Can Oklahoma Navigate Back to the College Football Playoff?
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The Sooners’ 2015 season included victories over five ranked opponents, with a loss to Texas as the only blemish on the schedule. The effort earned Oklahoma the fourth and final seed in the College Football Playoff, but the team proved overmatched in a 37-17 loss to Clemson. Oklahoma’s quest to return to the Playoff will be aided by senior quarterback Baker Mayfield and junior running back Semaje Perine.
New Coach in Waco
Former Baylor coach Art Briles was fired in May after a report determined school administrators discouraged students from reporting sexual assault allegations, some involving football players. Jim Grobe, formerly a head coach at Wake Forest and Ohio, has been tasked with righting the ship.
Big 12 Expansion
The Big 12 announced that it will explore expansion and could grow to 12 or possibly 14 teams. All of the candidates to join come from outside the Power 5, headlined by Houston, Cincinnati and BYU. A decision may be made in October.
Three Players to Watch
QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Mayfield will start the season on the Heisman shortlist after accumulating 3,700 passing yards in 2015 with 36 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also generated 405 rushing yards and seven scores on the ground.
Baylor was cruising last season with Russell at the helm, starting 7-0 as its quarterback passed for 2,104 yards and 29 touchdowns. After Russell suffered a season-ending injury, the Bears’ season took a turn for the worse (albeit against a tougher schedule). Baylor finished 2-3 without Russell in the lineup, but managed a 49-38 victory over North Carolina in its bowl game.
RB Semaje Perine, Oklahoma
In Perine’s 2015 sophomore campaign, he totaled 1,349 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. It was actually a step back from a freshman season in which Perine rushed for 1,713 yards and 21 end zone excursions. Coupled with the return of Mayfield, Oklahoma’s offense will be tough to slow down.
Three Games to Watch
Oklahoma vs. Houston: Saturday, September 3
In the wake of the Big 12’s expansion announcement, Texas was quick to champion the cause of Houston. The Cougars begin the season ranked 15th in the AP poll and will have a prime opportunity to demonstrate their Big 12 worthiness with a strong showing against the league’s best team. The game will take place at NRG Stadium, home of the NFL’s Houston Texans.
Oklahoma @ TCU: Saturday, October 1
The Horned Frogs have lost just three games in two years and will challenge the Sooners for the Big 12 crown. In last season’s matchup, a 30-29 Sooners win, TCU outscored Oklahoma 16-0 in the fourth quarter. If not for a failed two-point conversion with 51 seconds remaining, TCU could have pulled off the upset.
Baylor @ Oklahoma: Saturday, November 12
Yes, all three games to watch involve Oklahoma. (And if we included a fourth, it might be the Sooners’ September 17th matchup with Ohio State.) The Sooners avenged losses to Baylor in 2013 and 2014 with a 44-34 victory last season. This will likely be the fourth year in a row the two schools meet as members of the AP Top 25.
To view a team’s game-by-game predictions, select the school below: