The Sooners have question marks, but they have all the pieces to reach the playoff, particularly in a wide-open Big 12.
I’ve watched the Oklahoma-Alabama Sugar Bowl a bunch. Trevor Knight was so good: Anytime a player has that kind of success against a team like Alabama, it changes things. I’m sure the other players now believe in him in the locker room and when he takes charge in the huddle. His confidence is going to be really high. [Receiver] Sterling Shepard obviously is skilled, but they have some big shoes to fill when you start talking about their running backs and wideouts. They were able to put up some big numbers last year, and sometimes that can hurt you because the new guys try to do too much instead of just playing within the system.
I think they can control the line of scrimmage with the kind of guys they have playing defensive tackle and noseguard, allowing the athletes behind them to run free. And they have the premier linebacker -- or whatever you want to call him -- in the country in Eric Striker. He has one-on-one matchups with offensive tackles, and they can’t block him. If Knight plays with the confidence I think he’ll have, well, they’re picked to win the Big 12 for a reason.
Last fall junior defensive end Charles Tapper made 24 tackles and totaled 5.5 sacks. It was only his fourth season playing football. At 6'4" and 281 pounds, with exceptional strength and athleticism, Tapper is an All-Big 12 talent with
Pop Warner-level experience. Tapper showed glimpses of his potential by making six tackles at Oklahoma State and three tackles for loss against Kansas. With time and coaching, he could be a quarterback-wrecking force.
Though a Sept. 13 matchup with Tennessee could be tricky, Oklahoma’s nonconference slate shouldn’t be a challenge -- or earn much strength-of-schedule credit. The team’s playoff destiny will ride on a tough stretch from Oct. 4 through Nov. 8 that includes showdowns at TCU and against Texas, then home dates against Kansas State and Baylor. If the Sooners escape with no more than one loss, a spot in the bracket will be in sight. They can nail it down against Oklahoma State in the regular-season finale, which comes after a bye.
||at West Virginia
||Texas (in Dallas)
||at Iowa State
||at Texas Tech