*The 2021 season produced two new title contenders in the Big 12 Conference as Baylor and Oklahoma State faced off in the Big 12 Championship Game. The conference announced plans to replace Texas and Oklahoma in 2025 by adding Houston, UCF, Cincinnati and BYU in 2023. The 2022 season will be the last season of the Big 12 Conference as it’s been known for the last decade.
There will inevitably be more seismic shifts this season after UCLA and USC announced intentions to leave the Pac-12 for the Big Ten Conference. Whether the Big 12 adds more schools or has more members poached by other conferences remains to be seen, but this will be the last year with just 10 member institutions in the conference. Next up in the Big 12 preseason power rankings is the Oklahoma Sooners. You can read previous installments of this series below.
No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners
Oklahoma enters uncharted waters this season, right before it enters more uncharted waters when it jumps to the SEC in the coming years. The Sooners haven’t had to replace a coach that left Norman for sunnier skies and sandier beaches in 75 years. Greener pastures didn’t seem like the right fit considering Oklahoma has plenty of pastures.
OU thought it would be best to bring in a familiar face in Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables. Although Venables doesn’t have head coaching experience, he is familiar with Norman as the former defensive coordinator of the Sooners. Venables will need to work fast as he has to build the program and culture from the ground up.
According to The Athletic’s Max Olson, Oklahoma has to replace 68% of its production on offense and 60% on defense. There is little in the way of returning proven playmakers. The talent is there, but the players and the coaching staff are unproven. That makes Oklahoma’s floor uncharacteristically low for this season. The ceiling is still as high as a College Football Playoff berth because of the talent.
UCF transfer Dillion Gabriel will start at quarterback for the Sooners. New offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby brought Gabriel in to replace Caleb Williams after the two briefly worked together at UCF. Now Gabriel and Lebby have teamed up in Norman to provide some familiarity to a team mired in change.
Gabriel will need to stay healthy as there isn’t much depth behind him. True freshman Nick Evers has plenty of potential, but that potential won’t be realized this year. Junior college transfer General Booty might be known more for his name than being the top junior college quarterback as a freshman last season, but Booty has no experience at the DI level.
Former Tennessee transfer Eric Gray will play a larger role this season after the departure of Kennedy Brooks. True freshman Gavin Sawchuk could play a larger role as well. The Sooners also return Marcus Major, but Gray will be the primary playmaker for this group.
Oklahoma lost a ton of talent at receiver, but retained (in my opinion) the best receiver from last season. Marvin Mims has been criminally under-utilized while at Oklahoma. Now, the Sooners have no other option than to feature him. Mims and Theo Wease give OU a dynamic one-two punch at receiver. Drake Stoops also returns while the Sooners added Missouri transfer JJ Hester and Arizona State transfer LV Bunkley- Shelton in the transfer portal.
Hester and Bunkley- Shelton should provide some depth, but Mims and Wease will be the stars at receiver. Brayden Willis returns at tight end and true freshman Jason Llewellyn could contribute as well.
Guard Chris Murray and tackle Anton Harrison return on the offensive line this season, but the Sooners need to develop more talent and consistency up front. Savion Byrd should get his chance to shine. Byrd is super talented, though young and inexperienced.
California transfer McKade Mettauer will start at left guard with three years of experience under his belt with the Golden Bears. Of note, Mettauer’s younger brother, Mabrey, is a highly recruited quarterback at The Woodlands (TX) High. OU landed an impact transfer at left guard and may get a quarterback out of it in the future as well.
Andrew Raym figures to start at center and Wanya Morris should fill out the starting group up front. TCU transfer Tyler Guyton figures to get a fair share of reps, but OU will need to develop some depth behind the starting group.
Defense is Venables speciality. In other words, this defensive unit should be the exact opposite of what it was under Lincoln Riley and Alex Grinch. The defensive unit used to be a turnstile for opposing players waiting for their turn to score a touchdown. OU had historically good offenses to offset the miserable defense. That should change under Venables.
There is good depth at edge rusher with Reggie Grimes and Ethan Downs impressing the staff in spring ball, according to The Athletic’s Max Olson. Hawaii transfer Jonah Laulu will also play a big role. Marcus Stripling gives OU four players that can get after it at defensive end.
Jalen Redmond returns on the interior defensive line. OU also brought in Tulane transfer Jeffrey Johnson to help on the interior. If the Sooners can develop some depth behind those two, the defensive line should be in good shape.
DaShaun White and David Ugwoegbu will lead the linebacking corps as players returning with plenty of experience at OU. Danny Stutsman also returns and should play a larger role this season. Freshmen Kip Lewis and Kobie McKinzie could play a role and provide some depth if needed.
Woodi Washington will lead the secondary after a strong close to last season. DJ Graham will also get a shot to play a larger role after a solid sophomore season. OU brought in two transfers to help out in Lousiville transfer Kani Walker and Wyoming transfer CJ Coldon. Those two, along with Jaden Davis, should provide the cornerback position with depth.
Billy Bowman is a name to keep an eye on at safety. Bowman is young, but has a ton of talent and could emerge as a star at the position. North Carolina transfer Trey Morrison and Key Lawrence will also play larger roles at safety this season.
Oklahoma has key games against Baylor and Oklahoma State at home this season. Even more importantly, both of those games come later in the year. Oklahoma has started slow the past few seasons. Even though the majority of players and coaches from those teams are gone, adjusting to all the turnover won’t be easy. I could see OU struggling in big games against Kansas State and Texas early in the season before closing strong late in the year.
Oklahoma Sooners Schedule 2022
|September 3||UT- El Paso||W|
|September 10||Kent State||W|
|September 17||@ Nebraska||W|
|September 24||Kansas State||L|
|October 1||@ TCU||W|
|October 8||Texas (Dallas)||L|
|October 29||@ Iowa State||W|
|November 12||@ West Virginia||W|
|November 19||Oklahoma State||W|
|November 26||@ Texas Tech||W|
|Overall Record||10-2 (7-2)|
Oklahoma is the team with the most question marks coming into the season. It is also the team with the most variance. Those question marks coupled with that amount of talent makes this season hard to predict for the Sooners. OU could win a Big 12 championship, but could also miss out on playing in the championship game altogether. The schedule does set up favorably for OU. The talent is unmistakeable, but talent doesn’t always win. Just ask Texas.
Disclaimer: I will be posting my picks weekly on Tallysight once again this year. This is just my best guess as of July and these picks are subject to change once I see what actually ends up playing out on the field.