By now, even a full day before the Sooners take the field for their season-opener against Florida Atlantic, (1) you’ve been thinking about what it will be like without Baker Mayfield.
It happens. Well, it does. Because when a quarterback who has been part of the fabric of our football lives for the past three seasons leaves, you can’t help but think of days gone by.
That’s your first prediction of 2018. Here are 19 more to get you set for the first game of the post-Baker Mayfield era. It truly is the beginning of a new era. Sorta.
We know who the quarterback is at Oklahoma and we also know, unlike at Oklahoma State, the quarterback situation is set. Kyler Murray is going to be the starter. (2) For every meaningful snap of Saturday’s game and (future prediction, and hold me to this) for every meaningful snap this season.
Now, Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley has told us more than once that this offense under Murray won’t be all that different from the offense Mayfield made famous over the past few seasons. But when Murray takes off for a run of 40 or more yards in the first quarter, you’ll think (3) perhaps Murray should in fact run the ball a bit more. Murray will run it more, too. (4) Count on 100-plus yards rushing. And count on (5) the know-it-all sitting next to you making sure you know Murray, “He he’s a first-round pick of the Oakland A’s and he could have just been playing baseball but he wanted to come to Oklahoma and be a quarterback and a really good football player (no comma, long-winded sentence, deep breath goes here).
But back to Murray as a football player. Not only will he finish with 100 yards rushing, (6) he’ll have 300 yards passing, too. For as much as Murray has to prove, Riley has something to prove, too. Riley will want to show he can be successful beyond his mentoring of Mayfield. That means (7) at least three touchdown passes from Murray and (8) completions to six or more receivers. In some ways, this game is as important for Riley as it is for Murray. Riley is going to want to show a lot of diversity, so that means …
(9) 20-plus carries for Rodney Anderson.
(10) 15-plus carries for Trey Sermon.
(11) A first-half reverse
(12) An on-air interview right before halftime where Riley mentions both Murray and Mayfield in the same sentence. (Hey, the rest of us are doing it, right?)
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, the last time we saw the Oklahoma defense, it was being blamed for a Sugar Bowl meltdown against Georgia, despite the fact the defense was good enough to win the game. The first time you’ll see the defense Saturday, (13) you’ll see Bookie (pronounced Booo-Key) and think Bosworth (pronounced Boz-worth). The freshman safety is the most-talked about defensive player at Oklahoma since forever. (14) And he’ll play well, but it still won’t keep you from suggesting (15) defensive coordinator Mike Stoops should be fired. By contractual obligation, every Oklahoma fan has to complain about Mike Stoops at least twice per quarter. Look it up. It’s the law.
FAU will have some edge and (16) coach Lane Kiffin will be sporting his visor. Turns out, despite reports to the contrary, Kiffin will also pick a starting quarterback. (17) It will be De’Andre Johnson. And (18) Johnson will throw a first-quarter interception. (19) And not start the second half.
OU is a 20.5 point favorite. Seems like a lot, but OU is going to score some points. A lot. Now, the Sooners will give up some, too, but the defense will make enough plays and the offense will be prolific enough. You’ll still be talking Baker, but (20) take Oklahoma. Give the points. Sooners win 51-28.