A loss to rival Texas in the Red River Showdown left Oklahoma's season in doubt midway through the season. The Sooners regrouped and exploded in the second half of the year, capturing the Big 12 championship and a bid to the College Football Playoff.
Stellar performances by stars like quarterback Baker Mayfield and Eric Striker headlined the Sooners' season, but OU coach Bob Stoops received key contributions from a number of players across his roster.
Offensive MVP: Baker Mayfield, QB
Mayfield eased OU’s transition to the Air Raid and made new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley looked awfully good en route to the Broyles Award. The Sooners’ star quarterback has a chance to grow his legend this postseason.
Defensive MVP: Eric Striker, LB
Striker took a somewhat unlikely leadership role on not only the football team, but the OU campus in the spring following the ugly SAE incident. He carried that over to the field this fall, where the outside linebacker acted as the emotional center of the defense. He also terrorized opposing backfields attacking from the edge.
Best Freshman: Joe Mixon, RB
After sitting out last year due to suspension, Mixon showed the versatility coming out of the backfield that everyone expected. He combined to go over 1,000 yards rushing and receiving, providing an explosive complement to workhorse running back Samaje Perine.
Best Newcomer: Dede Westbrook, WR
Westbrook made for a solid No. 2 receiver to all-star wideout Sterling Shepard. The JUCO transfer will get a chance to show he’s the man in 2016, assuming he doesn’t leave early for the NFL.
Best Play of the Season: Joe Mixon’s 66-yard touchdown run vs. Oklahoma State
Mixon’s gallop to the Cowboys’ end zone was notable for a filthy spin move and cutback across the field. Even more impressive, Mayfield cleared the way for him, burying a would-be tackler with a lead block.
Best Performance: Eric Striker vs. West Virginia
The Sooners had plenty of deserving candidates for this award, but Striker’s dominating day against the Mountaineers stands out more than any other: 13 tackles, 3 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble. West Virginia came into Norman undefeated and riding high. Striker single-handedly brought them low.
Best Game: Oklahoma 44, Baylor 34
The Sooners notched a hard-fought win in November over one-time doormat Baylor, who had laid waste to OU in the two previous meetings. The Bears had no answer for the Sooners’ white-hot offense, which rolled up more than 500 total yards.
Defining Moment: Baker Mayfield and Sterling Shepard break the Volunteers’ hearts
Looking for a win to announce its return to the nation’s elite, Tennessee had OU on the ropes during a September clash in Knoxville. The Sooners shut down the Vols on offense in the second half, while the offense finally found a way to move the ball. Mayfield and Shepard completed the comeback with a gorgeous fade route in the final minute of the contest, sending the game to overtime and the Sooners to a statement win.
Biggest Surprise: Dru Samia, OT
The freshman offensive tackle stepped in as a starter midway through the season and never relinquished the job. It’s not a coincidence that the line performed better in the second half of the year.
Biggest Disappointment: Return game
OU fielded one of the best kickoff return units in the country in 2014, led by explosive return man Alex Ross. The unit lacked the same pop this year.
Senior That Will be Missed the Most Next Season: Sterling Shepard, WR
The four-year starter took his game to another level as a senior. Good luck to receivers coach Dennis Simmons, who’s tasked with finding someone to fill Shepard’s go-to shoes in the passing game.
Player to Watch in 2016: Neville Gallimore, DL
Gallimore, a mountainous Canadian, was the highest-rated prospect in OU’s 2015 class. He’s redshirting this season and will have a chance to work his way into the rotation on the defensive line next season. With a little seasoning, Gallimore has all-conference potential.
Biggest Offseason Question Mark: Wide Receiver
Shepard’s departure will leave a massive hole in the offense next season. Westbrook has a chance to fill it, but also keep an eye on John Humphrey. The shifty pass catcher could be lethal working out of the slot.
— 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.