2016 Oklahoma Sooners Football Preview

Team Info
Oklahoma Sooners
Head Coach: Bob Stoops
2015 record: 11-2 overall, 8-1 Big 12
2015 Bowl Result: Lost to Clemson 37-17 in the Orange Bowl (Playoff Semifinal)
2016 Returning Starters: 7 offense, 6 defense

Betting Info
Odds to Win 2017 College Football Championship Game: 12/1
Odds to Win 2016 Big 12 Championship: -120
Regular Season Wins: under 10 -140 / over 10 +110
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Oklahoma looks to return to the playoffs in 2016.

Oklahoma looks to return to the playoffs in 2016.

Last year, the Oklahoma Sooners made a somewhat surprising run all the way to the College Football Playoffs. Sure, they were blown out by then undefeated Clemson 37-17 in the Orange Bowl but it was still an amazing season. The Sooners are once again projected to be a top five team in 2016 with an explosive offense led by Heisman contending quarterback Baker Mayfield. A challenging schedule and losing a lot of impact players on defense could be roadblocks, but the Sooners are heavy favorites to win the Big 12 title again in 2016 under legendary coach Bob Stoops.

Let’s take a look at the Sooners’ offense, defense, special teams, and schedule.

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Offense

Oklahoma returns 7 starters on offense, but the biggest returnee might be offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. The young and talented coordinator returns for his second season in Norman. He flirted with some head coaching positions in the off-season. Under Riley’s version of the popular Air Raid offense, the Sooners averaged 43.5 points and 508 yards per game.

Of course, the system is nothing without great players. It all starts with junior quarterback Baker Mayfield. The transfer from Texas Tech beat out incumbent Trevor Knight for the starting job last fall. Mayfield threw for 3,700 yards with 36 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. He also rushed for 405 yards with 7 touchdowns. Mayfield finished in the top five in the Heisman voting and could contend again this season. Freshman Austin Kendall is expected to be the back-up as Knight transferred to Texas A&M.

Oklahoma also had a powerful 1-2 punch at running back with Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon. After an incredible freshman season, Perine came into 2015 as a dark horse Heisman contender. He didn’t quite live up to those lofty expectations, mainly because the passing game was more dangerous with Mayfield at the helm. Still, Perine still rushed for 1,349 yards with 16 touchdowns, and also made 15 catches with a touchdown. Mixon made his Sooners’ debut after being suspended for all of 2014. He rushed for 753 yards with 7 touchdowns and also made 28 catches for 356 yards with 4 touchdowns. Daniel Brooks is also expected to get some carries as Alex Ross transferred to Missouri.

The Sooners do lose go-to receiver Sterling Shepard who was drafted by the New York Giants in the second round of the NFL draft. Shepard had 86 catches for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns. Dede Westbrook is expected to take over as the top wide receiver. He had 46 catches for 743 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2015. Durron Neal has also graduated after making 44 catches with 3 touchdowns last season. Mark Andrews had only 19 catches but 7 of them went for touchdowns. Jarvis Baxter will also start along with Penn State transfer Geno Lewis. Lewis made only 17 catches last year but made 55 for the Nittany Lions in 2014. Fullback Dimitri Flowers didn’t get any carries but he did have four touchdown catches last year.

The Sooners return 3 starters on the offensive line. They need to do a better job of protecting Mayfield as he was sacked 39 times last year. Left tackle Orlando Brown is projected to be first team all conference. Center Jonathan Alvarez and right guard Jamal Danley also return as starters.

Defense

Under defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, the Sooners had a top 40 defense allowing 22 points and 365 yards per game. The Sooners did struggle to stop the run at times allowing 163 yards per game on the ground. The Sooners do return 6 starters on defense, but they lose end Charles Tapper, linebackers Eric Striker and Dominique Alexander,  along with cornerback Zack Sanchez. All four were first team all Big 12 and are currently on NFL rosters.

End Charles Walker was second team all-Big 12 last season and returns to anchor the defensive line in the Sooners’ 3-3-5 defensive set. He had 6 sacks last year. Matt Dimon is projected to start at the other end and Matt Romar should start at tackle.

Jordan Evans is the only returning starter at linebacker but he was also second team All-Big 12 with 83 tackles. Tay Evans and Obo Okoronkwo will patrol the outside linebacker positions with Evans manning the center.

The secondary returns the most experience led by safety Ahmad Thomas and cornerback Jordan Thomas who were also second team All-Big 12. The duo combined for 8 interceptions and 121 tackles last year.

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Special Teams

Sophomore Austin Seibert returns as both the kicker and punter. He made 18 of 23 field goals last year but was an even better punter averaging 42 yards per punt and landed 23 inside the 20. Shepard and Ross handled the kickoff and punt return jobs respectively last year. Expect Mixon to take over both jobs in 2016.

Schedule and Analysis

Oklahoma has a very tough schedule with three potential top 20 teams in the first four games. The Sooners open with a trip to Houston for a technically neutral site game against Houston in NRG Field where the Texans play. Then comes a home game against UL-Monroe before a much anticipated non-conference showdown with Ohio State in Norman. Oklahoma then opens conference play at home against TCU. That is all before the Red River Rivalry in Dallas against Texas. The Longhorns gave Oklahoma their only conference loss last year. Oklahoma then hosts the two Kansas schools sandwiched around road trips to Texas Tech and Iowa State. The Sooners host Baylor, travel to West Virginia and then close the season at home against Bedlam rival Oklahoma State.

If Oklahoma can survive the early season gauntlet unscathed, then they have a great shot at returning to the playoffs. Both Oklahoma and Ohio State should be ranked in the top five when they meet in the third week. There are questions on defense, but another 10 win season seems probable.

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Posted by on Aug 4 2016. Filed under College Football, Headlines. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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