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Though much is being made of the Oklahoma Sooners’ turnover this offseason, the Sooners remain the team to beat in the Big 12 and will be a contender on the national stage in 2022. At least that’s the story the way-too-early power rankings tell.
Oklahoma has shown up at the top of the Big 12 in most early power rankings this offseason. If it wasn’t No. 1, it was No. 2. As Pro Football Focus takes its stab at the way-too-early rankings, the Sooners come in No. 9.
(Dillon) Gabriel has fantastic touch downfield, and that trait led to major passing success. He earned 80.3 and 90.4 passing grades as a true freshman and sophomore in 2019 and 2020, respectively. Lebby’s offense won’t ask Gabriel to do too much and will take advantage of the quarterback’s strengths. – Treash, Pro Football Focus
Gabriel is a big reason the Sooners aren’t expected to experience a drop-off in team performance from the 2021 to 2022 seasons. His experience and production at UCF were a massive addition for the Oklahoma Sooners, who lost both Caleb Williams and Spencer Rattler to the transfer portal.
There would have been options to add a transfer quarterback, but you’d be hard-pressed to find one with the production and game experience Gabriel brought to Norman. Gabriel’s touch and deep ball accuracy will be huge assets for the Sooners and specifically wide receiver Marvin Mims, who has yet to have a 1,000-yard season but has led the Sooners in receiving yards each of his first two years in Norman.
Wide receiver Marvin Mims is expected to carry a large load in the offense. Mims has yet to be a full-time starter, but his skill set and level of production as a true freshman and sophomore were too good to ignore. He owns an 86.5 receiving grade, 19.1 yards per catch, 3.14 yards per route run and a 143.8 passer rating when targeted since 2020. Over that span, Mims has turned 34.4% of his targets into a gain of 15 or more yards, the third-highest rate in the Power Five. – Treash, PFF
Mims will lead the way, but the Sooners have capable players such as Theo Wease, Drake Stoops and Jalil Farooq to ease the burden of Oklahoma’s No. 1 wide receiver.
Let’s take a look at PFF’s top 10.
Gary Cosby-USA TODAY Sports
No surprise here. As long as Nick Saban’s at Alabama, preseason polls will reflect the Crimson Tide’s reign of terror over college football over the last 15 years. Quarterback Bryce Young will have a shot to repeat as the Heisman Trophy winner, which would be the first time since Archie Griffin won back-to-back awards in 1974 and 1975.
Nov. 6, 2021; Lincoln, Nebraska; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) looks to throw a pass during the second quarter against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium. Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports
The Ohio State Buckeyes are all the rage this offseason. C.J. Stroud is a Heisman front-runner and the Buckeyes are expected to bounce back from missing the Big Ten title game and the College Football Playoff in 2021.
Jan. 15, 2022; Athens, Georgia, USA; Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart holds up the AFCA National Championship Trophy at the Georgia Bulldogs national championship celebration at Sanford Stadium. Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Georgia is losing a ton of talent to the NFL draft from a defense that was historically one of the best college football has ever seen. That doesn’t mean the Bulldogs will not contend, but can they be the first team to win back-to-back national titles since Alabama in 2011 and 2012?
Ken Ruinard / staff via Imagn Content Services, LLC
Clemson has a quarterback situation to work out between 2021 starter D.J. Uiagalelei and Cade Klubnik, but they should be a bounce-back team in 2022. The Tigers will be challenged by ACC runner-up Wake Forest, which returns one of the more prolific passers from the 2021 season, Sam Hartman.
Oct. 30, 2021; East Lansing; Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh reacts after a play during the fourth quarter against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium. Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
It will be interesting to see how Jim Harbaugh’s flirtation with the NFL will affect his team heading into 2022. The Wolverines are eighth in returning production according to ESPN, but they should have the talent to give Ohio State a fight in the Big 10.
Texas A&M Aggies
Nov. 20, 2021; College Station; Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Blake Bost (14) calls the play during the fourth quarter against the Prairie View Am Panthers at Kyle Field. Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports
I don’t know if it’s the win over Alabama or the hype surrounding their 2022 recruiting class, but this feels a bit rich. Like Clemson, the Aggies have a quarterback battle to work out between Haynes King and Max Johnson, who transferred in from LSU.
Oct. 30, 2021; Salt Lake City, Utah; Utah Utes running back TJ Pledger (5) runs the ball during the fourth quarter against the UCLA Bruins at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
The Utah Utes have become one of the more consistent teams in the Pac-12 over the last several years because of their playmaking defense. Utah is sixth in returning production according to ESPN and will be a contender out west. Kyle Whittingham’s squad has won fewer than nine games just once since 2014, not counting the COVID-shortened season.
Nov. 29, 2021; Los Angeles, California; Lincoln Riley (left) and Southern California Trojans athletic director Mike Bohn react during a press conference to introduce Riley as USC head coach. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
USC is one of the biggest boom-or-bust teams of the 2022 college football season. With a new staff and several major additions and losses from the transfer portal, this team is going to be completely different from this past year. Finding continuity will be key, but the biggest deciding factor in USC’s Year 1 fate of the Lincoln Riley era is the performance of quarterback [autotag]Caleb Williams[/autotag]. He is one of the most talented quarterbacks in the country, but the 2021 five-star recruit displayed a raw skill set during his true freshman campaign at Oklahoma. – Treash, PFF
Williams is a good quarterback that has a lot to learn, but so does his coach who seemed determined to live and die with the deep ball in 2021 as well.
USC’s addition of Caleb Williams and fellow Oklahoma transfer Mario Williams and Oregon transfer Travis Dye will help the offense be pretty good in 2022. But will they be consistent enough to beat Utah or Oregon next season? Riley’s offense faltered down the stretch against Baylor, Iowa State, and in the second half of Oklahoma State.
First-year OU football coach Brent Venables works with his team during Thursday’s practice in Norman. CHRIS LANDSBERGER/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY NETWORK
This feels like a good spot for the Oklahoma Sooners. They’ll be one of the better teams in the Big 12 in 2022, but they’ll be challenged by Oklahoma State, Baylor, and Texas for conference supremacy in Brent Venables’ first season as head coach.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Wake Forest Demon Deacons wide receiver A.T. Perry (9) hurdles Rutgers Scarlet Knights defensive back Joe Lusardi (37) during the second quarter Friday, Dec. 31, 2021 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. The Wake Forest Demon Deacons and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights faced each other in the 2021 TaxSlayer Gator Bowl. Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union
Wake Forest returns one of the best quarterbacks from the 2021 season, Sam Hartman. Last season, Harman threw for 4,228 yards and 39 touchdowns to help Wake Forest win 11 games and reach the ACC title game for the first time since 2006, the last time they won the ACC.