College Football Picks Top Ten Countdown- #6 Oklahoma
Oklahoma is one of the hardest teams to rank in the preseason this year. The Sooners looked like a well-oiled machine in their Sugar Bowl win over Alabama. Based on that win alone, it would be easy to have Oklahoma in the top three since they return so much talent. I do believe it is important to keep some perspective though. This is a very similar team to the one that lost 36-20 as a 12 point favorite against the Texas Longhorns.
Bob Stoops’ team returns five starters on offense and nine starters on defense. The non-conference schedule is about as easy as it gets for a Big 12 team, and the conference schedule is certainly manageable. The path is definitely laid out for Oklahoma to have a tremendous season, but I’m still a bit wary about this team. Sure, they could beat anyone on any given day, but they could also lose to a lot of people because of their inconsistency.
What does this team look like on both sides of the ball? Let’s take a closer look.
2014 Oklahoma Offense Preview
Blake Bell was the starting quarterback for the majority of 2013 for Oklahoma. Bell is now a tight end. The starting quarterback job is all Trevor Knight’s now, and based on his play in the Sugar Bowl win, I believe Knight is the much better option. Knight is a very accurate passer, and Oklahoma’s passing game suffered under Bell last year. The Sooners averaged just 199 yards per game through the air last season. Knight also averaged 6.6 yards per carry on the ground, so he is a dual-threat. Baker Mayfield might be able to play immediately this year as well, and he could give Stoops another great option under center. Oklahoma is set at the quarterback spot.
Oklahoma’s biggest losses from a year ago are at the running back position where they loss Clay and Williams. The Sooners will likely start with sophomore Keith Ford in the backfield this year. Oklahoma has recruited well in the backfield the past few years, but having so much inexperience is always a concern. As far as the line they will be running behind, it should be very good. First-team All-American Gabe Ikard is gone, but Oklahoma returns 107 career starts across the offensive line. This should be the best offensive line in the Big 12, so that’s a clear boost to both Knight and the running backs. The loss of Jalen Saunders will hurt the receivers, but these wide receivers statistics should be up across the board because of a better passing quarterback.
The Oklahoma offense will likely be better than a year ago. They will be more pass oriented than last year. If the running game can continue to be efficient this unit can be great.
2014 Oklahoma Defense
The Sooners defense was their strength for the majority of last season. Returning nine starters from a defense that finished 20th in the nation in total defense is always a good thing. Frank Shannon was the team’s leading tackler and leader from the middle linebacker spot last year, and he’ll be the heart and soul of the defense once again. Oklahoma’s linebackers all three return and they were the first, second, and sixth leading tacklers on last year’s team. A clear strength for this team. Oklahoma’s defense changed schemes a bit last year, and it helped the defensive line become more dangerous. Depth isn’t an issue for Oklahoma on the defensive front, and they should be able to wear down some of their Big 12 opponents in the trenches.
The secondary has traditionally been an area of strength for Oklahoma, and I don’t see that changing this year. There aren’t any superstars in the secondary, but these are a bunch of guys who do their jobs well and play within the system. Overall, this Oklahoma defense should definitely be better and more consistent than a year ago. They return nine starters and they are capable of achieving big things.
College Football Betting Odds from BetOnline
2014 Oklahoma Odds to win National Title: +1,200
Odds to win Big 12: -150
Oklahoma to make 4 team playoff (Yes): +180
Oklahoma Season Win Total: 10.5
Oklahoma is a really dangerous team, but I don’t have enough faith in this team to rank them any higher. They are clearly the favorite in the Big 12, but at -150 there is no way I’d lay that price for them to win the conference. The Big 12 should be much improved overall. Keep an eye on their game at TCU on October 4. Oklahoma will be good, but maybe a bit overrated by oddsmakers at least early on.
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