All in all Oklahoma doesn't have too much to complain about concerning last year. They lost in the Orange Bowl to the team that lost in the National Championship Game, Clemson. That seems about right - they were a very good team but a step or two from the best. Well, as long as they can take care of a thing or two this season, they have the chance to be pretty much exactly the same thing again this year.
They have an elite quarterback - Baker Mayfield is the fourth choice in Heisman voting at +1000 at BetOnline) - two very strong running backs, and some very nice pieces defensively. After years of treading water, this coaching staff has found its mojo again, too, and is a real asset for the team.
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There are some real concerns, though. The offensive line has to replace two people, and the prospects are concerning to say the least. The receivers aren't all they could be - or at least haven't yet proven that they are. And the defense has some big holes to fill. If they can smooth over those things, though, they certainly have the potential - and definitely are in the conference - to do some real damage and make it two years in a row for playoff appearances.
Key Additions and Departures
Charles Tapper, Eric Striker, Zack Sanchez, Dominique Alexander. That's four All-Big 12 defenders no longer on the team. Ouch. There are some obvious guys who could step up and be leaders and stars - they had four second-team All-Big 12 defenders, and all four are back this year. The line and the secondary should be fine, but the linebacking corps has to terrify anyone who likes this team. Jordan Evans, one of those second teamers, is back. That's it. The rest of the linebackers will be new, and so far at least there hasn't been anyone that has jumped out and really dominated the hunt for starting roles. Things could be a little bleak there, and that could ultimately be a problem for the team.
As we mentioned earlier, there has been some turnover on the offensive line and the receiving corps. With Mayfield at the helm, though, and the duo of Perine and Mixon sure to terrorize opponents on the ground, it's pretty easy to imagine this offense at least as solid as they were last year. If they can mesh early then they could definitely take a step forward. I am not nearly as concerned about changes when they have the ball as I am when their opponents do.
Oklahoma Sooners Schedule Analysis
Normally at this point I complain about how easy the nonconference schedules are for major contenders. That really isn't the case here. The Sooners will have two chances to make major statements - or derail their playoff hopes - before they even start their nine-game league schedule. They open up in a neutral-site contest against Houston - a team that is far more scary now than they have been in a long time, and perhaps ever. Then, after a rest game against Louisiana-Monroe, they host major contender Ohio State. So, that's a Top-15 team to start with, followed by a likely Top 3 team two weeks later. We will know a whole lot more about this team and how good they really are three weeks in than pretty much any other team in the country. Beyond that, there isn't too much to worry about - the Big Ten isn't exactly good this year. They play likely their toughest conference game first, and that comes on the road at TCU, but they have a week off after Ohio State to get ready for it, so that could be worse.
This team very likely has a base level of nine wins. It's those other three games that will determine how the season goes for them.
2016-17 Oklahoma Betting Odds and Trends
The Sooners are tied with Florida State and LSU as the fifth choice to win the NCAA Championship at +1200 at Bovada, behind Week 3 opponent Ohio State and others. They are the heavy -140 favorites to win the Big 12. BetOnline has the season win total set at 10, with the "under" favored at -125.
We can only hope that the Sooners are as useful for bettors this year as they were last season - they were 9-4 ATS and went "over" the total in eight of 13 games.
2016-17 Oklahoma Predictions and College Football Picks
Last year this team was 11-2 after the regular season, and that got them into the playoff. This year I expect the same record but not necessarily the same result. They will split their two tough nonconference games - my guess is beating Houston and losing to Ohio State - before running the table in the Big 12. If the loss to the Buckeyes is decisive then they could be in trouble in terms of the playoff because they aren't likely to get a lot of style points from their conference wins this year. More likely in my eyes is 11-1 and a consolation bowl.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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