I cannot think of a college football head coach in a better situation than Big Game Bob Stoops. His main rival in Austin is ablaze. His second major rival, Oklahoma State, still faces a decades-old battle with the administration and maniacal billionaire booster T. Boone Pickens over proper financial support for the program, in what will likely be a down season in Stillwater.
Oklahoma has the blue blood cache to generate massive TV ratings and overlook the general weakness of their weekly competition and conference — all while nestled comfortably on the borders of the nation’s most fertile recruiting ground: Texas. Could there be a better time to pillage elite level Texas stars than now? The aforementioned UT (Editor’s note: UT has had the Big 12’s best recruiting classes the last two years by a mile), Baylor humiliating itself into oblivion, and the two best teams being TCU and fucking Houston? I think not.
This year’s Sooners are not just the beneficiaries of the collapse of their conference, but a truly exceptional team paced by perhaps the nation’s most explosive offense. Baker Mayfield is a star, a multi-dimensional quarterback in the vain of a far less asshole Johnny Manziel, with the numbers to prove it. Samaje Perine is a Heisman caliber running back in a more rush oriented offense, but a nice compliment heading into the second season of the “air raid” system brought to Norman by Offensive Coordinator Lincoln Riley. Behind a line returning four starters, and four of 2014’s six most prolific pass catchers, the Oklahoma offense will put up weekly video game numbers against the porous defenses of the Big 12.
For the first time in what seems like forever, I’m actually really excited about the Sooner defense. The secondary should be one of the best in the nation, highlighted by 2015 All-Conference corner Jordan Thomas and safety Steven Parker. Combined, the defensive backfield for Oklahoma has almost 70 total starts, a staggering number for a top-tier program with high level recruiting and early NFL departures. Overall, the Sooners return eight multi-year starters to a unit that was already one of the best in the conference under Coordinator Mike Stoops.
My concern for Oklahoma, which may come as a shock as a member of the Big 12, is actually the difficulty of their schedule, though namely the out-of-conference slate. Starting with Houston, the best hope for a playoff crasher outside of the Power 5, Oklahoma also faces an immensely talented, but inexperienced, Ohio State team in Norman week 4. Both of these games will present early season tests, especially for the defense, as Houston runs a similar multi-faceted spread attack as Urban Meyer under former Buckeye Offensive Coordinator and now Houston head coach Tom Herman. While I feel Oklahoma survives both of these games, though narrowly, neither have any effect on the Big 12 race. However, a single loss could doom the Sooners to a barely outside the top 4 finish, as the strength of the SEC/Big 10 and one of the ACC super teams (FSU/CLEMSON) essentially guarantee three playoff spots off the table.
In conference, the most difficult game is at TCU. The Horned Frogs, however, lose their two best overall players in QB Trevonne Boykin and WR Josh Doctson, with Coach Gary Patterson, though a phenomenal program builder, failing to secure a comparable talent base to “reload” to that of Oklahoma. Picking the most difficult Big 12 matchup is like last call at the local watering hole post-breakup. Sure there’s a lot to choose from and some are okay, but nothing to write home about, or brag to your boys.
Bet all the fun coupons you can possibly afford, then bet a few more. Barring an avian flu outbreak in Norman, and/or the actual combustion of the Big 12 conference, Oklahoma is a guaranteed conference champion..
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