Oklahoma Sooners: CFN College Football Preview 2021

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College Football News Preview 2021: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the Oklahoma football season with what you need to know.

Contact/Follow @ColFootballNews & @PeteFiutak

– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
Top Players | Keys To The Season
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
Oklahoma Football Schedule Analysis
– Oklahoma Sooners Previews
2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015

2020 Record: 9-2 overall, 7-2 in Big 12
Head Coach: Lincoln Riley, 5th year, 45-8
2020 CFN Final Ranking: 6
2020 CFN Preview Ranking: 6
2019 CFN Final Ranking: 8

Oklahoma Sooners College Football Preview 2021: Offense

Here we go. It’s not like the Oklahoma offense wasn’t fun last season – it was No. 1 in the Big 12 averaging close to 500 yards and 43 points per game – but now the parts that were getting up and running should be ready to hum.

There were some talent losses, and the depth in some spots takes a hit – helloooooo receiving corps – but seven starters are expected to return to go along with a few big-time parts from the transfer portal – helloooooo Tennessee.

Everything about the Oklahoma 2021 season revolves around …

Spencer Rattler. This is the home-grown quarterback recruit in the Lincoln Riley era going into his third year in the system. This is when everything about the game is supposed to slow down, and this is when his production is supposed to blow up.

He was very, very good – throwing 28 touchdowns with seven picks – but he doesn’t add all that much to the ground game until he gets around the goal line. This is Oklahoma, though. The quarterbacks are supposed to be very, very, Heisman-caliber good. Rattler should be just that.

The depth is thin with No. 2 guy Tanner Mordecai off to SMU and Chandler Morris taking off for TCU. It’s asking a LOT out of a newbie to the system, but superstar recruit Caleb Williams is the likely main backup for now, with Penn State transfer Micah Bowens an interesting option to develop.

At the moment, seven receivers/tight ends are in the transfer portal. That stinks for the depth – and fourth-leading receiver Charleston Rambo is off to Miami – but there’s a reason for this. Marvin Mims, Theo Wease, Jadon Haselwood, Drake Stoops, and TE/H-Back Austin Stogner form what should be the best – at least the deepest – receiving corps in the nation.

Include the backs in the mix, and the offense that spreads the ball around should be impossible to deal with. Throw in Arkansas transfer WR Mike Woods – all he did was catch 65 passes for over 1,000 yards and nine scores over the last two years – and forget it. No one’s covering all this talent.

The offensive line loses its heart-and-soul quarterback in C Creed Humphrey along with star OT Adrian Ealy, but three starters return, 335-pound guard Marquis Hayes is terrific, and on the way from Tennessee is 6-5, 313-pound Wanya Morris, an all-star blocker who’ll push his way into the starting left tackle gig.

Also from Tennessee is new RB Eric Gray, a nice back who should fit in perfectly after running for over 1,300 yards with eight scores and 43 catches over his two years with the Vols.

If Gray’s the new No. 1 in place of leading rusher Rhamondre Stevenson, than 2019 1,000-yard rusher Kennedy Brooks – who opted out in 2020 – is No. 1A. No. 2 back TJ Pledger left for Utah.

– What You Need To Know: Defense
Top Players | Keys To The Season
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
Oklahoma Football Schedule Analysis

NEXT: Oklahoma Sooners College Football Preview 2021: Defense

Oklahoma Sooners College Football Preview 2021: Defense

Yeah, this isn’t your older brother’s Oklahoma defense. You remember 2018, right? The Sooners allowed over six yards per play and got ripped up by anyone who could put 11 guys on the field. In came Alex Grinch, and all of a sudden the OU defense was good – and last year it was fabulous.

The Sooners made the transformation from a Defense Optional team to No. 3 in the Big 12 overall – everyone had to push to keep up – and among the best in the country at taking the ball away. It was a rock against the run, the best in the Big 12 in sacks, and almost all of the main men are coming back.

DE Ronnie Perkins is a New England Patriot and CB/Nickel Tre Norwood is a Pittsburgh Steeler. Follow DB Brendan Radley-Hiles left for the Washington Huskies, but that’s about it. There were a few nice parts of the rotation who also left, but for the most part, the Sooner D is loaded, but it all starts with …

The defensive backs. If this group is strong, the defense will be a brick wall. Norwood and Radley-Hiles were good, but Jaden Davis – Norwood led the team with five picks – and now there’s a little work to be done at corner and nickel. Woodi Washington tied for third on the team with 45 tackles, and DJ Graham and Jaden Davis are solid young options who’ll work their way in. They’ll be okay; the safeties will be fantastic.

Delarrin Turner-Yell was second on the team with 52 stops and Pat Fields is a versatile option at corner or as a good-hitting safety. Those two should be all-stars. Again, if the defensive backs are solid, everything else should rock because …

The front seven is very deep and very, very good. The defensive tackle combination of Perrion Winfrey and Isaiah Thomas isn’t huge, but the 262-pound Thomas – he’s really an end – led the team with 8.5 sacks with 13 tackles for loss, and the 290-pound Winfrey came up with an All-Big 12 season on the anchor on the nose.

Perkins was the tone-setting star after he was back in the mix halfway through the season, but Thomas should move to the outside and 284-pound sophomore Jalen Redmond will likely play a big role at tackle.

LB Nik Bonitto will be in the hunt for Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors. The 234-pounder did a little of everything, shining brightest as a dangerous pass rusher who was always in the quarterback’s face.

Bonitto will get all the pub and the love, but the combination of Brian Asamoah, DaShaun White, and David Ugwoegbu will do all the tough work on the inside. Asmoah led the team with 66 stops, but White and Ugwoegbu will be stat-sheet fillers, too.

– What You Need To Know: Offense
Top Players | Keys To The Season
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
Oklahoma Football Schedule Analysis

NEXT: Oklahoma Sooners College Football Preview 2021: Top Players

Oklahoma Sooners College Football Preview 2021: Top Players

Best Oklahoma Sooners Offensive Player

QB Spencer Rattler, Soph.
Rattler was special by almost any reasonable and normal standards. He hit 68% of his passes for over 3,000 yards, averaged close to ten yards per throw, cranked out 28 touchdown passes with seven picks – he settled down with those after the three interception day against Kansas State – and ran for six scores.

Oh yeah, and along the way he led the way to a Big 12 title and a Cotton Bowl victory.

But after Baker, and Kyler, and Jalen, Sooner fans are used to something otherworldly. That’s what Rattler should be able to do in this offense loaded with all-star skill talents.

2. WR Marvin Mims, Soph.
3. OT Wanya Morris, Jr.
4. RB Eric Gray, Jr.
5. WR Jadon Haselwood, Soph.

Related

Oklahoma Football Schedule 2021, Analysis, Best & Worst Case Scenario

Best Oklahoma Sooners Defensive Player

LB Nik Bonitto, Jr.
A good recruit with the upside to be a terrific pass rusher, he started to show what he could do as a redshirt freshman as an all-around playmaking outside linebacker.

Last year, he showed what he could do as a devastating game-wrecker in the backfield with eight sacks, 10.5 tackles for loss, ten quarterback hurries and 32 tackles.

2. DT Isaiah Thomas, Sr.
3. DT Perrion Winfrey, Sr.
4. LB David Ugwoegbu, Jr.
5. LB Brian Asamoah, Jr.

For Oklahoma news, notes, and all the latest info, check out SoonersWire.com

Top Incoming Oklahoma Sooners Transfer

OT Wanya Morris, Jr.
It’s either this former Tennessee Volunteer, or it’s the guy he blocked for in Knoxville, RB Eric Gray, Morris, though, is the bigger need get – he’s a 6-5, 313-pound NFL-caliber tackle who should let the coaching staff play around with the line.

Senior Erik Swenson grew into a technician of a left tackle over the last two years, but he also worked just fine on the right side. He’s a great pass protector, and now the arrival of Morris allows him to work wherever needed.

– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
Keys To The Season
What Will Happen, Win Total Prediction
Oklahoma Football Schedule Analysis

NEXT: Oklahoma Sooners College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season

Oklahoma Sooners College Football Preview 2021: Keys To The Season

Oklahoma Sooners Biggest Key: Offense

Weak cliché warning … Oklahoma wins if it doesn’t beat itself.

Sorry – there’s a payoff at the end here to make up for that.

The running game will be better and should be more consistent. It’s not going to get the production with Spencer Rattler under center like it did with Kyler Murray or Jalen Hurts, but the quarterback doesn’t need to take off and rock if the talented backs – Eric Gray and Kennedy Brooks – do their thing.

With that said, the Sooners struggled to run in both games against Iowa State, couldn’t move a lick against Baylor, and averaged under five yards per carry for the first time since 2012. That has to change, but more than that …

It wins if it doesn’t beat itself. More like, it wins if it doesn’t screw up.

Oklahoma is ten-miles more talented than everyone on its schedule. There might be one loss on the slate, but the only way it drops two games is with a whole lot of giveaways – like the four in the 38-35 shocker against Kansas State. That was the only time OU lost the turnover battle.

The Sooners were -2 against K-State in 2019, too, in their only regular season loss. They lost one regular season game in 2018 – and it was the only time all season they were -3 in turnover margin.

Oklahoma has never lost a game in the Lincoln Riley era when it won the turnover battle. In fact, the last Sooner loss when it was on the plus side was …

2014. It was +1 in a 37-33 loss to No. 3 TCU. Before that? November 6, 2010 against Texas A&M.

If it’s not the turnovers that might do in the Sooners …

Oklahoma Sooners Biggest Key: Defense

Don’t let anyone bomb away. Oklahoma doesn’t have a problem getting into firefights – it can hang with just about anyone – but there’s a huge problem when quarterbacks are able to hit the big plays.

Kansas State was a lot of things last year, but it wasn’t exactly a high-powered passing team. That’s partly because Skylar Thompson was knocked out for the year early on, but even so, the O only averaged more than ten yards per attempt once – against Oklahoma.

In the win, the Wildcats averaged 13.4 yards per throw. A week later, Iowa State’s Brock Purdy – who was a bit hit-or-miss throughout last season – averaged close to 11 yards per throw in the Cyclone win.

Of course Joe Burrow averaged close to 13 yards a pass in the College Football Playoff Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl win, making OU 0-3 over the last two years against teams that averaged over ten yards a throw.

Before that? Tua Tagovailoa averaged 11.7 yards per pass in the CFP Orange Bowl. The Sooners beat West Virginia in 2018 when Will Grier went off, but that was a 59-56 insanity-fest.

Throw in a loss to Iowa State in 2017, and under Lincoln Riley OU is 2-4 when giving up over ten yards a pop. So …

Oklahoma Sooners Key Player To A Successful Season

CB DJ Graham, Soph.
Woodi Washington will be fine on the other side, and Jaden Davis is a decent veteran who can step in. The 5-11, 195-pound Graham, though, came on late in his freshman year to finish with 21 tackles with a pick and a broken up pass.

The talent and speed are all there, but he’ll have to make teams pay for throwing his way. Everything else is in place on D – the corners have to be great.

Oklahoma Sooners Key Game To The 2021 Season

Iowa State, Nov. 20
Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s of course the Texas game, and if it’s not the Texas game it’s the trip to Oklahoma State to close out the regular season.

And yeah, yeah, yeah, it would be nice if the Sooners could quit biffing against Kansas State after losing two straight. But they can drop a game along the way, get to the Big 12 Championship, and get into the College Football Playoff.

However, losing in the home finale against a very, very good Iowa State team could be a killer.

That comes before the date up the road about 80 miles to deal with the Cowboys and after what might be a sneaky-lookahead game at Baylor. Beat Iowa State convincingly, and everything this team is looking for should be there for the taking.

Oklahoma Football Schedule Breakdown & Analysis

2020 Oklahoma Sooners Fun Stats

– 1st Quarter Scoring: Oklahoma 151 – Opponents 20
– Penalties: Opponents 100 for 798 yards – Oklahoma 80 for 738
– 4th Down Conversions: Oklahoma 8-of-10 (80%) – Opponents 15-of-23 (65%)

NEXT: Oklahoma Sooners College Football Preview 2021: What Will Happen, Season Prediction

Oklahoma Sooners College Football Preview 2021: What Will Happen, Season Prediction

Lincoln Riley’s Sooners lost in the 2018 Rose Bowl to a Georgia team that came within a 2nd-and-26 play from Tua Tagovailoa to DeVonta Smith of winning the national title.

They lost the 2018 Orange Bowl to an Alabama team that came within a Clemson steamroller of winning the national title, and they lost the 2019 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl to an LSU team that might have been the greatest of all-time.

No shame there. Three College Football Playoff appearances, three totally acceptable losses.

It pretty much took five perfect games to hand Riley his other defeats – all by a touchdown or less.

That’s it. It’s not like Oklahoma comes out and totally clunks, and more than that, it’s not like it doesn’t seem to find a way to fix things on the fly after losing a regular season game.

There’s a chance – to get to a whole other level – that it might be a case of Riley working his way through his first four years to get the program to just this very spot.

He’s had most of a recruiting cycle to get through, he’s benefitted in a big way from transfers, and he made one of the best hires in college football over the last several seasons in getting Alex Grinch to instantly fix a woeful defense.

Now he’s got the team, the schemes, the depth, the hand-picked players, the staff, and the schedule to get by whenever the Big 12 team on the other side has its groove going.

And he’s got all that to potentially get by an opposing powerhouse program in the College Football Playoff.

Set The Oklahoma Sooners Regular Season Win Total At … 11

Oh, but you’ve heard it all before.

This was when the Sooners would have it all together, or maybe the offense would be too much to overcome, and maybe it was Riley’s time, and …

Eventually all of that will be true.

Riley keeps getting his team close, and eventually that one break will happen. That might be now with what should be the best team yet in his fabulous run.

The schedule can’t be a problem for a team this good.

While the Alabamas and Texas A&Ms have to deal with the SEC West, and the Ohio States and Penn States have to face the Big Ten East, and the Clemsons have to handle the … uh … well, it has to handle not tripping over itself during the ACC title coronation run, Oklahoma gets a relatively manageable draw even in a much-improved Big 12.

There’s that home game against Nebraska – and no, it’s not backing out of this – and there’s game after game in conference play that could be sticky if everything isn’t clicking, but this team could be above the big gaffe.

No, this isn’t 2019 LSU or 2020 Alabama, but those two were able to get through their nasty slates just fine, and 2021 Oklahoma’s schedule isn’t anywhere near as tough.

Yeah, soon it really will be Oklahoma’s year under Lincoln Riley. That year might be 2021.

– What You Need To Know: Offense | Defense
Top Players | Keys To The Season
Oklahoma Football Schedule Analysis