The Oklahoma Sooners, as is usually the case, are the popular preseason pick to win the Big 12 title. And, aside from the program’s tremendous history of success, it’s easy to see why.
Quarterback Baker Mayfield is reckoned an extremely strong Heisman Trophy contender. Burly running back Samaje Perine is the Big 12’s best back, and could also be in the running for the Heisman. And in Charles Walker, Jordan Evans, and Jordan Thomas, Oklahoma has playmaking anchors in all three levels of the defense. Then too, the entire roster is peppered with blue chip recruits.
The infrastructure of the Sooner program, and the talent on the squad are certainly sufficient for Bob Stoops’ troops to repeat as Big 12 champs. But if OU wins it all, they sure won’t do it easily. This team, on paper, is not foolproof, and the schedule presents challenges.
Although quarterback and running back are as good as it gets, the receiving corps doesn’t shock and awe, and the offensive line has a question mark or two, as does the linebacking unit.
The Sooners open the season with a dangerous tilt at Houston and conclude their nonconference schedule with Ohio State. It is not out of the realm of possibility that the Sooners could have two losses before Big 12 play even begins.
OU opens conference play at TCU, which is followed up by the Red River Shootout which the Sooners lost last season. The final two games of the regular season will be at West Virginia—which typically plays Oklahoma tough—and the Bedlam Rivalry with Oklahoma State. On balance, that schedule is a particularly nasty minefield.
As much as it may pain Texas Tech football fans to say it, there is no doubt that Baker Mayfield is a great college quarterback. He’s one cocky sun-of-a-gun, but his belief in himself, when everybody else doubts him, is one of the things that makes him such an effective quarterback. His teammates rally around him, and Mayfield’s confidence helps to pull the Sooners through the rough patches that always come with Power 5 football.
On top of the intangibles, Mayfield is simply a very accurate passer. He threw for 3,700 yards last season, completing 68 percent of his passes, throwing for 36 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. His passer rating of 173 was No. 3 among FBS quarterbacks in 2015.
The Texas Tech transfer is also a heady scrambler who senses pressure well, avoids sacks, and turns anchovies into Beluga caviar more often than not. He doesn’t have the speed that ex-San Francisco 49er great Steve Young had, but their general mobility is strikingly similar. All in all, Baker Mayfield is a very formidable field general whose talents will make the difference in a few games for Oklahoma this season.
Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops is fortunate to have a cornerback in Jordan Thomas who can neutralize the opposition’s best receiver.
The returning first team All-Big 12 performer is almost certainly the best cornerback in the conference in only his junior season.
In 2015 Thomas logged 46 tackles, five big interceptions and four passes broken up. Significantly, Thomas returned those picks for 153 yards. He has speed to burn and all-around athleticism that is rare in a cornerback.