The Oklahoma Sooners are heading back to the College Football Playoff for the third year in a row and fourth time overall. Despite the lack of diversity in playoff participants over the last six years, OU is taking on its fourth different opponent, the top-seeded LSU Tigers, in four appearances.
The Sooners are still looking for their first win in college football's version of the final four. The oddsmakers appear skeptical that they will get it this season: OU is a double-digit underdog to the Bayou Bengals. Presumably, the Sooners would also be getting 10-plus points in the national title game versus the Ohio State Buckeyes or Clemson Tigers if they manage to knock off LSU.
Against the odds, here are five reasons to believe the Sooners have a shot at bringing home a national championship.
Oklahoma Football: 5 Reasons Why the Sooners Will Win the College Football Playoff
1. A grinding running game
OU is averaging 8.2 yards per offensive play, the most in the nation. The Sooners owe their offensive efficiency in large part to their ground attack that generates 6.1 yards per rush, which ranks fourth nationally.
Adding transfer quarterback Jalen Hurts to OU's backfield gave head coach Lincoln Riley another physical runner to batter opposing defenses. Hurts led the team in rushing with 219 attempts for 1,255 yards and 18 touchdowns. Running back Kennedy Brooks also appears poised to crack 1,000 yards. Meanwhile, backup RB Rhamondre Stevenson is churning out more than eight yards per carry.
2. CeeDee Lamb
There may not be a wide receiver anywhere in the country better than Lamb. OU's Biletnikoff Award finalist averaged 21 yards per catch this year and scored 14 touchdowns. He has shown time and again in his three years with the Sooners that he can take the top off a defense going deep and turn short catches into big gains.
Riley made a point of getting Lamb the ball in OU's biggest games this year, including 10 receptions for 171 yards and three touchdowns versus the Texas Longhorns and eight catches for 173 yards in the Big 12 Championship Game against the Baylor Bears. Look for Lamb to play a key role in the game plan versus LSU.
3. A disruptive defensive line
A deep front made up of experienced veterans and flashy newcomers helped key OU's defensive renaissance in 2019. The unit had a big hand in increasing the Sooners' tackles for a loss from 79 in 14 games last season to 101 through 13 games this year.
LSU will need to scheme to slow down nose tackle Neville Gallimore and defensive end Ronnie Perkins, in particular. Also watch out for defensive tackle Jalen Redmond, a talented redshirt freshman who came on late in the season. Throw in up-and-coming edge rushers Nik Bonitto and David Ugwoegbu and LSU's offensive line will have its hands full. That hasn't been the case for OU in a while.
OU has the most coveted offensive tactician in football on its sideline. In his five years in Norman, Riley has molded his attack to fit the strengths of his personnel. Few can top him when it comes to manipulating defenses to achieve favorable matchups, too.
On defense, the Sooners have reaped immediate dividends from bringing in coordinator Alex Grinch. His attacking style breathed new life into that side of the ball, where OU had languished for years.
Three consecutive appearances in the College Football Playoff have to count for something, right?
Sure, the Sooners have yet to win a game once getting there. However, OU's coaches and players have some familiarity with the hype and atmosphere surrounding the event. And seeing as this actually makes Hurts' fourth trip to the playoff, the Sooners shouldn't have to worry about the player at the most important position dealing with any jitters.
OU's lack of success in the tournament should also have the squad fired up to end the run of futility.
— 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.