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Get To Know The Conference: Oklahoma

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Met up with Matt Hofeld of The Crimson and Cream Machine to get a quick update on how the Sooners are looking and what's changes are going to be present in the 2015 edition of OU. No worries, Sooner fans, I tried to refrain from questions about punting twice.

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Returning Players

  1. RB Samaje Perine
  2. LB Erick Striker
  3. WR Sterling Shepard

Leaving players

  1. DT Jordan Phillips
  2. TE Blake Bell
  3. OL Daryl Williams

Incoming players

  1. ATH John Humphrey
  2. K Austin Seibert
  3. S Will Sunderland
  4. WR Dede Westbrook

1) OU is a powerhouse in college football, but with teams like Baylor, OSU and TCU coming in and playing relatively well, has that changed how OU recruits and who it is able to get?

Not really. Oklahoma and Texas are still the kings of the hill so to speak when it comes to recruiting. Baylor and TCU have made a lot of ground in the Lone Star state and OSU is still working on getting there but at the end of the day the numbers still add up in favor of the big two. According to Rivals Texas and Oklahoma had the top two classes in the Big 12 this year. If that trend begins to change on a regular basis then there will be significant trouble in paradise for these programs.

2) What needs to happen for OU to improve on last season?

The have to improve on defense! Oklahoma was 55th nationally in scoring defense in 2014 and 117th against the pass. It's amazing that Mike Stoops got a pass in OU's coaching shake up but that just means even more pressure to turn the defense around in 2015. 

3) Quarterback battle, can you update us on what's going on there? 

I think this position battle will go well into camp but ultimately, it's my opinion, that Baker Mayfield will earn the starting spot. The new schemes just set up too well for him with his experience as being the trigger man in a very similar offense as Texas Tech's quarterback in 2013. 

4) What are the strong spots for the Sooners this year? Weak spots?

Offensively the strength has to be at running back. Samaje Perine will be one of the best backs in the conference and will be complemented very well by Alex Ross and Joe Mixon. If you're looking for a weak spot on the offense then I would say to look along the line where there's a gigantic question mark from only having two returning starters. 
On the defensive side of the ball the strength is with the linebackers where Frank Shannon will return to join Dominique Alexander and Eric Striker. However, the secondary remains a concern because of the defensive stats mentioned previously.

5) What player do you think has the best chance to be a breakout star for Oklahoma this year?

I have to go with Dede Westbrook here. He's an extremely quick slot guy that will create mismatches and possibly even be a factor in the return game. He'll remind Oklahoma fans a lot of Jalen Saunders.

6) What needs to happen for OU to win more than eight games this year? What do you think is the final record?

I think it all starts with defense. Despite all of the struggles last season, Oklahoma's offense was good enough to win in three of their four losses. In those three contests the Sooners scored 33, 30, and 35 points but the defense allowed 37, 31, and 38 points. Defense has been king in Bob Stoops' tenure and last season set record lows OU in that category. It doesn't matter what changes the Sooners make on offense if they can't improve on defense. 
It's really hard to prognosticate the final record because there are just so many uncertainties. My best guess would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 9-3 or 10-2.

7) Oklahoma has a pretty good first three weeks, compared to OSU at least. What do you think it will tell you about the team?

I think that the trip to Knoxville will tell a lot about where this Oklahoma team is. The Vols were 7-6 last season and Neyland Stadium won't be an easy place to play. That'll be the biggest challenge of the first three weeks and will expose the "chinks in the armor" going into the bye.

8)Finally, who wins the game between OSU and OU if it were played tomorrow? 

I have to go with OU, right? Not to take away from the O-State victory but that game changed drastically when Perine got hurt and you'd have to think that Bob Stooops wouldn't decided to punt a second time this go around. The way the current teams stack out, I'm a big fan of Mason Rudolph but not sure how much support he has around him. Oklahoma is certainly a step ahead on offense but both teams have some significant questions on defense.