Who Can Challenge the Sooners?
On this week's edition of Big Noon Kickoff, Urban Meyer and the crew discussed which team can challenge the Oklahoma Sooners for the Big 12 title.
But before we dive into the competition, let's take a look at the team that's dominated the conference for the past decade.
Head coach Lincoln Riley joined Joel Klatt on Wednedsay to preview the upcoming season. And while the Sooners are best-known for their electrifying offense, Riley thinks the defense will continue to make strides in 2020.
After allowing 6.1 yards per play in 2018 – 102nd in the nation – the Oklahoma defense made a big jump under defensive coordinator Alex Grinch last season, allowing 5.6 yards per play, finishing 63rd in the country.
“One of the biggest jumps that you can make anytime you’ve introduced a new system and new culture is from that year one to year two.
"We’re excited about the jump we made, but certainly not satisfied. I feel like we’re primed to take another jump like that, and that’s our complete expectation.”
Meyer elaborated on the lack of defense in the Big 12 as a whole, considering Sooners LB Kenneth Murray was the first defensive player to go in the first round of the NFL draft since Gerald McCoy in 2010.
In the last decade, only 33 defensive players from the Big 12 have been selected in the first three rounds – less than half of any other Power 5 conference.
Now, let's get into the Sooners' toughest rivals for this upcoming season, according to the Big Noon Kickoff crew.
Former USC superstar Matt Leinart isn't sold on Texas just yet.
He acknowledges that the Longhorns have a talented roster with a veteran, dual-threat QB Sam Ehlinger and 5-star RB Keaontay Ingram, but cites their inconsistency as an issue:
Last season looked to be promising for Texas, after the Longhorns closed out the 2018 season with a win over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
But in 2019, Texas (8-5) struggled to find its rhythm and after a 5-2 start, the Horns went 2-3 down the stretch.
Iowa State Cyclones
The Big 12 began in 1996, and since, only four Iowa State teams have finished conference play above .500. During Matt Campbell’s 4-year tenure, the Cyclones have achieved three winning seasons in a row.
Starting QB Brock Purdy owns 21 school records after just two seasons, and led the Big 12 in passing last season with 306.3 yards per game.
Meyer has the utmost respect for Campbell and the culture he's created:
Oklahoma State Cowboys
The Cowboys return 18 starters from last year’s 8-win squad, the most of any Big 12 team.
OK State capped 2019 with a top 10 offense in the nation, led by Big 12 Offensive Player of the year Chuba Hubbard, who posted the 16th-best rushing season in FBS history with 2,094 yards.
QB Spencer Sanders is returning for a 2nd year after being named Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year and setting the freshman school passing record with 2,065 yards.
Because of their list of high-quality returners, Leinart is high on Oklahoma State:
TCU Horned Frogs
Lastly, college football analyst Bruce Feldman doesn't want you to forget about the other Big 12 team in Texas.
So who has your vote?
If you missed Wednesday’s Big Noon Kickoff show, check it out in its entirety below!
And for more Top 5s from our crew, check out the state of college football, breakout player, breakout team, the most impactful transfer, best coaches, best QBs, best RBs, best WRs, best defensive players, and best conferences heading into the 2020 college football season.