Lots of talk about Houston. And why not? The Cougars will head into the 2016 with one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, one of the hottest coaches in the nation and fresh off a bowl game victory.
Lots of talk about Ohio State. No mystery why.
Lots of talk about Texas, too, especially after what happened last year in the Cotton Bowl.
Oklahoma will have people talking but what should the Sooners be talking about when it comes to potential tough spots for the 2016 football season? Well, here’s a hint: It’s not Ohio State, Houston or Texas. OU will be plenty fired up for the Sept. 3 season-opener. Ohio State will have all of OU’s attention, too. The TCU game comes on the road, but it’s after an off-week and it’s the first conference game. You gotta figure, OU won’t stumble against Texas again, either.
So, what’s left?
Here are three games Oklahoma has that may not jump out at you as tough, but certainly could be problematic.
1. Oct. 22, at Texas Tech
Sure, the Red Raiders haven’t been worth much on defense in forever, but strange things happen in Lubbock, Texas, and count on even more of that if the Sooners come to town undefeated. A 7-0 OU team would almost assuredly be playing a night game against Tech, and we all know how tough that crowd can be.
Add in a healthy mix of Baker Mayfield-hating fans and you have an environment that will be toxic. Figure, Mayfield has the date circled, but that could be an issue. A quarterback on an undefeated team, trying to throw despite having a massive chip on his shoulder? Yeah, think about it. You could easily envision a scenario where Mayfield tries too hard, the team presses too much and the ball doesn’t bounce the right way.
2. Nov. 3, at Iowa State
There aren’t very many situations where you could picture Iowa State beating Oklahoma.
But here’s one for you: A Thursday night. In Ames, maybe with a bit of Iowa winter weather mixed in. OU will be coming in after a game against Kansas and right before a home game against Baylor. The combination is about the only one that could possibly work for an Iowa State win.
Don’t tell me OU won’t be overlooking the Cyclones. The Sooners will be. OU is 73-5-2 all-time against Iowa State and has won 17 in a row, dating back to 1991. OU will be better, no doubt, but Iowa State will be in the better spot.
3. Nov. 19, at West Virginia
You can bet the game against the Mountaineers will be a night game and you can bet it will be the rowdiest crowd OU sees all season.
Even if OU has avoided all the potential mines, playing at West Virginia against a gimmicky offense, is never easy. Meanwhile, the Sooners haven’t lost to West Virginia since the two became conference rivals. Consider that even more motivation for WVU. Couple that with the fact, OU will likely be playing for a spot in the College Football Playoff and it puts even more pressure on the Sooners.
Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK