May this be the yr Oklahoma lastly made a breakthrough within the faculty soccer playoffs?
Oklahoma missed the college football playoffs in 2020, so the Sooners now have a different offseason narrative.
That’s different than better.
There is no talk of another disappointing playoff loss that struck OU.
No, this time it’s all about Oklahoma’s advantages and even national championship hopes. As good as the Sooners looked late in the season – and especially with a 55:20 Goodyear Cotton Bowl win over depleted Florida – OU’s inventory is even higher now, less than 100 days before real college football started .
ESPN put Oklahoma in first place ahead of Alabama, heresy in some parts of the south.
When asked if the OU logo was on the leaderboard, coach Lincoln Riley offered an exhale that might have doubled as a sigh.
“I think it is what it is at this point in time. There is still a long way to go in these matters, ”said Riley. “My biggest deal with the guys is that we never shy away from high expectations and want to do well. It ensures that we put the work behind it.
“This is our business here. So we’ve never shied away from these things, but we also understand that preseason rankings are meaningless. “
Perhaps, but they believe in the evolution of Oklahoma under Riley, specifically that the Sooners have the talent, depth, and especially the defense to end that CFP loss in four games, only one of which is competitive.
For his part, Riley said he liked the “good vibes” from last month’s spring game, as well as the team’s leadership and selflessness.
When asked what he liked best, Riley pointed out the depth of the competition.
“I don’t know we had a squad that had so many players who played in big games and somehow split them into all positions,” said Riley.
As usual, Oklahoma has a potential Heisman winner and number 1 NFL draft picks in Redshirt runner-up Spencer Rattler. He threw 3,031 yards and 28 touchdowns in 11 games last season despite struggling with growing pain early on. And new freshman Caleb Williams, ranked the No. 1 double-threat quarterback in the country, was just 10 out of 11 for 99 yards in the spring.
With the top five teams in last season’s AP Top 25 hitting new quarterbacks, the Sooners have a luxury.
Yes, OU is loaded on the offensive, to no surprise, even if Seth McGowan and Trejan Bridges depart after an off-campus incident. The Tennessee implosion resulted in three impact transfers, including running back from Eric Gray, who under Riley could easily be a 1000-yard rusher.
“Eric is just so explosive and has great balance, great vision and just be patient in those holes when he hits them,” said Rattler after the spring game.
But Oklahoma has previously committed amazing crimes with Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts without making a CFP breakthrough despite winning six Big 12 titles in a row. The problem was a defense that allowed 199 points in the four playoff losses.
Riley actually started the process by deciding to fire Mike Stoops after a 48:45 loss to Texas in 2018 and then import Washington state rising star Alex Grinch as his defense coordinator.
OU appeared to be ready for prime time in the second half of last season. In the last seven games, Oklahoma allowed an average of 17 points. Only three teams recorded 400 yards or more of the entire offensive.
The Sooners look strong up front and by the linebacker. If a secondary player who was inconsistent at best moves up, Oklahoma may only have one top 25 defense – which could be good enough.
It might also need the state of Iowa expected to start somewhere in the top 10 next season.
“I think we have a chance to be good at all three levels of defense,” said Riley. “Having the chance to be good and to be good are certainly two different things, and we still have a lot to do.
“But I think there will be an opportunity to build a really strong defense.”
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