Unless your ears are deceiving you, that, in fact, IS the sound of angels singing, as we are less than 90 days from the start of the college football season. While we sit on pins and needles waiting for Kevin Durant to make a decision – stay with the Thunder or bolt for SA/GSW/Boston, let’s look ahead at the sport that drives the raw emotions of every Oklahoman.
OU kicks off this year in an ABC showcase game against the Houston Cougars at NRG Stadium. Just a few weeks ago, this was a house of horrors for Sooner fans as they watched the basketball team suffer the most lopsided loss in Final Four history. Now Bob Stoops, who has a knack for losing to good teams outside the Power Five, has to face a bunch who just beat Florida State 38-24 in the Peach Bowl.
Tom Herman is proving himself to be a hot commodity in the coaching ranks going 13-1 in his first season at UH. The Cougars are returning starting quarterback Greg Ward, who threw for 2,800 yards, seventeen touchdowns, and six picks. Five of Houston’s top defensive linemen are back as well as three of their top four linebackers.
We have a battle of preseason Heisman candidates in Baker Mayfield and Ward. Plus, with the Big 12’s decision to hold a championship game in 2017, this could be an audition for Houston to join the conference. Expect a nail-biter that could come down to a couple of possessions.
We’re not going to waste time or space talking about Louisiana-Monroe. With all due respect to the War Hawks, if OU doesn’t win this game, Stoops should resign on the spot.
Which brings us to Ohio State, the kind of game an OU fan lives for: a chance for Oklahoma not only to prove itself against CFB royalty but to also get a little revenge on Urban Myer for the 2009 BCS Championship Game. The Buckeyes are replacing 16 starters. Quarterback J.T. Barrett is back and this time, no one is looking over his shoulder. But Noah Brown and Corry Smith, Ohio State’s two best “every-down” receivers had surgery in the offseason, and Mike Webber, a redshirt freshman, has to fill the hole for Ezekiel Elliot. Only three starters are back on defense. It’s not like Myer recruits scrubs, but this sets up to be a typical OU win with the Sooners catching a dynamic program at the right time.
If you’re looking for those stumbling blocks in the Sooners conference season, there is always the Texas game. Charlie Strong’s players are showing to be tougher than OU, despite having inferior talent. Not a person in Oklahoma’s program seems to have an answer to why OU underperforms in this game, and with freshman Shane Buechele likely to be signal caller by the second weekend in October the Horns could finally be set at quarterback. Strong’s recruiting prowess might just pay off in wins this season.
Texas Tech on October 22nd should be fun as Baker Mayfield, Lincoln Riley, Dennis Simmons, and Bill Bedenbaugh make return trips to Lubbock with another chance to stick it to their old school. The Sooners smoked Tech 63-27 in Norman last year, and yes, strange things happen out west, but it’s hard to imagine this goes the way of the Red Raiders.
Who knows what to expect from the Baylor game? With Jim Grobe taking over for Art Briles, it’s hard to know what shape the Bears will be in by the time they reach Norman in November. The backdrop of scandal will haunt BU this entire season, plus only nine starters return. Both Seth Russell and Jarrett Stidham went under the blade during the off-season. How much more can these guys take? Baylor-OU should have been the Big 12 championship game; guess it still could be but only time will tell.
The season wraps up with Bedlam. The last time OSU was in Norman Bob Stoops decided to re-kick to Tyreek Hill. Pokes won in overtime,
Mason Rudolph became the starter and according to some, Mike Gundy saved his job. Oklahoma fans are looking for a repeat of 2015 which saw the Sooners throttle OSU 58-23. Rudolph racked up 3,700+ passing yards to go with 21 touchdowns. His receiving corps will be tough for opposing secondaries; it’s all a matter of whether the Cowboys can run the ball. Gundy may have done his best coaching job last season going 10-3 while being ranked 114th in rushing. Sixteen starters are back in Stillwater. If the Pokes can be more than one dimensional on offense, Bedlam can mean high stakes.
So there it is. Not as comprehensive as these breakdowns will be come September, but enough to whet your appetite and give you a reason to use the next few Saturdays to practice your tailgating skills. So bust out the Old Grand Dad and smoke some ribs – every day is one step closer to God’s Sport