Oklahoma Sooners at a glance
2018 record: 12-2
2018 Big 12 record: 8-1
Key additions: QB Jalen Hurts, WR Jadon Haselwood, WR Theo Wease
Key losses: QB Kyler Murray, WR Marquise Brown, LB Curtis Bolton
Last year Oklahoma looked nearly unstoppable, as eventual Heisman winner Kyler Murray led the way to a 12-2 record, with just one three-point loss to Texas in the regular season and a defeat by Alabama in the College Football Playoff. Murray moved on to the NFL as the No. 1 overall draft pick by the Arizona Cardinals, but Oklahoma should feel confident in his replacement in the coming season.
Alabama graduate transfer Jalen Hurts, who went 26-2 as a starter for the Crimson Tide, will step into Murray’s role with hopes of picking up where Oklahoma left off last year. It won’t be easy to improve on the success of 2018, but the Sooners can certainly replicate it. They did just fine the year after 2017 Heisman winner Baker Mayfield shipped off to the NFL following another 12-2 season and national semifinal loss. Hurts is capable of bringing Oklahoma back to the promised land, but he’ll have his work cut out for him with the loss of four starting offensive linemen.
In addition to rebuilding the offensive line, Oklahoma must make up for the departure of star receiver Marquise Brown (1,318, 10 touchdowns). CeeDee Lamb (1,158 yards, 11 TDs) should achieve another stellar year as the go-to option for Hurts, while first-team All-Big 12 tight end Grant Calcaterra will provide another option. Oklahoma also added 5-star receivers Jadon Haselwood and Theo Wease Jr., who could make an immediate impact.
The biggest question is defense. The Sooners return 10 starters on a unit that allowed more than 450 yards per game and nearly 160 rushing. The remedy to Oklahoma’s defensive woes may lie in new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, who served as DC for Ohio State last season.
Clemson and Alabama are once again the obvious choices to win the College Football Playoff. If any team can break the tradition of the Tigers or Crimson Tide holding the national championship trophy at season’s end, though, Oklahoma has one of the best chances to do so.
Alabama knocked Oklahoma out of the playoff last season with a 45-34 win, before Clemson handed the Crimson Tide a 44-16 defeat in the national championship game. Oklahoma is just on the outside looking in, so if you think the Sooners can make it back to the playoff and potentially knock off two powerhouses, go ahead and back them. Clemson doesn’t look to be slowing down, however, and Alabama should be just as talented in 2019, as well.
The Sooners will kick off the season with a home game against Houston on September 1. They should start the year off with a win and skip past South Dakota to face an interesting road test against Chip Kelly and UCLA. Oklahoma will come out on top, but it won’t be as easy as the 49-21 thumping of the Bruins last season.
The Red River Rivalry game against Texas will be the biggest regular-season challenge for the Sooners, while Oklahoma has potential to slip up in games against West Virginia, a Les Miles-led Kansas, Baylor and Oklahoma State. Maybe it’s too optimistic, but banking on a seamless transition with Jalen Hurts and an improved defense, Oklahoma will hit the over and may just go undefeated.