Fall practice has begun and so has the start of camp. With that, there are less than 30 days until the Sooners host Houston on Sunday, September 1st. Plenty of storylines center the 2019 campaign for the Sooners. Can Oklahoma secure their fifth straight conference crown? Will Jalen Hurts become the third consecutive Oklahoma quarterback to bring the Heisman Trophy back to Norman? How much can the defense improve in new defensive coordinator Alex Grinch’s first year? And, can the Sooners get back to the playoffs? All of those questions will be answered. But, for now, let’s begin previewing Oklahoma’s 2019 schedule as we look at the first six games of the season.
Previewing Oklahoma’s 2019 Schedule
Sunday, September 1st vs Houston
A familiar opponent and name make their way to Norman to start the season. Oklahoma lost to Houston to begin the 2016 campaign, 33-23. In addition, the Cougars made a splash in the offseason in bringing in former West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen. Holgorsen knows the Sooners will and will have his offense well prepared. Grinch’s defense will be tested early and often in this one. The Cougars return eight starters from a squad that averaged 44 points per contest on 2018. Leading the charge is one of the best quarterbacks from a year ago in dual-threat star D’Eriq King. King accounted for 50 touchdowns last year. He completed 64% of his passes while throwing 36 touchdown passes and only being picked off six times.
Houston will not be formidable on the defensive side of the ball. They only have four starters coming back off of a team that gave up 38 points a game. Arguably, the best player in program history in Ed Oliver is lost to the NFL. Coupled with changes in the Sooner defense, expect the scoreboard to light up the Norman sky.
Saturday, September 7th vs South Dakota
Oklahoma has a short week into the second week of the college football season. It comes at a perfect time as the Sooners host the FCS as South Dakota comes to town. The Coyotes had a disappointing 2018 with a 4-7 record and are not among the elite in the FCS division. Now, this will certainly be a name the score type of game for the Sooners. But, this could be interesting to watch in a few ways. First, Lincoln Riley has not been shy about getting his backup quarterbacks early work in some of these lopsided games. It could be telling to see whom Riley brings in first to spell Hurts. Will it be Tanner Mordecai or Spencer Rattler? In addition, live game action to increase depth could be intriguing to see as we will most likely see the reserves get plenty of action.
Saturday, September 14th at UCLA
Sooner fans will quickly want to forget the last time Oklahoma played on this field. It was the home of the heartbreaking Rose Bowl loss to Georgia. The opponent will not quite as formidable, but will have its share of challenges. Although it may be true that the Bruins are one of the youngest teams in the country, most teams show dramatic improvement in the second year of a new head coach. UCLA travels to Cincinnati and hosts San Diego State to start the season. How the Bruins fare in those two contests could be key to the mindset of this game.
Now, Joshua Kelley was one of the most dynamic running backs in the second half of the 2018 season. He returns with his 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns from a season ago. Also, young quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson returns and is firmly entrenched as the starter after sharing time with Wilton Speight last season. The Bruins return an incredible 19 starters off of last seasons team.
Saturday, September 28th vs Texas Tech
While Kliff Kingsbury is off having fun with Kyler Murray in Arizona this season, Matt Wells is now the head coach in Lubbock. Texas Tech is a culture that is tough to change, but many expect Wells to bring a more balanced team on both sides of the table in 2019. However, the cupboard is far from bare for the Red Raiders this season. The Sooners were nearly upset by Texas Tech last year. But, that will a much more difficult task to complete in Norman.
Alan Bowman returns as the Red Raiders starting quarterback. His quick release and accuracy are his best attributes as a passer. He completed nearly 70% of his passes while throwing 17 touchdowns against only seven interceptions. However, last year he was often injured. Texas Tech may be underrated this season, but without a healthy Bowman, they could find themselves in a similar position as last year.
Saturday, October 5th at Kansas
This is the biggest trap game on the schedule. Any game leading up to the Red River Showdown typically is. However, a road game against the cellar-dweller Jayhawks screams trap. Les Miles returns to the Big 12 as the head man after taking the job in the offseason. Miles has a lot of work ahead of him in this reclamation project.
Important to realize that Kansas may have the best running back in the Big 12 with Pooka Williams. He was suspended early in the spring and spent seven months away from the football program. He’s suspended for the opener but should be in good shape by the time the Sooners come calling. Williams torched the Sooners for 250 yards last year, so one would assume that the defense will key on him and force the remainder of the Jawhawk offense to beat them.
Saturday, October 12th vs Texas
As we conclude previewing Oklahoma’s 2019 schedule, we look at the Red River Rivalry. This is always the biggest game of the year for both teams. But, with Texas resurgence, the game is becoming bigger on a national scale. If the Longhorns can defeat LSU in the second weekend of the season, this game could become a top-five matchup in the Cotton Bowl.
Sam Ehlinger and has 41 total touchdowns from a year ago return for the Longhorns. His biggest criticism to date has been that he was turnover prone. Well, last year he limited that as he only had five interceptions against those 25 touchdowns through the air. He also has a budding superstar at running back in Keaontay Ingram as well as big-play target Collin Johnson. The biggest concern for Texas could be on defense where they only return three starters from a year ago.