Bob Stoops' Sooners are the undisputed Big 12 champions and appear to have the pieces to be a serious threat to win the national title too
Before the 2014 season kicked off, Oklahoma was seen as one of the favorites for a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff field. When the final gun sounded on their season, the 8-5 Sooners had put together one of the most disappointing campaigns of any team in the country.
OU surprised the pundits again in 2015. Heading into the season, Bob Stoops' team supposedly had a chance to play spoiler to the real Big 12 heavyweights, Baylor and TCU. The Sooners had other plans, however, as they rolled through conference play following an early loss to Texas in the Red River Shootout.
The idea of a team that lost to the lowly Longhorns entering the Playoff as one of the favorites to win the national title doesn't exactly compute. Then again, the same could have been said this time last year about a team that got beat up by Virginia Tech.
Facing an extended layoff before the start of the postseason, the Sooners can't count on riding this wave of momentum through a four-team tournament. Here are five other, if not better, reasons why OU might win the whole thing.
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Playoff Teams: No. 1 Clemson I No. 2 Alabama I No. 3 Michigan State I No. 4 Oklahoma
5 Reasons Why Oklahoma Will Win the College Football Playoff
What's OU's weakness, exactly? On offense, the Sooners rank third in the nation in passer rating and 21st in yards per rushing attempt. Defensively, they're 26th in yards per rushing attempt and 13th in passer rating. This is as well-rounded a team as you will find in the country. Even with all the extra time to prepare, that makes scheming for OU a tall order.
OU has standouts such as Charles Tapper on the defensive line and havoc-wreaking linebacker Eric Striker. The Sooners' strongest position group on that side of the ball is defensive back, however. OU starts two stellar cornerbacks in Jordan Thomas and Zack Sanchez and has budding star Steven Parker at safety. Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops has confidence in his cover men, which should enable him to install a few exotic packages on passing downs. He also can free up his linebackers to key on stopping the run.
The Sooners have enjoyed unbelievable good fortune when it comes to injuries this season. Sanchez has dealt with ankle issues, while linebacker Devante Bond missed a stretch of games in the middle of the year. Yet, neither appeared to be struggling late in the season. OU is essentially at full strength for the Playoff.
4. Big Game Bob
Laugh all you want about the struggles of OU's head coach in the spotlight. In his 17 years in Norman, Bob Stoops' teams have won far more big games than his critics would like to admit. He knows what kind of distractions await his players and coaches during this layoff, as well as how to manage the media and publicity demands on the team. Stoops' familiarity with these situations can only be seen as a plus.
5. Baker Mayfield
OU has been playing with an unmistakable sense of confidence that seems to come from the Sooners' quarterback. Just like he forced himself onto the field at Texas Tech and OU, Mayfield pushed his way into the Heisman Trophy conversation this year with gaudy statistics and heady play in pressure situations. Mayfield has a wide array of offensive weapons at his disposal, and he's pushing all the right buttons at the controls. Despite being a former walk-on, no one should harbor any doubts about Mayfield's ability to lead the team to a national championship.
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.