The 2017 football season ended on somewhat of a sour note for the Oklahoma Sooners. Georgia ended the Sooners’ quest for an eighth National Championship in the first round of the College Football Playoffs. Be that as it may, Oklahoma still had a tremendous season that included a victory against Ohio State as well as a third straight conference championship. But, in 2018 how does that schedule breakdown?
The 2018 season brings forth many challenges. Such as replacing Baker Mayfield, a three-year starter that just so happens to be the reigning Heisman winner and number one draft pick in the NFL. Aside from that, there are holes in the offensive line, linebacker, and safety position groups that must be filled. However, with an improvement in recruiting and returning players, Oklahoma looks primed for another run at the College Football Playoff. With that being said, let’s take a look at the obstacles as we preview the Oklahoma Sooners 2018 schedule.
Game 1: September 1st vs Florida Atlantic
This game looks much tougher now than it did a few years ago. The resurgent Owls are under second-year head coach Lane Kiffin. After losing two of their first three, Florida Atlantic won 11 straight which culminated in an impressive 50-3 victory over Akron in the Boca Raton Bowl.
The 2018 team might actually be better. The Owls return a darkhorse Heisman contender in Devin Singletary. Singletary ran for 1,920 yards and 32 scores last season. Florida State transfer De’Andre Johnson will take the reigns at Quarterback after the retirement of Jason Driskel. There are question marks for an offensive line that is replacing two starters. The only team that FAU faced a year ago that matches the speed, size, and athletic ability they will face against Oklahoma was against Wisconsin. The Owls dropped that decision, 31-14. With both offenses being the clear strength of both team, don’t be surprised to see the total score in the 80’s.
Game 2: September 8th vs UCLA
In the second games of the year, Oklahoma must face another outstanding offensive mind in Chip Kelly. This will be a blue-blood matchup in Norman. Although it may be true that 2017 was a disappointing season for the Bruins, under to watchful eye of Kelly, the future looks promising.
Even with the loss of Josh Rosen, UCLA has a better fit for Kelly’s “Run-Pass-Option” (RPO) offense in Devon Modster. However, the biggest question on offense will be if the offensive line can block anybody. Comparatively, on the defensive side of the ball, UCLA welcomes in new defensive coordinator Jerry Azzinaro. He will be faced with improving a bad run defense that gave up yards in bunches.
Game 3: September 15th @ Iowa State
The Cyclones surprised the conference and the nation a year ago. They were the only team to defeat both Oklahoma and TCU in 2017. Iowa State was one win away from playing for a conference title. Three losses by a total of eight points could have made it the best season in school history.
With that being said, optimism is high in Ames. Matt Campbell is one of the hottest commodities in the coaching ranks. He should bring forward another tough, sound team in 2018. Kyle Kempt returns at Quarterback. He was extremely solid in completing 66% of his passes while tossing 15 touchdowns. Iowa State also has one of the better running backs in the Big 12 in David Montgomery. Montgomery was a 1,100-yard rusher a year ago. The defense must replace starters through all levels. Oklahoma will have this one circled on their calendar after last years upset.
Game 4: September 22nd vs Army
Last season, Army had their first 10-win season since 1996. Incredibly, the Black Knights were 11 points away from their first 12-win season in program history. With a commander in chief trophy as well as back to back wins against Navy, Todd Monken is building a consistent program.
This season, Army must replace a great quarterback in Ahmad Bradshaw and four of the five offensive linemen. Kelvin Hopkins looks to be the current favorite to replace Bradshaw. Although they may be a bit inexperienced, Army has enough beef to replace the departed seniors on the line. This team will give Oklahoma fits with their option attack. Don’t be surprised to see this as a close game into the third quarter.
Game 5: September 29th vs Baylor
Baylor got off to about as bad of a start as you can last season. After season-opening losses to Liberty and the University of Texas San-Antonio, the Bears started to free fall very quickly. Only Kansas prevented a winless season for Baylor.
Besides the proverbial there’s nowhere to go but up, this Baylor team will certainly be improved. The Bears will be infused with instant impact players through transfers. Jalen Hurd by way of Tennessee, North Carolina State Quarterback Jalan McClendon, and offensive lineman Jake Fruhmorgen should be difference makers. The Bears could conceivably be 4-0 coming into Norman, but they aren’t quite ready to be back where they were just yet.
Game 6: October 6th vs Texas
Texas was up and down last year in Tom Herman‘s first year. The Longhorns lost three games by a total of 10 points a season ago. With that being said, they ended strong with a solid victory over Missouri in the Texas Bowl.
It behooves Oklahoma for Texas to be strong on the gridiron. For one, it helps to bolster the perceived weakness of the Big 12. Secondarily, Oklahoma seems to play better in this game when Texas is at its best. This Texas team looks to be much improved. The defensive improved immensely under defensive coordinator Todd Orlando. Sam Ehlinger is probably the guy that will get the reigns in 2018. He’s a tough, hard-nosed player that must improve his decision making in order for Texas to take that next step.