After three straight Big 12 championships and two trips to the College Football Playoff in three seasons, the Oklahoma Sooners are now facing life without Baker Mayfield.
Mayfield’s exploits became the stuff of legend as the former walk-on parlayed a shot to start at quarterback for OU into an all-time great college career. Even as opponents gashed the Sooners’ downtrodden defense, OU typically could count on Mayfield and his arsenal of offensive weapons to come through.
If that defense doesn’t come around this year, it might not matter how well the OU offense picks up from Mayfield’s departure. Athlon asked a few editors and college football contributors to share their realistic win/loss projection for Oklahoma in 2018.
Oklahoma Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2018
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Baker Mayfield is gone, but Oklahoma is still the favorite to win the Big 12 and push for a spot in the CFB Playoff. New quarterback Kyler Murray is a dynamic runner and is surrounded by a strong supporting cast. The Sooners possess one of college football’s top offensive lines and receiving corps, with running back Rodney Anderson (above, right) anchoring a ground attack that averaged more than 200 yards a game in 2017. Murray isn’t likely to match Mayfield’s passing ability, but there’s still plenty of firepower in Oklahoma’s aerial attack. Defense remains coach Lincoln Riley’s biggest concern. The Sooners gave up 27.1 points a game last fall and enter 2018 with question marks at every level. This unit does have some promising talent in the freshman and sophomore ranks and will be counting on contributions from freshmen like Ronnie Perkins and Brendan Radley-Hiles for instant help. Oklahoma could be favored in all 12 of its regular season contests. However, a slight step back on offense, combined with a questionable defense, drops the Sooners to 10-2.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
Oklahoma lost some key personnel — most notably at the quarterback position — but the Sooners still appear to be the class of the league. I might have been a bit aggressive with my earlier predictions of wins over Texas, TCU, Oklahoma State and West Virginia. It's likely that the Sooners will slip up at least one time against one of those teams. I'll call for an 8-1 record in the regular season, with the loss coming in the Big 12 opener at Iowa State.
Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer)
Maybe it's just me, but it feels like the Sooners are coming off a College Football Playoff appearance and are somehow underrated going into the following season. Yes, Baker Mayfield is one of the best ever college QBs but the drop-off to Kyler Murray won't be as huge as some are bracing for and Lincoln Riley will be able to take advantage of his skill set more than anybody. The defense should still make some progress and OU will be back in the Big 12 title game once again as the Sooners usually are.
Allen Kenney (@BlatantHomerism)
Losing Baker Mayfield will hurt Oklahoma, but maybe not as badly as many seem to expect. Presumed starting quarterback Kyler Murray will still have a wide array of complementary threats at the skill positions, including arguably the best receiving corps in the nation and one of the better duos at running back in Rodney Anderson and Trey Sermon. Additionally, Murray will be operating behind an offensive line that will likely see three of its members drafted by NFL teams in the spring.
After two straight years of underperforming on defense, the onus is on Mike Stoops’ unit to prove itself. An influx of young talent, especially in a leaky secondary, offers reason for optimism.
Possibly the best thing going for the Sooners, though, is their schedule. It includes a slate of Big 12 teams that could be cycling down after a strong 2017 campaign across the league.
Look for the Sooners to be right in the thick of the College Football Playoff hunt again and playing in Arlington, Texas, at the end of the season for the Big 12 title.