The Oklahoma Sooners started slowly in 2020. Losses to Kansas State and Iowa State to open conference play derailed the team’s national championship hopes almost immediately. However, Oklahoma finished the season on an eight-game winning streak that included a 27-21 revenge victory over the Cyclones in the Big 12 Championship Game, which secured a sixth straight conference title, and 55-20 blowout victory over Florida in the Cotton Bowl.
It can be difficult to carry the momentum of one season into the next, and Oklahoma must replace five players who were drafted from last year’s squad. But Lincoln Riley still has a well-stocked roster led by quarterback and potential No. 1 overall NFL draft pick Spencer Rattler, five of Rattler’s top six pass catchers, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher, an influx of talent from the transfer portal, and eight starters from a much-improved defense to work with in 2021. As usual, the Sooners enter the new season as the Big 12 favorite, with an inside track to the College Football Playoff, and a legitimate shot at a national championship.
Can Oklahoma avoid the same slow start that doomed its 2020 title aspirations? Some of the experts at Athlon Sports pick every game on the Sooners' 2021 football schedule.
Oklahoma Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2021
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
With quarterback Spencer Rattler piloting a high-powered offense to go with an improving defense, Oklahoma has all of the pieces in place to win the national championship in 2021. Also, the Sooners have a favorable schedule, catching TCU, West Virginia and Iowa State in Norman this year. Obviously, the list of concerns is rather small for coach Lincoln Riley. However, finding the right five up front along the offensive line and continuing to build depth in a few spots on defense are two priorities this fall. The guess here is Oklahoma (as it does under Riley) loses one time in the regular season somewhere along the way (at Kansas State or to Iowa State perhaps). But even if that happens, expect the Sooners to be 12-1 and in the College Football Playoff once again.
Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
Oklahoma has ruled the Big 12 for the past six years but it seems longer than that. The Sooners are loaded once again and the scary thought for opponents is that the defense is no longer a liability. As tough as it is for any Power 5 team to go undefeated, it's hard to find many potential landmines on OU's schedule. Texas is a bit of an unknown commodity in Steve Sarkisian's first year as head coach, and other than perennial thorn-in-the-side Kansas State, the Sooners' toughest road game is Bedlam against an Oklahoma State team that has fallen back to the middle of the Big 12 pack rather than narrow the gap on their rivals. Iowa State appears to be the biggest threat to Oklahoma's reign but as last season showed, it's not always if you lose to a team, but when. The Cyclones may strike first, in Norman no less, but I expect the Sooners to be the one holding the trophy on the AT&T Stadium turf in early December, yet again.
Nicholas Ian Allen (@CFBWinningEdge)
It’s very difficult for any college football team to make it through the regular season undefeated. We’ve also seen Oklahoma fall victim to puzzling upsets in recent years. Furthermore, I’m a “numbers guy,” and the CFB Winning Edge projected season win total for the Sooners is 11.05 (calculated by adding up each of the single-game projected win percentages), meaning we should expect the team to finish with an 11-1 record in the regular season, on average.
I just can’t find the loss. And the more I think about it, the more I believe this Oklahoma team is going to finish 12-0.
It’s natural to think the Sooners will slip up at some point in 2021, especially given the emergence of Iowa State in the conference race (and the fact the Cyclones knocked off Oklahoma last season). Texas is always a threat, and TCU and Oklahoma State could both surprise. But this looks like Lincoln Riley’s best team, especially with the improvement the defense has made. Pair it with what should again be one of the best offenses in the country, and the Sooners are in elite company with Alabama and Clemson as national championship contenders.