Oklahoma Football: Is this the Year?
Definitely, the question on Sooner fans’ minds is, is this the year? For one thing, this may be the best defense in Norman in over 20 years. Not only is the defense championship level, but the offense also appears to be loaded. Equally important, the Sooners schedule is very conducive to a championship run. Be that as it may, Oklahoma has had a history of underachieving to lesser opponents early in the season. Although this may be true, this team just seems to have a different feel about it. With this in mind, let us dive into the discussion of Oklahoma Football: is this the year?
In the first place, the Sooners open up on the road with an average Tulane Green Wave team. Given that, the Sooners seem to play well in early road games. Coupled with an FCS Western Carolina Catamounts, the Sooners should get off to a great start. Although this may be true, game number three presents a unique challenge. In this case, the Sooners will host the Nebraska Cornhuskers. On paper, this game should not be competitive. Although this may be true, Oklahoma and Nebraska have a long although respectful rivalry.
On the contrary, several of the more challenging conference games will be away from Norman. Oklahoma must travel to Baylor, Kansas State, and Oklahoma State. Equally important, Iowa State must travel to Norman to face the Sooners.
Different from past seasons, the Sooners defense may be the strength of the team. As an illustration, the Sooners have three preseason all-conference members. Oklahoma’s first team members include defensive linemen Isaiah Thomas and Perrion Winfrey. In like manner, Nik Bonitto was selected as a first-team linebacker.
The Sooners have improved their talent level on defense under defensive coordinator Alex Grinch in the two previous seasons. They return 11 players with starting experience, plus one or two years in Grinch’s defensive system. This coming season will be the deepest Oklahoma has been on the defensive unit in years.
The Sooners have also added size and length in the defensive secondary, one of Grinch’s primary goals when he took the job as the new Sooner defensive coordinator. The year before Grinch arrived, in 2018, Oklahoma ranked 114th out of 129 FBS teams in total defense. Last season, the Sooners were 29th in total defense and 26th in average yards per play allowed. All of this adds up to a defensive unit that appears primed and ready to become relevant again.
Equally important is an offense that will be as potent as ever without the pressure to score every possession. Coupled with an all-conference quarterback and Heisman favorite Spencer Rattler, the Sooners are loaded on the offensive side of the ball. In addition to a top-level quarterback, the Sooners are stacked at running back. Coupled with the return of 2019 starter Kennedy Brooks, Oklahoma added one of the best running backs in the country in Eric Gray. Gray was added to the roster from Tennessee, via the transfer portal.
In like manner, the Sooners may have the most talented group of pass-catchers in the country. By and large no one in the country has signed more four and five-star receivers over the last three years than Oklahoma. Included in this group are Theo Wease, Marvin Mims, Jadon Haselwood, Mario Williams, along with transfer portal acquisition Mike Woods. Coupled with tight ends Austin Stogner and Brayden Willis.
Not to mention a talented as well as a physical offensive line. Even though early in the spring the offensive line was thought to be the team’s only potential weakness. In reality, it has become a strength with some reorganization and the addition of potential All America Wanya Morris. The transfer portal and Tennessee provided another star in Morris.
The Final Word
In conclusion, the Sooners possess a better balance of offense and defense in 2021. In essence, this allows an opportunity to play truly complementary football. There is a strong belief that this is Oklahoma’s best chance yet under head coach Lincoln Riley to not just make the College Football Playoff. This would be the fourth time in the last six seasons the Sooners have been in the playoff. Ultimately this is the year that the Sooners make it past the semifinal round and win an eighth national championship.
In the final analysis, it seems the championship drought could be on course to end. No longer must the Sooner faithful ask, is this the year for an Oklahoma football national championship?