Oklahoma Sooners Preview 2022: Season Prediction, Breakdown, Key Games, Players

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Oklahoma Sooners Preview 2022: Previewing, predicting, and looking ahead to the Oklahoma season with what you need to know and keys to the season.

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Oklahoma Sooners Preview
Brent Venables: 0-0, 1st year at Oklahoma
2021 Preview: Overall: 11-2, Conference: 7-2
Offense, Defense Breakdown | Keys To The Season
Season Prediction, What Will Happen
Oklahoma Top 10 Players | OU Schedule & Analysis

Oklahoma Sooners Preview 2022

There’s a whole generation of Oklahoma fans who have known nothing but Bob Stoops and Lincoln Riley as the head coaches of their program, but no – this is not normal.

There was a stretch after the legendary Barry Switzer era when Oklahoma football took a little bit of a break. There were some shifts in philosophy, there was the year of dabbling with Howard Schnellenberger, and then in 1999 came this unknown Stoops guy, followed up in 2017 by this relatively unknown Riley guy.

It’s like Green Bay Packer fans who think quarterbacks are always supposed to play like Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. It isn’t easy to find coaches who are that good, that consistent – just ask Texas – and can step into a seemingly sure-thing job and be in the mix for championships every year.

With that said, Brent Venables – at the very least – makes a whole lot of sense to be the exact right fit as the Next OU Coach Up.

No pressure, but he has to not only keep all the production rolling, but he needs set the program up to take an even bigger step forward as it heads into the SEC in the near future – likely 2024, but with forces still trying to push for next year.

Venables represents more of a nod to the pivot to Stoops than the tweak with Riley. Stoops came to OU as a hot shot young defensive coach, and he all but turned the offense over to Mike Leach – at least for the first year – and the Air Raid style that set the tone early on. The O was great, but the Sooners won the national title in 2020 with a jaw-dropping defense.

And then there was Riley, who might have been the brilliant young offensive star who cranked up epic attacks, but the D couldn’t quite do its part.

Stoops had the one massive season almost right out of the gate, but he could never win another national title. Riley was able to dominate the Big 12, but he couldn’t get out of the College Football Playoff semifinals.

That’s where Venables comes in.

He might not be a young star like Stoops and Riley were when they took over, but the guy knows what he’s doing.

He was the defensive coordinator during those early years under Stoops, became the DC at Clemson in the ascension under Dabo Swinney, and now he finally has his first head coaching gig.

Offense, Defense Breakdown | Keys To The Season
Season Prediction, What Will Happen
Oklahoma Top 10 Players | OU Schedule & Analysis

Losing a talent like Riley stinks, but Oklahoma actually needed to change things a wee bit. What might have been fun over the past several years isn’t going to get the program through the gauntlet of life in the SEC.

You can be great and be 9-3 every year in the SEC if you don’t have all the talent that Alabama, Georgia, LSU, and now Texas A&M are able to amass. Venables knows what national championship-level teams look like, and he’s got a few years to get Oklahoma there.

It’s Brent Venables – the defense is going to be amazing very, very soon.

If that happens, and Jeff Lebby can do make the offense as strong as he did under Lane Kiffin and Ole Miss – it’s not Air Raid, but it has the same sort of pace and tempo – Oklahoma should be able to party like it’s 1999.

For now, it might be all about SEC, SEC, SEC, but Oklahoma is still in the Big 12, and it can certainly win that and be in the hunt for something bigger.

Nothing stops. Win the Big 12 title, get to the CFP, roll the dice.

Give it a year or so under Venables, accept that it might take a bit to get everything right, and then the focus becomes win the SEC – or be in the mix – get to the CFP, and win it.

Offense, Defense Breakdown | Keys To The Season
Season Prediction, What Will Happen
Oklahoma Top 10 Players | OU Schedule & Analysis

Oklahoma Sooners Preview 2022: Offense, Defense NEXT

Oklahoma Sooners Preview 2022: Offense

There was a time – and it’s still there for some – when part of the base wanted nothing more than a move back to the wishbone and a running attack that ground down defenses to a nub.

And now the tenor has switched to fans who want nothing to do with anything that might take away from the historic offense Lincoln Riley used to crank up a whole lot of success.

Offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby is coming in from Ole Miss. Just in case you’re worried about the O, Sooner fans, the Rebels led the SEC in total offense, were 12th in the nation in rushing, and were 118th in time of possession with an attack that went fast, fast, fast, fast, fast.

You want tempo? You want defenses on their heels. Enjoy what’s coming, but …

Do the Sooners have the parts? Both of the top quarterbacks transferred to USC – Caleb Williams to the LA version, and Spencer Rattler to the South Carolina kind – but in comes Dillon Gabriel from UCF. He’s not Williams, but he’s a fantastic fit and an experienced playmaker who’ll crank up massive numbers.

Freshman Nick Evers is the star-in-waiting, but Davis Beville is coming in from Pitt to add even more of a backup veteran presence.

Yeah, OU lost some good receivers, but the best of the bunch is still around. Marvin Mims averaged over 22 yards per catch. He was the team’s yardage receiver over the last two seasons, and 2020 No. 2 man Theo Wease is back after missing last year with a foot injury.

The offensive line allowed way too many sacks and wasn’t quite as dominant as it should’ve been. It’s not starting from scratch – Anton Harrison is a great one at left tackle – but the front five is going through a little bit of a reboot as it needs to be ready to get on the move. Getting McKade Mettauer from Cal at one guard spot helps and adding TCU’s Tyler Guyton as a likely key reserve at tackle matters.

The running backs are fine. Former Tennessee transfer Eric Gray should  have no problems picking up the slack with leading rusher Kennedy Brooks gone, Marcus Major is a 220-pound thumper, and Gabriel can take off enough to matter.

For more Oklahoma football go to Soonerswire.com

Oklahoma Sooners Preview 2022: Defense

Defensive coordinator Ted Roof has a lot more experience to work with on his side than Lebby has for the offense. The D struggled, allowing close to 400 yards and 26 points per game, but it was more about how it took so much time to warm up.

There was pressure in the backfield, but not enough plays for the pass defense. Overall the run defense was strong, but it didn’t face a whole slew of good running teams and then got hit for close to 300 yards against Baylor. There’s work to be done, but the returning experience and help from the transfer portal should be enough to improve.

It also helps to have a head coach with the defensive chops like Brent Venables.

There might have been issues at times overall, but the plays behind the line were there. A whole bunch of that production is gone, but the starting front four should be more than capable of getting the job done starting with Jalen Redmond on the inside and Reggie Grimes on the outside.

The biggest key up front, though, is the addition of 6-2, 302-pound Jeffery Johnson from Tulane. He’s not going to be too much of an interior pass rusher, but he’s a veteran who’ll hold up well on the nose.

The linebacking corps should grow into a strength. The Sooners might have lost leading tackler Brian Asamoah and star pass rusher Nik Bonitto, but DaShaun White is back on the weakside, Danny Statesman will be a statistical star in the middle, and hybrid Marcus Stripling will work in a variety of ways on the outside.

On the way is well-traveled TD Roof from Appalachian State, and Indiana, and Georgia Tech. He’ll make a whole lot of big plays.

The secondary didn’t make enough big plays – outside of a few spectacular moments – but the starting 4/5 will be solid, and there’s good, emerging depth.

Here’s where the transfer portal should play a huge role with Trey Morrison a steady four-year producer at North Carolina stepping in as a third safety and CJ Coldon a good corner option from Wyoming coming off a 67-tackle season with ten broken up passes.

Oklahoma 2022 Preview | Keys To The Season
Season Prediction, What Will Happen
Oklahoma Top 10 Players | OU Schedule & Analysis

Oklahoma Sooners: Keys To The Season, Top Game, Top Transfer, Fun Stats NEXT

Oklahoma Sooners: Keys To The Season, Top Game, Top Transfer, Fun Stats

Oklahoma Sooners: Key To The 2022 Offense

Keep on hitting third down plays.

Oklahoma fans are used to high-powered offenses that get on the move and keep defenses backpedalling, and that’s the going to be the idea right out of the gate for an offense that’s going to strike at lightning speed.

There’s a flip side to all of that, though.

Oklahoma will almost certainly get crushed in the time of possession battle, but that’s okay – it’s all part of the style. As long as the O is moving fast and scoring, all is fine. If the O is moving fast and then stalling, the pressure put on the its own defense is enormous.

As good as the Oklahoma offense always was under Lincoln Riley, last year it stalled a bit too much on third downs, and it was a big part of the problem in the losses to Baylor and Oklahoma State – the O converted just 7-of-37 (16%) on third down tries over the last three regular season games.

Long-winded blurb short – going three-and-out with this style of offense will gas the defense.

Oklahoma Sooners: Key To The 2022 Defense

Stop passing games from getting so comfortable, and that starts with …

The pass rush. It has to be more consistent.

The 2020 OU pass rush roared averaging 3.36 sacks per game, and last year it fell off to 2.54 per outing. Worse than that was how the pass rush worked.

The 2020 version was relatively steady. Last year’s defense got into the backfield in waves, doing a great job early, rolling with seven sacks in the win over Iowa State, and managing one sack or none seven times including a long midseason drought.

That all tied into a pass defense that allowed passing games to hit passes too easily, especially in the middle of the season when Texas, TCU, and even Kansas were able to crank up way too many big plays.

Oklahoma Sooners: Key Player To The 2022 Season

PK Zach Schmit, Soph.
There will be at least one game when Oklahoma needs to rely on one big kick to either survive, or pull out a late win, or to simply get something out of good drives.

There might have been only one game last year – a 16-13 win over West Virginia – decided by three points or fewer, but that’s partly because OU was always able to take advantage of its good chances, finishing No. 1 in the nation in red zone offense.

That was helped by Gabe Brkic, who closed out his career hitting 57-of-69 field goals and 20-of-26 last season. He hit three in that win over the Mountaineers, was 4-for-4 against Texas, the four he made against Tulane were a big deal, and on the flip side, the two missed in the loss to Baylor mattered.

Schmit is expected to be fine – he was a star recruit a few years ago and hit his one field goal try last year – and he needs to be a reliable weapon.

Oklahoma Sooners: Key Transfer

QB Dillon Gabriel, Jr.
No, he’s not as good as Caleb Williams, and he’s coming off a collarbone injury that cost him almost all of last year, but the guy knows how to run a high-powered attack and he knows how to handle the tempo of this one.

At UCF he threw for over 8,000 yards and 70 touchdowns with just 14 interceptions in just over three seasons, and he ran for 372 yards and eight scores. He’s exactly the type of veteran presence who won’t be fazed by all the changes.

Oklahoma Key Game To The 2022 Season

Texas (in Dallas), Oct. 8
There are probably more important Big 12 games to deal with – the home date with Oklahoma State on November 19th might matter more, and winning at Nebraska is about hearts and minds – but …

Yeah, new guy, Rule No. 1 as the OU head coach: You don’t lose to Texas. Rule No. 2: You do NOT lose to Texas.

On the flip side, win this, and even with a few dangerous Big 12 road games remaining, that might be the one big hurdle to overcome if the Sooners don’t drop a game in Norman.

Oklahoma Sooners: 2021 Fun Stats

– OU Points Allowed: 1st Quarter 104 – 2nd Quarter 43
– Fumbles: Opponents 28 (lost 13) – Oklahoma 16 (lost 4)
– Onside Kicks: Opponents 2-of-6 – Oklahoma 0-of-1

Oklahoma 2022 Preview
Offense, Defense Breakdown
Season Prediction, What Will Happen
Oklahoma Top 10 Players | OU Schedule & Analysis

Oklahoma Sooners Season Prediction, What Will Happen NEXT

Oklahoma Sooners Season Prediction, What Will Happen

It’s just about the same sort of situation as it was last year in the Big 12.

The expansion hasn’t kicked in yet, everyone appears to be improved/hopeful/better, Baylor and Oklahoma State are dangerous, and Texas is once again going to be “back.”

The Big 12 isn’t going anywhere yet. It’s still there for the taking.

Here’s the thing to remember about how everything went down last year in what might have seemed like a major disappointment – even though 11-2 with an Alamo Bowl win is hardly anything to blow off …

Oklahoma – as flawed as it might have been – was way close to being in the College Football Playoff.

It struggled and sputtered throughout the season and yet it was still a tough loss to Oklahoma State and an impressive regular-season-loss-avenging-win performance over Baylor in the Big 12 Championship from probably booting out Cincinnati.

Oh sure, it would’ve been a total annihilation against Alabama in the CFP, but at the very least the Sooners weren’t that far away.

Now, for the future under Brent Venables, there has to be a distinction between making the College Football Playoff and actually being one of the four best teams in the thing, but for now …

Yeah, win the Big 12, get to the CFP, and don’t worry about what happens from there.

Set The Oklahoma Sooners Regular Season Win Total At … 10

Expect a whole lot of gloom-and-doom prognostications early on, and yeah it stinks that a whole slew of parts up and left, but it’s not like Ohio State, or Georgia, or Bama are on the slate.

If you can’t win at Nebraska, Oklahoma, then fine, it’s a reboot year and the big dreams wait until 2023.

But this team should have a good enough starting 22 to win that. Two of the toughest games – Oklahoma State and Baylor – are in Norman and TCU, rebuilding Iowa State, West Virginia, and Texas Tech isn’t that bad a Big 12 road slate.

There’s definitely going to be a loss somewhere, and go ahead and budget in two. This really is an even Big 12 after Kansas – no, that’s not going to be a problem this time around – with nine of the ten teams good enough to at least go bowling.

But don’t get too crazy here. There’s a better chance of Oklahoma rising back up and being 11-1 Big 12 Championship-good than it does of being in a 7-5 rebuild mode.

Oklahoma 2022 Preview
Offense, Defense Breakdown | Keys To The Season
Oklahoma Top 10 Players | OU Schedule & Analysis

2022 College Football Schedules: All 131 Teams