2019 Oklahoma Sooners Football Predictions and Odds to Win National Championship
The first question we must ask when looking at the Sooners is if Jalen Hurts is going to win the Heisman. On the surface, it's a bit of a silly question. But the last two seasons a transfer QB has won the Heisman for the Sooners, and coach Lincoln Riley has never coached a season without having a QB win the Heisman, so it is far from a crazy idea. Hurts has more meaningful experience than Kyler Murray had last year - it's not every day you see a grad transfer with a 26-2 record as a starter - and is every bit as driven to prove that his last team was wrong to let him go. I'd clearly and emphatically bet against it happening, but I couldn't really be too shocked if Hurts does win it all.
That is not the only storyline around this team. They are still the class of the Big 12, and still by a fairly significant margin. But Texas is improved, and a few other teams will be respectable, so it won't necessarily be the cakewalk that it has been in recent years. It is still Oklahoma's conference to lose, and I don't think that they will, but it is less certain than it has been.
2018 in a Nutshell
When you wind up in the playoff, and your star wins the Heisman, you know you have had a pretty solid season. But it wasn't a perfect one by any means. They started off with big wins in three straight but then needed overtime to get past Army in one of the more bizarre games of the season. They rolled over Baylor next, but then lost a shootout to Texas in what was one of the most entertaining games of the year. That was a rough loss, but far from a fatal one. They faced a softer schedule after that, and though there were a couple of close games - they beat Texas Tech by five and West Virginia by three - the offense was universally ferocious. The defense was a bit of a trainwreck, though, and that made things closer than they needed to be. They got revenge on Texas in the Big 12 title game, but in their playoff game against Alabama they couldn't score enough against that great defense to overcome their own offensive shortcomings, and they lost 45-34 to see their season come to an end.
Key Additions and Departures
The biggest change in many ways is that Lincoln Riley now runs the show on defense. That unit badly needs to improve, so Grinch comes after running the defense for Urban Meyer in Ohio State last year, and Mike Leach at Washington State before that. He's not necessarily a slam dunk hire, though he is being paid like one. The defense was dead last in the country in pass defense last year, so it's hard to tell if the fact that nine starters are back is a good thing or not. There is a ton of room for Grinch to improve, though, and even a reasonable improvement would have a huge impact.
The biggest loss, of course, is Kyler Murray, who was the second straight Oklahoma QB to be the first overall pick. The presence of Hurts, who transferred to the team from Alabama, eases that pain considerably. Murray headlined a draft class of eight, with QB Marquise Brown and OT Cody Ford the other big losses.
The draft class was very strong, including three five-stars. One of those, QB Spencer Rattler, is a strong contender for the all-name team. The team will be hoping he can redshirt this year before taking over after Hurts graduates.
Biggest Area of Concern
There is an obvious concern as to whether Hurts can excel in a far more free-form, loose offense than he experienced at Alabama. With his skill and poise, though, and the excellent coaching he will have on that side of the ball - not to mention the talent around him - that concern is minimized. The bigger concern has to be the defense. It was just plain horrible last year and put way too much pressure on the offense too often. If they are as bad as they were last year, the team isn't likely headed to the playoff again. We aren't going to see them suddenly turn into a Top 10 defense, but we do need to see a big leap forward. And I am surely not the only one who is uncertain that that will happen.
Oklahoma Sooners Schedule Analysis
Aside from a likely laugher against South Dakota, the opening month features games against teams that will likely not be nearly as good as they should be under their high-profile coaches - Houston, UCLA, and to a lesser extent Texas Tech and Kansas. Then comes that big annual showdown with Texas in Dallas. That should really be the only true test on the schedule unless this team decides to beat themselves like they did last year against Army and tried to do a couple of other times. The Bedlam game at Oklahoma State can always be scary, and TCU could be tough, but the Sooners should be solid favorites in every game they play this year unless the wheels really fall off.
2019-20 Oklahoma Sooners Betting Odds and Trends
At +1000 to win the national title at BetOnline, Oklahoma is the fifth choice behind only co-favorites Alabama and Clemson at +225 along with Georgia and Ohio State. Jalen Hurts is the third choice to win the Heisman at +800, which places him well behind the guy he lost his job at Alabama to, favorite Tua Tagovailoa, at +250, and Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence at +300.
2019-20 Oklahoma Sooners Predictions and College Football Picks
I am cautiously optimistic about Hurts, though I don't think he will come close to replicating the freakish performance of Murray last year. So, the offense won't be quite as good. But the defense should be solidly better. I expect this team to win the Big 12, and they will be a playoff contender as a result. But I still don't see them winning a playoff game. I don't see any value in their futures price - in actual or relative terms.
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