Nearly a week has passed since the College Football Playoff which saw the LSU Tigers absolutely dismantle the Oklahoma Sooners in nearly every possible way.
The game was really never close, and it has left many wondering what Oklahoma can possibly do to get over the hump as a serious championship contender.
In the three seasons under Lincoln Riley, the Sooners have made the CFP all three times. But, the games have gotten progressively less competitive. From taking Georgia into double overtime, to Alabama never really having to sweat, to LSU nearly hanging half a hundred in the first half.
The public opinion of Oklahoma is low right now, with many saying they should not be given the benefit of the doubt next season when it comes to the CFP selection.
So, why should Oklahoma fans still feel confident about the 2020 squad? Let’s take at the biggest reasons for optimism:
Spencer Rattler Time
Oklahoma fans love Spencer Rattler, despite him still yet to play any meaningful snaps in Crimson and Cream.
It is hard to blame them, the kid clearly has raw talent and all the makings of being a star – already being toward the top of many Heisman odds boards.
Jalen Hurts’ OU legacy is going to be a weird one going forward, for despite having a Heisman runner-up season with some truly gaudy stats it seemed Sooner fans were always very quick to point out his flaws when compared to Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray.
Spencer Rattler is going to be under a tremendous amount of pressure as well, but he is starting off with the fans’ opinion of him being heavily positive which helps. Plus, its a lot easier to follow Jalen Hurts than it was for Hurts to have to follow Murray/Mayfield.
It is hard not to expect Rattler to be sensational next year when you consider his talent level and then of course being coached by offensive mastermind Lincoln Riley.
Also I feel like this year for Rattler was very good for him to learn from Jalen Hurts as a leader and how to go about things in the right way. Because you can say what you want about Hurts’ talent level, but you can’t deny his maturity and professionalism.
If Rattler is ready for the spotlight, which I think he is, he is going to be fantastic for Oklahoma next year.
Defense Should Only Get Better
The defense made massive strides in its first year under Alex Grinch, and should only improve going forward.
Yes, the defense is losing some key players – most notably Kenneth Murray.
But, there is still some solid talent coming back (including Caleb Kelly) that should make Oklahoma fans excited. Although the linebacking unit is a big question mark for sure next season.
What LSU and Joe Burrow did to Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl really muddles what was an extremely successful year one for Alex Grinch, with improvements basically across the board.
The entire secondary is coming back, as well as Ronnie Perkins on the defensive line whenever he returns from suspension.
Perkins will make another step forward, along with Brendan Radley-Hiles, and will be cornerstones of the Sooner defense in 2020.
The key will be trying to eliminate the lulls that they had a couple times throughout the year, for while it was a great season there were a few games that the defense really under performed against an opponent they were better than, like Kansas State.
Offense Still has a Ton of Weapons
The Oklahoma offense came back to Earth in 2019, a little bit. It still was one of the best in the country but it wasn’t quite on the same level as the 2017 and 2018 units that seemed unstoppable.
They lose CeeDee Lamb to the NFL, which is an obvious big loss, but they managed to retain Kennedy Brooks for 2020 which is a massive win.
The receiving corp has loads of talent, with all those young guys now having a year under their belt, plus the potential emergence of Charleston Rambo as the new #1 receiver.
As for the run game, Kennedy Brooks will obviously be the guy next season that will carry the load. At the time of writing this article we still do not know Trey Sermon’s plans for next year, but even if he opts for the professional ranks there are multiple good running options behind Brooks for 2020.
Rhamondre Stevenson was fantastic this year, once he returns from suspension he’ll be huge for OU in 2020. Plus a full, hopefully healthy, year from TJ Pledger is big as well. He is a guy with a lot of talent that has just gotten sort of lost in the shuffle so far in his career.
Add Austin Stogner into the mix who seems to have all the makings of an all-time great OU tight end, and the offense is still loaded with playmakers.
Schedule Is Still Mostly Favorable
The OU schedule next year is constructed a lot of different than normal. Typically, it has seemed the Sooner schedule was very backloaded with lots of big games late.
Next year, however, most of the bigger games come in the first half of the schedule.
Tennessee is a mess, and they come to Norman, OU will likely win big in that one. Baylor comes to Norman as well, and so does Oklahoma State.
Playing at Army certainly has potential to be tricky but that should still be a game Oklahoma wins 10 times out of 10.
The toughest game on the schedule, to me, is between Texas at the Cotton Bowl and traveling to Ames to take on an Iowa State team that is returning some good talent – most notably Brock Purdy and Breece Hall.
But, I would still expect Oklahoma to be the favorite in every game they play next season, and the trickiest games come early enough that a potential stumble will have plenty of time to be overcame by season’s end.
And until a 1-loss Oklahoma team doesn’t make the College Football Playoff, I am always going to assume the Sooners can survive dropping a game somewhere along the way.
It is a long offseason ahead for Oklahoma, who will have stew on the LSU thrashing all the way until next fall, where they will begin a new campaign with a new quarterback in an attempt to return to the College Football Playoff for the fourth consecutive season.