It’s official. The 2020 college football season is officially over as Alabama has hoisted up the National Championship trophy for his sixth time with the Crimson Tide. And as the confetti falls, I wonder what possibly could have been for the Big 12 Conference.
Despite the conference going 5-0 in bowl season, something doesn’t feel quite right. There is an empty feeling. Why? Because it has been exactly 15 years since the Big 12 has brought home a national championship.
Texas was the last team to win one when they defeated USC in that epic 2006 Rose Bowl. Since then, Oklahoma had their shot in January of 2009, but lost to Tim Tebow and even Kansas State (2012) and Baylor (2013) had their shots in the pre-playoff era before slipping up in late November.
Of course, one could argue that both Baylor and TCU deserved a chance in 2014 before being snubbed by the playoff committee. But since then, Oklahoma has carried the Big 12 in the playoff era as they remain as the only team in the conference to make a playoff appearance.
In fact, the Sooners have made the playoffs four times since 2014 but unfortunately have yet to win a playoff game to have an opportunity to bring a title home. While the Sooners were red hot down the stretch this past season, their shaky start cost them a shot at the playoffs.
But as one opportunity comes to an end, another begins.
Many people have said that if Oklahoma’s Big 12 reign were to end, 2020 was the year to do it. With a new quarterback and a shaky offensive line, as well as some new defensive starters, 2020 would be a bridge year to 2021. However, it didn’t work out like that as Oklahoma won their sixth straight Big 12 championship. But could there be more in store than just a Big 12 championship in 2021 for Oklahoma?
Superstar quarterback Spencer Rattler returns after throwing 28 touchdowns and over 3,000 yards. As a first-year starter, he led the Big 12 in touchdown passes and passing yards and, in my opinion, should have been the first team All-Big 12 quarterback.
Spencer should have plenty of passing options as three of his top targets are back for next season with wide receivers Marvin Mims and Theo Wease. Of course, we cannot forget about tight end Austin Stogner either. And while Charleston Rambo is transferring out, keep in mind Oklahoma will get a full season of Jadon Haselwood and Trejan Bridges.
Things could be a little more interesting up front on offense with the loss of Adrian Ealy and All-Big 12 center Creed Humphrey. However, former UCLA transfer Chris Murray appears to takeover at center while Anton Harrison will grab a starting tackle spot after seeing playing time as a true freshman. However, the decision of Tennessee transfer Wanya Morris could be a huge addition at tackle. But as there will be some new faces up front both starting guards (Tyrese Robinson and Marquis Hayes) will return.
While the Sooners appear to have some spots up front for grabs, running back will be interesting. Rhamondre Stevenson is gone to the NFL and T.J. Pledger is in the transfer portal. However, Kennedy Brooks will make his return (after opting out of the 2020 season) and is a proven back rushing for over 1,000 yards in 2019. Joining Brooks will be Seth McGowan and Marcus Major who are very solid backups. And don’t forget about the H-back position with Mikey Henderson, Brayden Willis and Jeremiah Hall all coming back.
To break it all down, Oklahoma’s offense appears to be better next season and I would be willing to bet Spencer Rattler will be a Heisman finalist next season.
Defensively, the Sooners will lose Ronnie Perkins up front but keep in mind Jalen Redmond will come back and while he is not Ronnie Perkins, he is an incredibly good player in his own right. And keeping Perrion Winfrey and Isaiah Thomas for another year will just about guarantee there will be no drop off up front from last season.
Linebacker will be another area where experience will help. Obviously, Nik Bonitto is listed as a linebacker, but really is a pass rusher as he was third in the Big 12 with 8.5 sacks last season. Other linebackers include leading tackler Brian Asamoah, along with Deshaun White and David Ugwoegbu who flashed superstar potential. This was Oklahoma’s biggest defensive weakness this past season but could turn into a strength going into this season.
Cornerback Tre Brown declared for the NFL Draft, but Oklahoma has a solid trio of young corners between Jaden Davis, Woodi Washington and D.J. Graham. Oklahoma will not only be better, but deeper, at corner. At safety, both starters Pat Fields and Delarrin Turner-Yell come back but nickel Tre Norwood is gone. That will be the big question for the Sooners. Who will the nickel be? Could it be Bookie? Or could someone else fill that role?
Normally I would not go through a team like this, but it was needed to make my next point. This 2021 Oklahoma team is going to be the best Oklahoma Sooners team in over a decade. Top to bottom the talent and experience is there to bring it all home. No more all offense and no defense. This is a complete team that has a chance to do something that has not been done in Norman since 2000. Of course, Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State will have something to say about that come playoff time and do not forget about Iowa State in the Big 12 either.
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