Welcome to the Deadspin 25, a college football poll that strives to be more democratic and less useless than every other preseason poll. Leading up to the college football season kickoff, we will give you previews of the 25 teams that you, the readers, voted to be most worthy of writing about. Now, No. 15 Oklahoma.
There was a time in 2014 when some folks around college football thought Oklahoma had a shot at winning the Big 12. The majority of these people no longer exist in the year 2015, and the ones who remain are either in Norman or are lunatics.
It’s become very apparent that the Big 12 belongs to Baylor and TCU this year. Other teams will make a run at them, and one may even beat them along the way, but if you want to know who is going to win the Big 12, do not look past the Bears and Horned Frogs. If we can accept this, then we can move on to Oklahoma, which I actually think will be a good team.
After getting the business from Clemson in the Athletic Bowl, head coach Bob Stoops made some moves, bringing in ECU’s Lincoln Riley to be the offensive coordinator and maybe if work some magic with the Sooners’ quarterback. We don’t know who the starter will be just yet, because the competition for the position will reportedly be open until next week.
Reigning starter Trevor Knight is an average college quarterback who has struggled in his two years to emerge as anything more than just another guy under center. He tossed 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions last year while completing just 56.6 percent of his passes. Maybe he had some kind of awakening in the time between the spring game and now, but I think Knight’s time as the starter in Norman has come to a close.
Enter Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield. Mayfield is closer than Cody Thomas to challenging Knight for the starting role, as he already has game experience with the Raiders. But that doesn’t excuse him from the same kind of scrutiny that Knight received. Mayfield is a pocket passer who should work well with Riley’s pass-first offense, but he, like Knight, has a difficult time making the right decisions with the ball. In 2013, he completed 64.1 percent of his passes for 2,315 yards, 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions. It would be nice to think that he’s improved since then, but he went out and tossed a pair of picks in the spring game this year. I still think he wins the starting gig, but he’s going to have to get his shit together if he wants to keep it for the whole year.
Running backs Samie Perine and Joe Mixon are a strong running back duo that should keep the offense chugging along. Mixon missed all of the 2014 season after being suspended for punching a woman in a Norman restaurant, leaving his victim with four broken bones in her face. It’s a mystery why Mixon wasn’t kicked off the team entirely, but he’s back this year and will probably perform very well on the field. Good for you, Oklahoma.
On defense, the Sooners will be led in the middle by linebackers Eric Striker and Dominique Alexander. Alexander led the team with 107 tackles last year, and Striker piled up 9.0 sacks and 17.0 tackles for loss. Striker also had a strong message for OU’s racist frat. He’s a cool dude. Add in Jordan Evans, who had 93 tackles a year ago, and Oklahoma’s linebacking corps is looking pretty stacked. The biggest concern for the unit will be on the line, where it will have to replace tackle Jordan Phillips.
The defensive backfield is helmed by corner Zach Sanchez, who snagged six interceptions last year and broke up eight more passes. Sanchez will have to lead a group that allowed a program-high 276.2 yards per game last season. That happens when you have to play teams led by Gary Patterson and Art Briles.
Running back Samaje Perine is the real deal. He led the conference with 1,713 yards and 21 touchdowns as a freshman, and can easily repeat those numbers in 2015.
What makes Perine so dangerous is that as a low runner, he can absorb plenty of contact while simultaneously cutting upfield quicker than the defense can react. By the time that happens, Perine has hit the hole and picked up 20 yards. He most famously ran for an FBS-record 427 yards and five touchdowns against Kansas. (I know, I know—it’s Kansas. But still, it’s 427 yards.)
Perine will be this team’s bread and butter while it adjusts to a new offensive coordinator and possible new quarterback. He’ll be racking up 20-plus carries throughout the season, and hopefully with that will lead to more 400-yard games.
Nope. Oklahoma can win nine, hell, maybe even 10 games if it plays up to its potential, but there is just no way the Sooners can make the playoff. They probably have the most brutal November slate in football, with consecutive games against Baylor and TCU. When it comes time to take down two top-10 teams in back-to-back weeks, Oklahoma doesn’t have the offensive firepower in place to hang with the Big 12’s crown jewels. The Sooners will probably make a hard push for third in the conference this year, and as long as Mayfield or Knight don’t completely suck, they can achieve that mark. But the playoff is just not happening.
Bob Stoops is a fine football coach who has given us Adrian Peterson, Sam Bradford, Curtis Lofton, and Gerald McCoy. But his views on whether or not college football players should be paid make him come off as a huge dick:
“I tell my guys all the time,” Stoops says, “you’re not the first one to spend a hungry Sunday without any money.”
“You know what school would cost here for non-state guy? Over $200,000 for room, board and everything else,” Stoops said. “That’s a lot of money. Ask the kids who have to pay it back over 10-15 years with student loans. You get room and board, and we’ll give you the best nutritionist, the best strength coach to develop you, the best tutors to help you academically, and coaches to teach you and help you develop. How much do you think it would cost to hire a personal trainer and tutor for 4-5 years?
“I don’t get why people say these guys don’t get paid. It’s simple, they are paid quite often, quite a bit and quite handsomely.”
“Sam Bradford was one of the most humble and grounded players I’ve ever been around; he got it,” Stoops said. “But I even told him, what makes you think those fans in the stands are wearing No.14 for you? Who says it’s not an old Josh Heupel jersey? I tell our guys all the time. It could be you—or it could be anyone else.
“Those 70,000 fans in the stadium are cheering and buying tickets to see Oklahoma.”
Not unless they shock the world and claim consecutive wins from TCU and Baylor after barnstorming through the rest of their schedule. That’s very unlikely to happen, so, nah, the Sooners can’t Do It.
Sept. 5: Akron
Sept. 12: @ Tennessee
Sept. 19: Tulsa
Oct. 3: West Virginia
Oct. 10: Texas
Oct. 17: @ Kansas State
Oct. 24: Texas Tech
Oct. 31: @ Kansas
Nov. 7: Iowa State
Nov. 14: @ Baylor
Nov. 21: TCU
Nov. 28: Oklahoma State