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As we close in on another exciting college football season, we have some bold predictions for each of our local teams.
Here’s what you can expect this season from Oklahoma:
1. Jeff Badet will have a 1,000-yard season
When Dede Westbrook left for the NFL, he took 1,524 yards and 17 touchdowns with him. That’s a sizeable share of OU’s passing game — more than 38 percent — that’s up for grabs this season. Jeff Badet, a Kentucky transfer, figures to have first dibs on Mayfield’s primary deep ball target even if he never factors into the short or intermediate passing game. He averaged over 21 yards per reception with the Wildcats, good enough for No. 6 in the nation. Just seven receivers have gone for 1,000 yards in a Sooners uniform, but Badet should be the eighth.
2. Baker Mayfield will be a Heisman Trophy finalist, but will not win
Baker Mayfield lost his three best weapons to the NFL with receiver Dede Westbrook and running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine all headed for the professional ranks. But the Sooners return what is perhaps the deepest offensive line in the nation with an NFL-caliber left tackle in Orlando Brown as well as several high-ceiling players at the skill positions. Perhaps most importantly, Mayfield keeps Lincoln Riley as his play-caller — the duo have won 22 games in two seasons together and Mayfield has finished in the top four of Heisman Trophy voting each time. There’s no reason to believe that will change in 2017.
3. OU will have at least four first-team All-Big 12 defenders
The Sooners should be much better on defense in 2017 for a few reasons — better leadership, a new 4-man front and better cornerback play opposite Jordan Thomas, to name a few. With that will come individual accolades. There are three virtual locks on the Sooners’ defense to be first-team all conference: Thomas, defensive end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and linebacker Caleb Kelly. The most likely candidate for a fourth is senior safety Steven Parker, but other options like cornerback Parnell Motley or defensive tackle Neville Gallimore could emerge throughout the season.
4. Oklahoma will run the table in the Big 12 — again
Outside of the surprising 2015 loss to Texas, the Sooners are undefeated in the Big 12 in the Lincoln Riley/Baker Mayfield era. 17-1. Perfect on the road. They’ve hardly even been challenged in two seasons. TCU (twice), Texas Tech (once) and the Longhorns (once) are the only programs to even play the Sooners to within a touchdown in that span. Oklahoma State has the talent to challenge OU’s secondary, but it lacks the toughness in the trenches that will be necessary to unseat the Sooners. West Virginia and Kansas State will also be better, but those teams don’t matchup well with Oklahoma athletically. Texas, despite its prolonged struggles, has continued to recruit well and will have the talent to go toe-to-toe with the Sooners — maybe twice.
5. The Sooners are headed back to the College Football Playoff
An early-season loss to Ohio State shouldn’t hurt the Sooners too much in their pursuit of a College Football Playoff bid, provided the Buckeyes do their part and win the Big 10. If Oklahoma is able to run the table in the Big 12 — including a conference championship game win on Dec. 2 — the Sooners should be in the conversation at 12-1. Assuming the other four power conferences don’t have an undefeated representative, it will be difficult for the committee to exclude a 12-win Oklahoma team that would have won 11 in a row. How the Sooners may fare against another top-four team, well, that could be a different story.
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