Kendal Thompson. Knight and Bell split most of the snaps but Thompson took a few mostly in mop-up duty. After a dominating Sugar Bowl where Knight threw for 348 yards with 4 touchdowns and a pick against the vaunted Alabama defense, the job is his in 2014 barring injury. In fact Thompson transferred to Utah and Bell moved to tight end. Knight threw for only 819 yards last year with 9 touchdowns and 5 interceptions splitting time with Bell last season. He is also dangerous with his legs, having rushed for 445 yards and two touchdowns, including rushing for over 100 yards in Sooner routs over Louisiana-Monroe and Iowa State. Knight will need to be more consistent than he was in his redshirt freshman campaign a year ago.
The receiving corps loses a lot of weapons in Jalen Saunders, Lacoltan Bester, and Jaz Reynolds who are all with NFL teams now. Sterling Shepard is the leading returning receiver and he had 51 catches for 603 yards with 7 touchdowns, and a rushing touchdown. Durron Neal had 13 catches for 176 yards, but no other returning Oklahoma receiver had more than 2 catches last year. The big and bulky Bell could develop into a dangerous weapon at tight end. The receiving corps did receive a boost when receiver Dorial Green-Beckham transferred from Missouri after being dismissed from the Missouri team after some legal issues. He caught 59 passes last year including 6 catches for 144 yards and 2 touchdowns against Auburn in the SEC Championship game. Oklahoma is trying to appeal to get Green-Beckham eligible this season instead of having to sit out a year.
The top three halfbacks (Brennan Clay, Damien Williams and Roy Finch) and fullback Trey Millard are also gone to NFL teams this season. All four were key parts of the passing game as well. Sophomores Alex Ross and Keith Ford look to be the feature backs this season. Each had a few carries last year, but it was hard to find playing time in such a star-studded backfield. Of course Knight and Bell took a lot of carries as well, and will continue to do so this season. Five star recruit Joe Mixon was expected to be a superstar. He still might but his status is in question after a woman claimed he assaulted her. As of this writing Mixon has not been arrested or suspended from the team.
The offensive line must replace All-American center Gabe Ikard, but looks to be in good shape with tackles Tyrus Thompson and Daryl Williams returning.
The Oklahoma front seven could be the best in the country. Junior defensive end Charles Tapper was first team All-Big 12 last season with 5.5 sacks.
The linebackers should be dominant. Eric Striker had 10.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks last season. Dominique Alexander was the Big 12 defensive freshman of the year in 2013 with 80 tackles. Frank Shannon could face disciplinary action after an alleged sexual assault in the off season.
Cornerback Zack Sanchez headlines a young but talented secondary. Sanchez was a freshman All-American last year.
Senior kicker Michael Hunnicutt is a reliable weapon. He made 24 of 27 field goals last year and 47 of 48 extra points. His longest was 47 yards but he only attempted 4 kicks from 40 yards and out. Punter Jed Barnett also returns after averaging 41.7 yards per punt last season and planting a large number inside the 20. Shepard and Mixon could be the return men barring disciplinary action for Mixon.
Oklahoma faces a potentially tough game at home against Tennessee in the third game of the season. They should win that game, and then face tough conference road games at West Virginia and TCU before the Red River Rivalry game against Texas. The Longhorns beat the Sooners last year. If Oklahoma can get by the Texas game, they get the other conference favorites Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State in Norman. The Sooners will be favored in every game, but seemingly every year, Oklahoma loses a game they should win. I think an 11-1 record sounds about right with a playoff berth.
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