In recent memory it has been clear, the Sooners have had some good squads, heck they even managed to knock off Alabama in the Sugar Bowl two seasons ago, and in the last 5 years they have claimed two Big XII titles. But, it has been quite some time since the Sooners have been legitimate contenders for the grandest prize of them all. Landry Jones, 3rd all-time in passing yards in NCAA history, in his four seasons failed to do more than beat a UConn team in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops built such a powerful program that not only did the Sooners compete in 9 BCS Bowls, they found themselves with four different opportunities to seize the ultimate prize, winning once. Hell, from 2000-2010 the Sooners won 7 Big XII championships, and played in another Big XII Championship Game. Oklahoma was the cream of the crop, the pinnacle of consistency, everyone wanted to be them.
In the 2009 BCS National Championship, Heisman Trophy Winner Sam Bradford led the Sooners into battle against the Florida Gators. Oklahoma lost the contest, and the Sooners haven’t even threatened to return. In 2010 the Sooners were 12-2, leading to their preseason number 1 ranking in 2011. That team finished 10-3. In 2013, the Sooners lost early to Texas, and got waxed by Baylor. It seemed the Sooners finally found their groove as they dismissed Alabama 45-31 in the Sugar Bowl. In 2014, the 4th ranked Sooners lost 5 times. The truth was, Oklahoma wasn’t back, and it seemed Bob Stoops tenure in Norman was coming to an end. Coach Stoops did everything he could to change the narrative. He brought in a new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, and Mike Stoops decided to coach with a new perspective. The Sooners started strong in 2015. Impressive performances against West Virginia, and Tennessee stood out. The Sooners went to battle their greatest rivals the Texas Longhorns, who were pretty awful, coming in at 1-4. The Sooners got pounded for 313 yards and managed to lose 24-17, and the script coach Stoops had heard for the last 5 or so years started to begin again.
At 9-1, Oklahoma has been to hell and back. They responded with a resurgence that can be heard rippling through the college football universe; THE SOONERS ARE BACK. Oklahoma is playing like they are the best in the country, and metrics support that. According to ESPN’s FPI, the Sooners are the #1 team in all of college football. It helps that quarterback Baker Mayfield has looked like a Heisman trophy winning quarterback. There is not a quarterback in college football playing to his level right now (my apologies to Trevone Boykin, and Deshaun Watson). Mayfield leads a unit that is the 7th ranked total offense, and has done it with relative balance as they rank the 25th best running team, and the 13th best passing team in college football. Only Baylor and Texas Tech have similar balance.
But, let’s not forget about crediting the Sooners defense. Credit needs to go to their stand out cornerback Jordan Thomas. He has turned into the Sooners version of Darrelle Revis, taking on both Corey Coleman, and Jakeem Grant, holding both out of the end zone. On the other side, the Sooners have Zach Sanchez, who was named Freshman All American in 2013, and 2014 third team All American. He is also 5th on the active interceptions list. Steven Parker has filled in well on the back end at safety, and has the flexibility to playing as a nickel back. These three have made the Sooners one of the best secondaries in the country. If you take away the fluke game against Tulsa, the Sooners give up only 158.8 yards through the air, that would be second in the country. As it stands, Oklahoma is top 10 in that category. Someone can let the national pundits know that they do play defense in the Big 12.
If you are looking for a front 7 that can fill into the role of second best in the country behind of course Alabama, that unit may very well be in Norman. Everyone knows about Eric Striker, Devonte Bond, and Charles Tapper. Oklahoma’s rush defense numbers has not always jumped off the stat sheet, but that has a lot to do with their scheme. Oklahoma plays primarily in the nickel for obvious reasons in conference play. The Sooners have proven many times they are capable of stopping the run, and if they want to, completely eliminating a team’s ability to do it at all.
Against Tennessee who is a top 25 rushing offense in the country OU held them to 2.9 yards a carry, which outshone even Alabama’s performance against the same offense. Oklahoma committed 7 defensive backs to stop the Bears from passing still managing to hold Baylor to 3.4 yards per carry. Considering RB Shock Linwood averages 6.3 yards a carry and is the Big XII’s leading rusher, that’s impressive. And then the second leading rusher in the Big XII plays for Iowa State, Mike Warren. The Sooners bottled him up to 43 yards on 18 carries, a whopping 2.4 yards per carry. Oklahoma is also 3rd in the country with 36 sacks on the season, which means they tend to find ways to get to the quarterback, and many times rushing only 3 or 4.
Want a state even more impressive? Oklahoma and #1 Clemson share one stat no other team in college football comes even close to having: both of those teams are top 15 in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
The often forgotten about unit is the special teams. And the Sooners have one of the best kickers and punters in the nation … and it happens to be the same guy in true freshman Austin Seibert! When it comes to the Sooners return game, while neither Sterling Shepard nor Alex Ross have yet to take one the distance, both are very capable. Teams have been trying to kick away from Alex Ross because of his success in 2014.
Oklahoma is back. If they continue to play the way they have this season, they will be the 2016 National Championships. Granted, their quest for eight-ness is still in question however as they still have to overcome TCU, and Oklahoma State. This is the most complete team in college football right now! And the country is on alert, because the Sooners are back.
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