There was no sweating out college football’s Selection Sunday for the Oklahoma Sooners. They found themselves comfortably in the field of four after shellacking the TCU Horned Frogs, 41-17, a day earlier to win the Big 12 title.
In their second College Football Playoff appearance, the Sooners are looking to erase the bad memories of a drubbing from Clemson in 2015. Their path to redemption starts with the Georgia Bulldogs in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Here are five reasons Oklahoma might win its first national title since the 2000 season.
5 Reasons Why Oklahoma Will Win the College Football Playoff
1. Baker Mayfield
Where else can you start with this team but the presumptive Heisman Trophy winner? OU’s starting quarterback has been the story of the 2017 college football season, whether it be for his stellar play on the field or how he handles himself when he’s not inside the painted lines.
Even with massive losses at the skill positions in 2016, Mayfield put together an even better campaign this year again leading the nation in passing efficiency (203.76) and piloting the Sooners to a conference crown. He’s the heartbeat of arguably the best offense in college football history.
2. Offensive line
Even Mayfield would tell you he wouldn’t be where he is now without an offensive line that probably doesn’t get its proper due. Led by massive left tackle Orlando Brown, OU’s big uglies kept their quarterback clean all year. Meanwhile, they blasted open holes for a running game that boosted its yards per attempt to 5.6 from 5.4 in 2016 despite losing two backs now starting in the NFL, Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine.
3. Offensive skill positions
Sophomore Rodney Anderson played a big part in offsetting the loss of Perine and Mixon, running for nearly 1,000 yards even though he was used sparingly in the first half of the year. He combines with freshman Trey Sermon to give the Sooners a devastatingly effective backfield combo. They also have stellar lead blocker in fullback Dmitri Flowers, who is one of OU’s best receivers (23 receptions, 411 yards, four touchdowns).
Flowers is just one of a host of Mayfield’s targets keeping defensive coordinators up at night. They include matchup nightmare Mark Andrews at tight end, all-star freshman CeeDee Lamb and speedster Marquise Brown.
4. Defensive front
OU’s defense doesn’t pose nearly the same problems for opponents as the other side of the ball. However, the Sooners do have a front four capable of overwhelming an offensive line – just ask Ohio State.
Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (above, right) is a terror speed rushing off the edge. On the interior, sophomore Du’Vonta Lampkin has turned into a force at nose tackle over the course of the year. Defensive tackle Amani Bledsoe also came on as a disruptor late in the season.
5. Kicking game
A shaky end to 2016 and start to this season, left plenty of doubt in Sooner fans’ minds about Austin Seibert, who handles both kicking and punting duties. He’s not automatic, but Seibert consistently knocked through field goals all year, drilling 15 of 18 attempts for the season.
He’s even more of a weapon as a punter and kickoff specialist. Notably, 77 percent of his kickoffs went for touchbacks.
— 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.