In the most condescending first sentence ever, the cupcakes are now out of the way for us and on to Oklahoma and our conference schedule. While the Sooners have played no one of importance (UTEP and Kent State), they are 2-0 with convincing wins in both contests. Oklahoma currently has a top 10 defense in terms of scoring, as they are only allowing 8 points per game, and while I expect Nebraska to be the best offense they’ve faced to date, this is by far the best defense we have seen. Nebraska is currently 54th in points per game offensively, this could be tough sledding for us. On the other side of the ball, the Sooners are putting up close to 40 points per game and our defense is currently 98th in the country in points allowed.
Last year we went toe to toe with Oklahoma who had many peoples pick for the Heisman and they returned 15 starters. This year they only return 10 starters and they lost their head coach as well as key players in the portal. But unlike Nebraska, they have been consistently getting top 10 recruiting classes and the portal has been kind to them, starting with their QB.
Further, Oklahoma is one of only five Power 5 teams in the country to not have a turnover yet. With us needing things like that to get us in games, that doesn’t bode well for Saturday.
Ugh… let’s just get into it.
You think that we have a chance coming into 2022 when Lincoln Riley leaves and Caleb Williams follows him to USC and Spencer Rattler heads to South Carolina. But just as we were feeling good, in transfers Dillon Gabriel from Central Florida. All of a sudden Oklahoma has a preseason all-conference QB at the helm, and Jeff Lebby who was OC at UCF for Gabriels first year coincidentally gets his guy back. Gabriel is completing 70% of his passes this season with 5 touchdowns and 0 INTs.
Runningback gets interesting. 1,000 yard rusher Kennedy Brooks is gone from last year, but by all accounts they are deeper this year than they have been in previous seasons. Eric Gray has won the starting job and is getting a bulk of the carries, but there’s a RB controversy brewing as many think Marcus Major should be getting more looks at playing time for the Sooners. They give a really good 1-2 punch. They also have a true freshman top 100 player in the country Javontae Barnes to go to if they need.
Four of Oklahoma’s top five WRs from a year ago are gone, and while that would typically give me hope, they just reload it seems here. They lost 2nd leading WR Mike Woods to the NFL. Mario Williams followed Lincoln Riley and his QB to USC. Jadon Haselwood transferred to Arkansas. And Cody Jackson headed to Houston (crazy when you think about where our guys transfer out to). But back is their leading WR from a year ago Marvin Mims, and he’s off to a hot start with 10 receptions for 244 yards and 2 TDs. Their #2 WR is Theo Wease, who missed nearly all of last year with injury, but he was their second leading WR in 2020 so he is more than capable. Drake Stoops is sitting third on their team in receptions, and they brought in a transfer from Arizona State and Missouri to help bolster the WR corps. What’s tough about Oklahoma is they have their studs, but the “pieces” they spread it around to are all a bunch of Trey Palmers, so our defense is going to need to be ready.
The TE room is led by an all name team coach in Joe Jon Finley, but he has to revamp his room from a year ago. Jeremiah Hall left for the NFL and their #2 TE took off to South Carolina. This means fifth year senior Brayden Willis takes over as starter, and he’s off and running with 2 touchdowns already from Dillon Gabriel. The TEs weren’t used a ton by Lebby down at Ole Miss, but they have one that is on pace with our guy Vokolek.
Moving to OL, Phil Steele has this group rated as the #1 OL in the Big12 despite losing their LT and LG from a year ago. Anton Harrison is a third team preseason all-conference selection for Oklahoma, and they brought in 2nd team all-conference selection in the Pac12 from Cal McKade Mettauer to help solidify this group. Andrew Raym and Chris Murray make this a very stable group, they just need to find one more. I have a hard time thinking this line will be better than Northwestern, but according to Phil Steele they probably are, which could prove problematic for us Saturday.
If there’s a “weak link” down in Norman on defense, it is Phil Steele’s #4 ranked DL in the Big12. Oklahoma lost all sorts of talent from last years defensive line. 2nd team all-conference performers Perrion Winfrey and Isaiah Thomas are gone, and edge player Nik Bonito headed to the NFL as well. The sooners have 2nd team preseason all-conference player Jalen Redmond back, and they got the the #2 most impactful DL transfer from Tulane according to On3 in Jeffery Johnson. Ethan Downs is an edge guy bringing in sacks, and Isaiah Coe started last week for the Sooners after earning it from his play after week 1. While this unit lost a lot, it will inevitably be the best DL the Huskers OL has faced all season. And while we are at it, let me know if you think our tackles can handle their best DL at this point in time, Reggie Grimes, especially with a starter of ours out:
The #1 ranked LB group in the Big12 and a top 15 unit in the country, Oklahoma returns 4 of their top 5 players from last year. Danny Stutsman and Deshaun White are here and are second team all-conference selections in the preseason. And the Sooners love to blitz their LBs, other starter David Ugwoegbu can get to the QB at will:
You’ll also see a familiar face, Jaren Kanak. This is the kid I said on the other message board we really needed. He’s from Kansas and committed to Venables at Clemson, when he went to Oklahoma he followed him there. He will get time as a true freshman.
Much like the LB room, Phil Steele ranks the Sooners secondary #1 in the conference, while Oklahoma loses both safeties, they did work in the transfer portal bringing in Trey Morrison from North Carolina, Kani Walker from Louisville, and CJ Coldon from Wyoming. They return four different starters at cornerback, and have been leaning heavily on Jaden Davis and Woodi Washington.
Oklahoma has struggled this year early in games, halftime scores of 7-3 against Kent State and 28-10 against UTEP make it so we may be able to keep things interesting early on. But I don’t trust our defense at all, and they will be in the 40s against us. Further, while I really like our offense right now, I just don’t think our pass blocking can hold up enough against this DL. Which means we may have to try and run the ball and I don’t think we can do that at all. I mentioned in a few previews that Anthony Grant is basically making himself look good and getting little help from the OL. What’s going to happen when you can’t make the Sooners LBs miss and the are unblocked?
It’s going to be a long day in my opinion, 45-27 Sooners.