Big 12 Preview: Oklahoma Needs a Challenge

Not too long ago Oklahoma had itself a bit of a drought in the Big 12 with only 2 league titles in 6 chances from 2009 through 2014. The horror! The Sooners have since rebounded to win the last 3 conference championships and head into 2018 as the favorites once again.

Summary of Last Year

Both Oklahoma and TCU lost to Iowa State which was fun. The Sooners and Horned Frogs met in the league title game anyway which was fairly uneventful all around. Oklahoma had defeated TCU by 18 earlier in the year and took the conference crown with a 24-point victory.

It was a season of haves and have-not’s that is for sure. OU, TCU, and Oklahoma State combined to go 33-8 while Baylor and Kansas combined for abysmal 2-22 records. Things are just so depressing in Lawrence where the Jayhawks have lost 81 games since 2010.

At least in recruiting, Texas is back. The Horns finished the 2018 cycle 3rd nationally while the next-best in conference fell to Oklahoma at 9th overall. It was quite the drop off after these two blue-bloods with TCU (#25), Baylor (#31), Oklahoma State (#33), and West Virginia (#35) rounding out the top 6 in the league.

Safeties Caden Sterns (Texas, No. 19 overall) and B.J. Foster (Texas, No. 24 overall) were the top Big 12 signings while offensive tackle Brey Walker (Oklahoma, No. 29 overall) was the other 5-star who inked within the league.

Top Out of Conference Game: USC at Texas

For the Big 12 it’s likely either this game or TCU and Ohio State inside AT&T Stadium in Arington. The Trojans visiting Austin is important historically as its their first since 1966 (how is this possible I don’t know). If the Horns are taking a step or two forward this is potentially a game with playoff implications. I’m not sure Texas will be that good but it’s possible.

Most Important League Game: TCU at Texas

Guys, the Big 12 might not be very good. We’re always waiting for Texas is Back™ and TCU lost a lot from last year. I kind of like Oklahoma State to surprise (they aren’t expected to be a conference contender) and the same for West Virginia, too. Still, the prognosticators like Texas and TCU to battle it out behind Oklahoma for that league title game spot. What makes this matchup even better is that it comes directly after USC at Texas and Ohio State vs. TCU.

Sell 2018: TCU

This is me largely selling the Frogs’ quarterback situation in conjunction with replacing half their starters. Using the Coaches Poll recently released they have TCU at No. 16 ahead of the likes of Florida State, UCF, and LSU plus all other non-Oklahoma teams in the Big 12. Checking out their forecast I’m seeing more of a 8-4 regular season.

Buy 2018: West Virginia

Hello, it’s the Big 12 and offense is crucial. The Mountaineers do have several holes to fill on defense which likely keeps them from winning the league. However, you could make the case that heading into the season they have the best–and certainly the most stable–offense situation in the Big 12. West Virginia was 7-3 with 3 close defeats last year when Will Grier was healthy at quarterback. I really like them to be a top 15-ish team in 2018.

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Rodney Anderson, Oklahoma

Of course, Grier is the easy choice here. If not him, Anderson led Oklahoma last year by a wide margin with 1,487 all-purpose yards. Without the Heisman-winning Baker Mayfield I’m sure we’ll see Anderson touch the ball at least 20% more this fall.

Defensive Player of the Year: DE Ben Banogu, TCU

I found this stat pretty amazing: Of the 29 solo tackles by Banogu last year (6th best on the team) 16.5 of them were for a loss. He also chipped in 8.5 sacks, 7 quarterback hurries, and 3 forced fumbles last year. Yup, he’s very good.

League Title Game: Oklahoma vs. West Virginia

Here’s the deal, you may want to sell Oklahoma without Baker Mayfield and I get it. The No. 1 overall pick totaled 152 touchdowns in 3 years with 6 losses to 34 wins. When you’re looking up hard to replace for 2018 there’s Mayfield’s face. Then you see his replacement is a former cast-off from Texas A&M, talent for sure, but also standing 5’10” and could break in two on any scrimmage snap. Imagine a quarterback with the build of Everett Golson except up to 2 inches shorter.

On the flip side, this may be the easiest Oklahoma schedule in recent memory. Lincoln Riley should absolutely keep the train rolling. Sure, pesky FAU and Lane Kiffin await in the opener followed up by an interesting Chip Kelly-led UCLA in week two. The Sooners should win both, though. I’m worried more about visits to TCU and West Virginia, the latter coming in the final week of the season which, in my predictions, would include a rematch a week later.

By |2018-08-06T09:30:59+00:00August 6th, 2018|Football|20 Comments

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nd09hls12
nd09hls12

Interesting hypothetical: if Joe Mixon comes back for his redshirt junior year, I think Oklahoma is your returning undefeated national champion.

Underthrown Shoelace
Underthrown Shoelace

I don’t think that happens. Especially since his replacement looked so good (1487 all purpose yards as the article mentioned). Their two losses were very close, but then the hypothetical also assumes that they beat Bama in the ship too. I also just don’t think having an excellent RB over a very good RB makes all that much of a difference in swinging 2-3 games.

From Scrimmage:
Mixon’s 2016 Season: 224 touches, 1812 yds, 8.1 avg, 15 TDs
Anderson’s 2017 Season: 205 touches, 1442 yds, 7.0 avg, 18 TDs (sports-reference had slight difference from 1487)

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

My analysis is a little simpler: Oklahoma lost two squeakers, and Mixon probably would have been the second best running back in the country if he had home back, which would be enough to have made a difference in both games. That playoff game probably doesn’t get to overtime, and they probably beat Iowa State by at least a touchdown if Mixon is running the ball instead of Trey Sermon (Anderson barely played against Iowa State).

In my view/from what I saw, Mixon is distinctly better than Anderson (or Trey Sermon). Anderson/Sermon are good, but Mixon was a difference-maker. Anderson’s stats being at all comparable to Mixon is a testament to OU’s offensive line last year.

Orlok
Orlok

Sorry for the longest comment post ever, but as promised… I recently (well, in May) had the pleasure of listening to Pete Sampson (hereafter “Pete”) of Irish Illustrated talking about the state of Notre Dame football. He was incredibly pleasant and generous with his time. He spoke for two hours and then stayed an hour later to answer extra questions – many of them from me. I would recommend you read any piece of his you come across. In the meantime, here’s the summary of his talk. I’ve tried to organize the notes around questions asked about a subject; they’re broken out by position group but occasionally there may be some misplaced items. Finally, there are a couple pieces of juicy gossip that I won’t write here (don’t want Pete to get any unnecessary heat) but promise to update you with when we next talk. Let me know if you have other questions. Coaching and the future of Notre Dame: We saved this discussion for the end of the talk, but I put it first because it’s the most important. Pete’s prediction for this year: 9-3. And the difference between 8-4 and 9-3 depends entirely on the Michigan game. No pressure How long will Kelly be at Notre Dame? Probably two more years, then we get murdered by schedule in 2019 and there will be strong pressure for a transition. Jack Swarbrick has also been in his role a long time; for both the head coach and AD, year nine is closer to the end than the beginning. We probably won’t replace just Kelly, because Jack is so close to retiring and you don’t want a coach hired by a lame duck AD – and you definitely don’t want to *be* a coach hired by a lame duck AD. People are generally tired of Kelly. Pete’s take was that last year’s Miami game was a decisive turning point for the fan base; the damage from that won’t be undone. While Kelly has been plenty frustrating, it’s worth noting that he was by far the best hire Jack Swarbrick could have made at the time, and it’s not even close. Getting a slam dunk hire like a Nick Saban relies on a ton of factors beyond a school’s control – namely, a top-tier candidate being available in the same window a school is looking for a new coach. Who’s the next coach? Matt Campbell at Iowa State has a lot of passion for recruiting and is interested in the job. Jeff Brohm at Purdue is also someone Pete would consider. He’d like to see another year of good results from each of them. So pay attention! Quarterback: Many of the night’s questions centered around football’s most important position. Is it true that Brandon Wimbush better in practice than in games? There is some truth to this and Pete thinks Brandon looked better now than he did in August last year on media practices (Pete cautions these are not randomly sampled practices… Read more »

CardinalBaseball
CardinalBaseball

Interesting, thanks for the update. I’ve always enjoyed Pete and I’m currently a member at 247, him Plus the recruiting there was a great combo. Would probably switch or add the athletic but two little ones so cutting back on screen time myself.

I consider the Michigan game a swing game too but probably a bit more drastic. Win and seems like 10 wins will be the floor (Michigan will be the best team on our schedule), or lose and 7-5 will be in play. I mean maybe not but that’s how I see it

And I definitely think ND could recruit better, 12-15 is pretty much the floor. Kelly does a way better job of recruiting balance and the roster is the best it’s been since holts but the complete inability to land a consensus 5 star hampers the point program and limits the ceiling. The right coach could come In here and get the back to top 6. People bemon fit all the time but penn state was on the brink of irrelevance until they weren’t and now they are landing 1-2 5 stars annually

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

Thanks for writing all that down.

Orlok
Orlok

FYI: If you click on “Read More”, you can see that I used paragraphs (or tried to).

MikeyB
MikeyB

Wait, we’re gonna go 9-3 in 2018, return like 75% of our important players, and get murdered by the schedule in 2019? 2019 is basically the same schedule as 2018, with Georgia as an upgrade over FSU. Hard disagree.

KG
KG

Yeah, and you’d have to think that our biggest offensive concerns (QB improvement and playmakers) would only get better after a year. Either Wimbush will get better or he’ll get passed by Jurkovec and transfer, and SOMEONE would have to step up at WR/RB over the course of this year. We’ll lose Mack (which may or may not be a big deal) but Kmet and Wright are probably better. Line will be mostly stable and has depth. And the schedule isn’t appreciably harder. Maybe there’s something we’re missing.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

Yeah, in totality I’d rank the 2018 schedule as more difficult given travel and only 1 November home game.

2019 has @UGA and @UM as some daunting road tests but overall doesn’t seem too much more difficult than what’s already right ahead.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

2019 will be a significantly harder schedule than 2018. 2019 has, in descending order of difficulty, @UGA (who will be the best team in the country next year, probably), @Michigan (who will very likely be better next year than this year), @Stanford (comparable if not harder than @USC this year), USC (should be improved with a second-year QB and a junior Stephen Carr), a better Virginia Tech team (albeit at home next year vs. away this year), and @ Louisville.

That’s basically one top-3 team away, one top-10 team away, two more top 15 teams, a 15-25 team, and a crapshoot away game. This year’s schedule doesn’t have any clear top-10 teams, a handful of top-20 teams, and most of those hard games are at home.

I do think our roster should be better next year than this year, though.

KG
KG

I take it you’re assuming that the Louisville BVG experiment only lasts one year, thus giving them an upgrade going into 2019.

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

Ha! Well, I suppose I’m hoping for a 2016-type “does so bad early he gets fired” next year for BVG. That’d be swell.

In any case, though, the point is that, with or without BVG, @Louisville is a clear 6th toughest game, which is pretty hard for your 6th toughest game! Our equivalent for this year is, what, @ Wake or Navy at home? I’d say @Louisville next year is harder than @Northwestern this year, which I would say is our 5th toughest. In any case, next year’s schedule is distinctly tougher than this year’s.

hooks orpik
hooks orpik

If facing a BVG defense is the 6th toughest game, that doesn’t really help the argument it’s so difficult. Personally, I have a much worse feeling about the @NW game, but that just might be ghosts of 2014 talking.

I could buy the harder 2019 games are tougher than the top 2018 games, but there’s not going to be Bryce Love in 2019 and 2019 has one extra home game so I don’t really think top-to-bottom it’s going to be THAT much more difficult.

Notre Dame’s main recent problem has been season finishes…2018’s final 5 games each presents a fairly major challenge and 4/5 are away from ND Stadium. It’s got November stumbles written all over it.

2019’s final five games has 3/5 at home and only has two difficult looking games (VT, @Stan).

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

Point is taken on November next year, but odds are we’re going to have at least two and possibly/probably three losses before the start of November next year (@Georgia seems like a mortal lock based on how their roster is coming together and at least one if not both of USC/@Michigan, too), so we’re very, very likely to be “out of the conversation” by that relatively soft landing.

KG
KG

But is it “get murdered badly enough that BK is fired and/or walks away and we have a new coach, despite having supposedly gone 9-3 in 2018 in this scenario” bad? We can quibble about whether it’s worse or not (I’ll buy your argument) but I don’t think we’re going from an easy schedule to the Bataan Death March.

MikeyB
MikeyB

Northwestern has won 10 games 2 of the past 3 years. Louisville, despite having the best offensive player in the country over that time period, hasn’t broken 9 wins. The 2019 schedule is not so much harder that a 9-3 2018 team should “get murdered by the schedule in 2019.”

nd09hls12
nd09hls12

The “murdered by the schedule” wording isn’t mine. I’m just over here pointing out that the 2019 schedule appears from today’s vantage point distinctly harder than 2018, which I would say is inarguable but I suppose some folks are arguing.

FWIW, and kind of a case-in-point: Northwestern is ranked 38th in preseason S&P+ this year, and Louisville is 29th (despite losing its all-timer QB). Unless BVG screws up the defense so badly that Louisville aggressively regresses (possible!), the @Louisville 2019 game will be harder than @Northwestern this year.

Scarponi
Scarponi

Great stuff! Thanks for the share!

Brendan R

Great stuff man, thanks for sharing.