Ranking the Oklahoma Sooners opponents on the 2023 schedule

The Oklahoma Sooners have won more Big 12 titles than the rest of the conference combined. They have a shot to add to that number before packing up their hardware and rolling off to the SEC.

But they’ll have to navigate a Big 12 schedule that has been bumpy for the Sooners over the last two seasons, keeping them out of the Big 12 title game.

The Big 12 has become a league marked by parity in recent seasons, leading to a different Big 12 champion in each of the last three seasons. Six teams have participated in the conference title game in the last three seasons, and the conference looks just as wide open as last year.

But the schedule is doable. Oklahoma has some tough road games, but the Sooners should be favored when they go on the road to face Cincinnati, BYU and Oklahoma State.

But which team will be the toughest for the Oklahoma Sooners? Let’s take a look at each opponent from easiest to toughest.

Arkansas State Red Wolves

Sept. 17, 2022; Memphis, Tennessee; Arkansas State Red Wolves wide reciever Te’Vailance Hunt (10) hurdles over Memphis Tigers defensive back Davion Ross (1) during the second half at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

The Arkansas State Red Wolves are coming off their third straight losing season. They’ve gone 2-14 against the Sun Belt over the last two seasons.

SMU Mustangs

Oct. 24, 2019; Houston, Texas; Southern Methodist Mustangs cornerback Sam Westfall (6) is congratulated by the fans following SMU’s 34-31 win against the Houston Cougars at TDECU Stadium. Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Since 2010, SMU’s only Power Five wins are the two they collected over TCU when Sonny Dykes was the head coach and a win over Washington State in 2010. That’s it.

I don’t expect that to change in 2023, when the Sooners host the SMU Mustangs in the second week of the season.

Tulsa Golden Hurricaine

Tulsa Golden Hurricane linebacker Justin Wright (30) and Tulsa Golden Hurricane defensive lineman Jaxon Player (90) celebrate after taking down Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) during the second half of Saturday’s NCAA Division I football game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on Sept. 18, 2021. Ohio State won the game 41-20.

Tulsa hasn’t fared much better against the Power Five over the years, but they’ve played well against Ole Miss and Oklahoma State close in recent years. Hosting the Oklahoma Sooners one week before OU’s road trip to Cincinnati could create a trap-game scenario early in the season.

Oklahoma will be the more talented squad, but new Tulsa head coach Kevin Wilson will have answers for Brent Venables’ defense that could create fits for the Sooners.

Iowa State Cyclones

Nov. 26, 2022; Fort Worth, Texas; Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Hunter Dekkers (12) hands off to running back Eli Sanders (6) against the TCU Horned Frogs during the first half at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

The defense will be good, but there are still questions about how much the offense can help. If they’re better than last year, the Cyclones will be one of the tougher teams in the Big 12. But with Xavier Hutchinson gone and Hunter Dekkers at the helm, I wouldn’t expect the Cyclones to make a jump in 2023.

Oklahoma State Cowboys

Dec. 27, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona; Oklahoma State Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy against the Wisconsin Badgers in the first half of the 2022 Guaranteed Rate Bowl at Chase Field. Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma State Cowboys lost six of their final eight games after a 5-0 start. Then they lost starting quarterback Spencer Sanders and a host of other players in the transfer portal.

Alan Bowman is in as the starter but his last time as a starter didn’t go too well. He struggled to stay healthy at Texas Tech.

West Virginia Mountaineers

Nov. 12, 2022; Morgantown, West Virginia; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Dillon Gabriel (8) warms up before their game against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

It was a close, disappointing loss to the West Virginia Mountaineers in 2022. It was the worst day for the Oklahoma Sooners’ offense in 2022 with Dillon Gabriel under center. Don’t expect that to happen again in 2023.

Kansas Jayhawks

Nov. 19, 2022; Lawrence; Kansas Jayhawks quarterback Jalon Daniels (6) drops back to pass as Texas Longhorns defensive end Ovie Oghoufo (18) defends during the first half at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium. Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas Jayhawks continue to trend in the right direction under Lance Leipold. Though they didn’t finish the season on a high note, the Jayhawks could be a sneaky team in the Big 12 next year. If Jalon Daniels can stay healthy, he’ll have them competitive in most games.

This will be the last time the Jayhawks host the Sooners for the foreseeable future, and Kansas fans will want to wave the wheat as much as possible.

TCU Horned Frogs

Jan. 9, 2023; Inglewood, California; TCU Horned Frogs head coach Sonny Dykes reacts in the 4th quarter against the Georgia Bulldogs in the CFP national championship game at SoFi Stadium. Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Sonny Dykes is a good coach and the TCU Horned Frogs just had one of the best recruiting classes ever. However, the Frogs lost a lot of talent. Guard Steve Avila, running back Kendre Miller and wide receiver Quentin Johnston are all expected to be top 100 picks in the 2023 NFL draft. Then they lost Max Duggan, who was the heart and soul of the team last year.

They may still be good, but they’ll have to deal with turnover that could set their offense back.

Cincinnati Bearcats

Oct. 8, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio; Cincinnati Bearcat fans cheer during the second half against the Temple Owls at Nippert Stadium. Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati may not be the toughest team Oklahoma plays in 2023, but the road trip to Nippert Stadium will provide a tough test for Brent Venables’ crew to open Big 12 play.

During their run to the College Football Playoff, Bearcats fans created an incredible atmosphere, which will be what awaits the Sooners when they play on Sept. 23.

The Big 12 opener will also serve as the first real test for an Oklahoma Sooners defense that is hoping to be much improved.

BYU Cougars

Oct. 16, 2015; Provo, Utah; The sun sets over the mountains near Lavell Edwards Stadium where the Brigham Young Cougars play the Cincinnati Bearcats. Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

At the moment, it’s hard to say just what kind of team BYU is going to have from a talent perspective. One thing you know you’ll get from the Cougars is a hard-nosed football team that plays tough and physical and will not back down from the challenge the Oklahoma Sooners present.

The atmosphere will be electric, and the fans in attendance will be hyped to welcome arguably the biggest game they’ve had in that stadium in its history. It doesn’t help that the Sooners haven’t beaten BYU in two attempts.

Kansas State Wildcats

Nov. 19, 2022; Morgantown, West Virginia; Kansas State Wildcats quarterback Will Howard (18) throws a pass during the fourth quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

No Deuce Vaughn, no Malik Knowles and no Felix Anudike-Uzomah should be no problem for the Oklahoma Sooners, right? Well, Chris Klieman is still in Manhattan and quarterback Will Howard had a breakout performance in 2022. Klieman has had the Sooners number since making the jump to the Big 12, and he’ll have a plan to replace the departing offensive production.

Texas Longhorns

Oct. 8, 2022; Dallas; Texas Longhorns quarterback Quinn Ewers (3) throws during the first half against the Oklahoma Sooners at the Cotton Bowl. Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Texas, so it’s the toughest game on the schedule every year. But as Steve Sarkisian continues to build the talent and depth on the roster, they’re becoming an even more dangerous team. Coming off a 49-0 win over the Sooners, they’re going to be feeling good going into the Oct. 7 matchup.

The Sooners have much to prove to themselves and to their biggest rival in the Red River Showdown. Gabriel will be healthy for the game and even if he isn’t, having Jackson Arnold in-house provides a far more capable option at quarterback if Gabriel’s not available.

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