The Oklahoma Sooners did not achieve everything they wanted last season, but they still achieved a lot. They produced a Heisman Trophy winner for the second straight season, with Kyler Murray following in Baker Mayfield’s footsteps. The Sooners won a fourth straight Big 12 championship after going four years from 2011-2014 without a single Big 12 title. Oklahoma returned to the College Football Playoff, marking three times in the past four seasons that it has reached the playoff. The Sooners remained the team to beat in the Big 12 Conference.
Regular Season Win Total: 10 Wins
Changes From Last Season
The Sooners lose Kyler Murray to the pros, which will hurt, but they did gain a very good quarterback in the offseason. Jalen Hurts, who had been Alabama’s starting quarterback in 2017 and was the Crimson Tide’s backup quarterback in 2018, transferred to Oklahoma, where Lincoln Riley will be able to coach and develop him on a regular basis. The Sooners do lose Cody Ford and other quality offensive linemen, which could be a point of concern, and is something Riley will have to address in training camp during the lead-up to the regular season. However, Oklahoma also fired Mike Stoops as defensive coordinator and can now claim to have a brighter future on the defensive side of the ball. This leads to the X-factor for the team below:
2019 X-Factor: Alex Grinch
The new Oklahoma defensive coordinator, who is credited with turning around Washington State’s defense under coach Mike Leach, and who is seen as a rising star in the coaching profession, could be the biggest new addition to the Oklahoma operation this season, even more than Jalen Hurts. Getting a quality transfer quarterback is big, but getting a highly-valued defensive coordinator might represent an even bigger breakthrough for the Sooners. It is important to note that Grinch has coached for coaches (Leach) who run high-octane, high-scoring offenses. Grinch knows how to coach a defense on a roster which focuses on offense and has a playing style in which defenses are going to give up a reasonable amount of points. Oklahoma’s defense doesn’t need to dominate, but it does need to get turnovers and hold opponents under 30 points per game. If it can simply do that, Oklahoma will be a College Football Playoff team, a Big 12 champion, and a contender for the national title. It’s all up to Grinch himself.
The non-conference schedule is easy, with Houston and UCLA being unprepared for the coming season and dealing with all sorts of transitions. OU will easily get three wins there. The Big 12 will be the harder part. Oklahoma gets TCU and West Virginia at home, so those games should be wins. Texas is the supremely tough game on this schedule, and Oklahoma State is a road game. At worst, Oklahoma will go 7-2 in the Big 12, which would mean a 10-win season, but if 10 wins is the worst one can expect from the Sooners, that’s a good reason to go with the over in this case.
Prediction: Over 10 wins