ESPN analyst believes the Sooners are the team under the most pressure in 2023

New year, same expectations for the Oklahoma Sooners. Though they had a down year based on their standards, those expectations don’t change if you’re the Oklahoma Sooners.

In the latest ESPN roundtable, Mark Schlabach chose the Sooners as the team under the most pressure in 2023.

Oklahoma is going to play one more season in the Big 12 before departing to the SEC along with Texas in 2024. The Sooners were kings of the Big 12 under Bob Stoops and Lincoln Riley, and there’s pressure on Venables to get things right in 2023. Sure, Riley can probably be blamed for some of OU’s troubles, after he poached quarterback Caleb Williams and receiver Mario Williams to the Trojans. And Riley didn’t exactly leave the cupboard stocked on defense. The Sooners surrendered 30 points and 461 yards per game, which ranked 99th and 122nd in the FBS, respectively. Venables hit the transfer portal hard to upgrade personnel on that side of the ball. Quarterback Dillon Gabriel is returning, but OU will have to replace leading receiver Marvin Mims Jr. and tailback Eric Gray. Oklahoma won’t turn into Nebraska when it joins the SEC, but it’s going to need to turn things around in a hurry. – Schlabach, ESPN

The Sooners did lose a ton of offensive production, but they get back the most important piece in quarterback Dillon Gabriel. Having that quarterback continuity makes a huge difference for a team that will be replacing their leading rusher, receiver, both offensive tackles, a guard, and their starting tight end.

After a 6-7 season, though, there’s nowhere to go but up for Brent Venables and the Sooners. They’d be under pressure to improve whether they were heading to the SEC or not. Because there’s a standard of excellence at Oklahoma that doesn’t only go back to the start of the Bob Stoops era but for the life of the program.

Oklahoma is a winning program, and that’s the expectation of the head coach. And they aren’t taking their time to rebuild the talent base on the roster. With their two recruiting classes and their work in the transfer portal, the Sooners are retooling the roster. The additions they’ve made infused a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball. And if the defense can make improvement, then the Oklahoma Sooners will win more ball games in 2023.

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Story originally appeared on Sooners Wire