2019 Preview: Oklahoma's Offensive Ceiling Still Sky-High With Jalen Hurts Under Center

The SI Staff
Sports Illustrated

Our college football 2019 season preview issue is here, which means we're checking in with all 25 teams from SI's official preseason Top 25 ranking. What do you need to know about each of this year's top contenders, from top-ranked Alabama down to Stanford? We'll be rolling out scouting reports for each team over the next two weeks, all of which are being collected here. Next up, it's No. 4 Oklahoma.

THE BIG STORY

In his two years as Oklahoma's head coach, Lincoln Riley's teams have led the nation in total offense and yards per play, and quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray won consecutive Heisman Trophies and become No. 1 draft picks. Jalen Hurts steps into Riley's factory after transferring from Alabama, where he was largely a run-first game manager. Now he'll be in charge of one of the most explosive offenses in the country.

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CAN'T MISS

Hurts must adjust to a new offensive scheme, but he'll have playmakers around him—none more dynamic than receiver CeeDee Lamb, who hauled in 65 passes last season and nearly matched the production of top Sooner receiver Marquise Brown, a first-rounder in this year's draft.

KEY QUESTION

The unit that won the Joe Moore Award, recognizing the country's top offensive line, lost four of its starters; only center Creed Humphrey returns to Norman. Junior Eric Swenson and sophomores Marquis Hayes, Tyrese Robinson and Adrian Ealy have zero career starts between them but were all blue-chip prospects. The quartet has the size and strength—they all clock in at over 315 pounds—but in Riley's complex schemes, will there be some growing pains?

X-FACTOR

You know the story in Norman: The offenses have been championship caliber. The defenses, not so much. After, the Sooners ranked 101st nationally in scoring defense last season, Riley fired defensive coordinator Mike Stoops and replaced him with Alex Grinch, the 38-year-old former Ohio State assistant. An emphasis of Grinch's scheme will be forcing turnovers, relying on playmakers like Kenneth Murray. Last year OU had only 11 takeaways, third fewest in the country. If Grinch can fix the unit's flaws, the Sooners will have their best shot at a championship after two straight seasons of falling short in the playoff.

OVER OR UNDER?

Over 10.5 wins. With likely improvement on defense and a favorable schedule—outside of the Red River Showdown, the Sooners should be big favorites in every regular-season matchup—Oklahoma should roll to 11 wins for a fourth straight year.

THE BOTTOM LINE

In Riley's two seasons as head coach, Oklahoma has two Big 12 championships, two playoff appearances and two Heisman winners. Is this the year he completes his résumé with a national title?

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