The Oklahoma Sooners were waiting on the edges of their seats to find out if they would make this season’s College Football Playoff. Now that they know they’re in the field, it’s on to preparing to take on No. 1 Alabama on Dec. 29 in the College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Capital One Orange Bowl, which will be played in at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.
The sting of last season’s loss to the Georgia Bulldogs in the Rose Bowl probably hasn’t worn off in the Sooners’ locker room, therefore the opportunity to take down ‘Bama in this season’s Orange Bowl offers a compelling redemption story. Plus, who doesn’t want to see OU’s rocket-fueled offense against Nick Saban’s defense?
Here are five reasons to believe the Sooners have a shot at bringing home a national championship.
5 Reasons Why Oklahoma Will Win the College Football Playoff
1. Kyler Murray
Quite simply, the Sooners have the best player in college football running their offense.
Murray might have played himself into the Heisman Trophy on championship Saturday, turning in a dominant performance in OU’s win over the Texas Longhorns (25-of-34 pass attempts, 379 passing yards, three passing touchdowns; 10 carries, 39 rushing yards). It was the latest in a season of superb games that saw him set an all-time record in quarterback rating at 205.72.
Murray’s dynamic presence in OU’s offense at worst gives the Sooners a puncher’s chance of beating any team in the country.
2. Offensive line
OU offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh has arguably built an even better unit than the one that rolled over opposing defenses a year ago. The Sooners raised their average yards per rushing attempt from 5.58 in 2017 to 6.67 this year, owing in large measure to the holes opened by blockers up front.
The group includes five likely NFL draft picks, including right guard Dru Samia, who was named the top offensive lineman in the Big 12 this season. Center Creed Humphrey might go down as one of the best to ever play the position in Norman when all is said and done.
3. Lincoln Riley
After winning the Big 12 crown in each of his first two seasons as a head coach, Riley has set expectations sky high in Oklahoma. As the architect behind high-octane offenses for five seasons with the Sooners, he has solidified his reputation in the football world as a cutting-edge innovator.
Riley has plenty of work to do when it comes to shoring up OU’s beleaguered defense. Give him a month to prepare for a bowl game, however, and you can count on his offense having a reliable plan to move the ball on any opponent in the final four.
4. Austin Seibert
OU’s prolific offense hasn’t called on Seibert the punter very often this season: The Sooners averaged 2.2 punts per game this year, the lowest rate in the nation. The vast majority of his kickoffs were unreturnable. He also drilled 15 of 17 field goal attempts and 83 of his 84 attempts on extra points.
If OU needs a clutch kick late, the Sooners can feel good about their chances with Seibert.
5. The defense is playing better (maybe)
OU’s defense played arguably their best game of the year in the Big 12 title game versus Texas. After giving up 48 points to UT in their first meeting, the Sooners held UT to 27 in the rematch. Notably, OU did a far better job of pressuring Texas QB Sam Ehlinger (three sacks, including a safety) and holding the Longhorns’ running game in check, allowing 88 yards on 32 carries.
As poorly as OU’s defense has played in the last three years, a game like that counts as reason for hope.
— 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.