Why Longhorns Wire believes the Oklahoma Sooners are Big 12 title contenders in 2023

It’s the time of the year when optimism and hope carry the discussion as we look to the 2023 college football season. Do the Oklahoma Sooners still have questions to answer this summer as they prepare for their final season in the Big 12?


At the same time, this is a team that looks ready to return to Big 12 title contention after an aberration year in Brent Venables’ first in Norman.

Our colleague over at Longhorns Wire took a look at each of the perceived contenders and made the case why each could win the Big 12 in 2023. We’ll take a look at each of the points Longhorns Wire contributor Joey Hickey made in favor of the Oklahoma Sooners contending in 2023.

Should be favored in 11 of 12 scheduled games

The schedule sets up really well for the Oklahoma Sooners. The road trips to Cincinnati, Stillwater and Provo create some pitfalls, but, other than that, Oklahoma’s schedule looks favorable.

Of the teams that are considered preseason Big 12 contenders, the Sooners face Texas in the Cotton Bowl and TCU at home. They avoid Kansas State and Texas Tech.

There’s a legit chance the Sooners are undefeated when they arrive in Dallas for the Red River Showdown.

Dillon Gabriel the best returning quarterback in the Big 12?

In the first half of the 2022 season, Jalon Daniels was putting himself into the Heisman conversation. Though the magic wore off for the Jayhawks, it’s reasonable to consider Daniels the best quarterback in the Big 12 ahead of the 2023 season.

At the same time, Dillon Gabriel brings back the most returning production despite missing a game and a half and struggling in the inclement conditions in Morgantown. He had a strong season in his first year at the Power Five level. There are things he has to get better at, but if Oklahoma’s going to improve upon its 6-7 season, Gabriel will be a huge reason.

Best Linebacker Room in the Country?

We will not know how good this linebacker crew is until we see them in the regular season, but there’s potential. Danny Stutsman is coming off a season in which he led the Big 12 in tackles and PFF’s stops metric. Jaren Kanak flashed his speed and athleticism in limited duty in 2022. Dasan McCullough is an incredible athlete that moves well for a player his size.

The Sooners are more athletic and faster than they were a year ago. If they’re as good as many think they will be, this will be a fun bunch to watch in 2023. If the Sooners make significant improvement on the defensive side of the ball, the linebackers will be key to their success.

Immediate impact additions

After a 6-7 season with a defense that struggled throughout the Big 12 schedule, it was important for Brent Venables and his staff to improve the talent and depth on the roster.

They did just that.

The Sooners added guys that could be starters in 2023. Rondell Bothroyd, Dasan McCullough, Walter Rouse, Caleb Shaffer, Reggie Pearson, Trace Ford, Jacob Lacey, Davon Sears, Austin Stogner, Andrel Anthony and Brenen Thompson each figure to have an impact this season, even if they aren’t all starters.

Enough offensive talent

The Oklahoma Sooners seem to always find a way to retool their offenses. For more than 20 years, Oklahoma’s has put good to great offensive units on the field, and with Gabriel back at quarterback, there’s little doubt the offense will be good again.

Jalil Farooq appears on the verge of a huge breakout season as he enters 2023 as the lone established outside wide receiver. His ability to win at every level of the field and work in the screen and sweep game makes Farooq a perfect fit for what Jeff Lebby wants to do offensively.

Though they lost Eric Gray to the NFL, the Sooners have running backs Jovantae Barnes and Gavin Sawchuk who figure to be incredibly productive in 2023. The two showed just how effective they can be in tandem during the Cheez-It Bowl.



Nov. 19, 2022; Norman; Oklahoma Sooners coach Brent Venables celebrates after defeating the Oklahoma State University Cowboys at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Bryan Terry-USA TODAY Sports
Nov. 19, 2022; Norman; Oklahoma Sooners coach Brent Venables celebrates after defeating the Oklahoma State University Cowboys at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Bryan Terry-USA TODAY Sports

Joey Hickey makes a compelling case for the Sooners and the Big 12. A lot has to go right for Oklahoma, namely on defense, for the Sooners to contend. But the table appears to be set in Norman for a return to the top of the standings for Brent Venables and Oklahoma.

Story originally appeared on Sooners Wire