#5 Oklahoma 2018 Football Preview

Oklahoma Sooners
Overall Rank: #5
#1 Big 12
Oklahoma Logo
Oklahoma lost a heartbreaker in the playoffs. The double-overtime loss to Georgia in the semifinals spelled the end of the Baker Mayfield era. The Heisman Trophy winner was the heart and soul of the team. And he led the Sooners to three great seasons, including last season that ended with a 12-2 record and a Big 12 title.
2017 Record: 12-2, 8-1
2017 Bowl: Rose Bowl (Playoff Semifinal) vs. Georgia (L 48-54)
Coach: Lincoln Riley (12-2 at Oklahoma, 12-2 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Lincoln Riley
Defensive Coordinator: Mike Stoops
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Rodney Anderson, RB, 1,161 yards
Passing: Kyler Murray, QB, 359 yards
Receiving: Marquise Brown, WR, 1,095 yards
Tackles: Kenneth Murray, LB, 78
Sacks: Kenneth Mann, DE, 5.0
Interceptions: Parnell Motley, CB, 2
Other Key Returnees: RB Trey Sermon, WR CeeDee Lamb, OL Dru Samia, OL Ben Powers, OL Bobby Evans, LB Caleb Kelly, DT Marquise Overton, CB Tre Norwood, K Austin Seibert
Key Losses: QB Baker Mayfield, WR Mark Andrews, OL Orlando Brown, OL Erick, S Steven Parker, S Will Johnson
Kyler Murray figured to step into the starting quarterback role after backing up Mayfield last season. He played well in that role last season and played well in the spring too. However, sophomore Austin Kendall also impressed in the spring. Whoever is under center will have a lot of quality targets. Marquise Brown is one of the best big play receivers in the country after catching 57 passes for 1,095 yards and seven scores. CeeDe Lamb added 46 catches for 807 yards and seven touchdowns. If the passing game takes a step back without Mayfield, the ground game can help pick up the slack. Rodney Anderson did not start a game until late October, but still managed to rush for 1,161 yards and 13 touchdowns. Sophomore Trey Sermon also returns after adding 744 yards. Behind a strong offensive line led by Bobby Evans, the offense should remain one of the most potent in the country.
The defense has not been great over the last few years, but there has been enough talent and experience to do enough and that should continue to be the case. The front four lacks dominating force, but there is a nice mix of experience with players like Amani Bledsoe and Marquise Overton and potential from freshmen like Jalen Redmond and Ronnie Perkins. Kenneth Murray had a superb freshman campaign in 2017, tallying 78 tackles. He is a tough player who will be joined by fellow returning starter Caleb Kelly to provide some stability in the middle of the defense. The secondary is quite young, but junior Parnell Motley and sophomore Tre Norwood were both starters at cornerback last season. Coach Lincoln Riley will also need to find room for freshman Brendan Radley-Hiles.
The Bottom Line:
The Big 12 is a grind. On paper there may not be another top ten team in the conference that can match Oklahoma with their talent, but there are eight teams with a legitimate chance to reach the title game. And eventually that tough schedule will likely catch up to Oklahoma. Trips to Iowa State, TCU and West Virginia could all result in losses. But as long as the Sooners can get past Iowa State on September 15th, they should have enough time to get the new faces on both sides of the ball acclimated enough to win another Big 12 title.
Projected Bowl: Sugar Bowl
2017 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 217.8 (27th in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 361.8 (3, 2)
Total Offense: 579.6 (1, 1)
Scoring Offense: 45.1 (3, 1)
Rushing Defense: 156.5 (54, 6)
Pass Defense: 238.4 (87, 3)
Total Defense: 394.9 (67, 4)
Scoring Defense: 27.1 (68, 5)
Turnover Margin: 0.36 (35, 5)
Sacks: 1.86 (82, 7)
Sacks Allowed: 1.86 (53, 5)
Madness 2019 NFL Draft Rankings:
#38    Marquise Brown
#48    Bobby Evans
#53    Rodney Anderson
Madness 2018 Recruit Rankings:
#45      Brey Walker
#47      Brendan Radley-Hiles
#74      Ronnie Perkins
#75      T.J. Pledger
#81      Michael Thompson
#94      Ron Tatum III
#191    Jalen Redmond
#199    Darrell Simpson
#205    Jaquayln Crawford
#218    DaShaun White
#220    Tanner Mordecai