#3 Oklahoma Football 2016 Preview

Oklahoma Sooners
Overall Rank: #3
#1 Big 12
Following an early loss to Texas, Oklahoma rebounded nicely to reach the playoffs. The Sooners finished the regular season with wins over the best the Big 12 had to offer in Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State. Surely, injuries to their opposition made the road a little easier for the Sooners, but they still deserve a lot of credit for making the playoffs. They were exposed once they got there, falling 37-17, but this team should be better than last year.
2015 Record: 11-2, 8-1
2015 Bowl: Orange Bowl vs. Clemson (L 17-37)
Coach: Bob Stoops (179-46 at Oklahoma, 179-46 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Lincoln Riley
Defensive Coordinator: Mike Stoops
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Samaje Perine, RB, 1,349 yards
Passing: Baker Mayfield, QB, 3,700 yards
Receiving: Dede Westbrook, WR, 743 yards
Tackles: Jordan Evans, LB, 83
Sacks: Charles Walker, DE, 6.0
Interceptions: Jordan Thomas, CB, 5
Other Key Returnees: RB Joe Mixon, TE Mark Andrews, OL Orlando Brown, S Ahmad Thomas, S Steven Parker, K/P Austin Seibert
Key Losses: WR Sterling Shepard, WR Durron Neal, OL Ty Darlington, OL Nila Kasitati, DE Charles Tapper, LB Eric Striker, LB Dominique Alexander, CB Zack Sanchez
The offense averaged 43.5 points per game in 2015 and this year should be even better. Baker Mayfield had a superb debut season for Oklahoma. He threw for 3,700 yards and 36 touchdowns, while completing 68.1 percent of his passes with just seven interceptions. However, some of those interceptions were at very bad times, including a couple in the playoffs. Dede Westbrook will have to lead the new look group of wide receivers. He caught 46 passes for 743 yards and four touchdowns last season, but others need to step up and be productive. Penn State transfer Geno Lewis is an experienced option, but younger players like AD Miller are capable of filling the void as well. If the passing game struggles, OU will rely on the running back duo of Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon. Perine took a little step back last season, rushing for 1,349 yards and 16 touchdowns. That is not bad for a season that on paper was a step back from his amazing freshman campaign. The reason for the decrease in production was because of the emergence of Mixon. He rushed for 753 yards and seven scores as a freshman and there may not be a better running back duo in the entire country.
Oklahoma had the best defense in the Big 12 last season, but there are some huge holes to fill. On the line, Charles Tapper is gone after tallying 7.0 sacks and 19.0 tackles-for-loss. Charles Walker is ready to step into a starring role after recording 6.0 sacks and 10.0 tackles-for-loss. Matt Dimon and Matthew Romar are experienced seniors and capable of stepping up their production. The big holes to fill at linebacker are for Eric Striker and Dominique Alexander. Striker led the team with 7.5 sacks and 19.0 tackles-for-loss and Alexander totaled a team high 103 tackles. Jordan Evans is a nice piece to build around, but he will be flanked by inexperienced underclassmen. The secondary lost Zack Sanchez, who picked off seven passes in 2015. Jordan Thomas will be the new top cornerback after earning second-team All-Big 12 accolades as a sophomore. Safeties Ahmad Thomas and Steven Parkers both started all 13 games last year and having an experienced secondary is always nice in the pass happy Big 12.
The Bottom Line:
Oklahoma has a very interesting schedule this year. They only play three non-conference games, but one of them is against Houston and another is against Ohio State. Those are two huge games early in the season that will go a long way in determining how the New Year’s Six bowl games are going to play out. The Big 12 slate is not as back loaded as it was in 2015. Following a week off after the Ohio State game, Oklahoma heads to TCU and then plays Texas. Baylor and Oklahoma State, the two other teams that are likely to give the Sooners some trouble, are in November. Just like last year, Oklahoma can afford to lose a game early and make the playoffs, but this group will really have to earn a playoff spot this year.
Projected Bowl: Playoffs / Fiesta Bowl
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 222.1 (23rd in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 308.2 (17, 4)
Total Offense: 530.2 (7, 4)
Scoring Offense: 43.5 (4, 3)
Rushing Defense: 161.7 (53, 2)
Pass Defense: 202.8 (34, 1)
Total Defense: 364.5 (39, 1)
Scoring Defense: 22.0 (28, 1)
Turnover Margin: 0.69 (15, 3)
Sacks: 3.08 (6, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 3.15 (116, 8)
Madness 2017 NFL Draft Rankings:
#70 Samaje Perine
Madness 2016 Recruit Rankings:
#15 Caleb Kelly
#99 Austin Kendall
#121 Mykel Jones
#185 Jordan Parker
#195 Amani Bledsoe
#216 Mark Jackson
#223 Bryce Youngquist