Oklahoma Sooners next stop: National Championship?

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Joe Broback

Joe is a writer covering the NFL, NBA, NHL and college football. He also currently writes for SB Nation’s Underdog Dynasty, covering the American Athletic Conference since 2016. Joe enjoys collecting shoes, playing sports, and anything fitness related.
Joe Broback
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Offense has always been the name of the game, and the Oklahoma Sooners appear to be a defense away from taking another step forward. Lincoln Riley’s team’s won 24 games to just four losses the last two years, but couldn’t get over the hump. They took steps in the offseason to address their weaknesses, and added another Oklahoma Sooners Heisman candidate at quarterback.

Oklahoma Sooners Downfall

The Oklahoma Sooners aren’t the only team that struggles with defense. Their conference as a whole has a reputation. When people talk about the Big 12, the first two things they think about are elite offenses and terrible defenses. That came back to bite the Sooners in the last two seasons.

In the 2017 College Football Playoff, we saw the Oklahoma Sooners against the Georgia Bulldogs. Led by Baker Mayfield and a plethora of talented offensive players, the Sooners managed to score 48 points against a Top 10 defense. They proved they can hang with anyone on the offensive end.

Oklahoma led at halftime 31-17, but the defense couldn’t do their part. They allowed 317 yards on the ground and allowed 54 points (the second most in playoff history). Last year produced a better performance on the scoreboard, but the same result.

Last year’s Orange Bowl featured the Oklahoma Sooners and Alabama Crimson Tide. Kyler Murray ran the show for Oklahoma on offense, which was essentially the same group from the year before. They did their part, putting up 34 points and 471 yards, but that wasn’t enough.

Alabama took a 31-10 lead, and hung on from there. The Tide amassed 528 yards and 45 points against a Sooners defense that had no answers. Lincoln Riley saw the writing on the walls, and made necessary changes.

New Oklahoma Sooners

Riley fired former defensive coordinator Mike Stoops mid-season last year, and knew he needed that group to be better. He hired former Ohio State Buckeyes co-defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. Grinch inherits an Oklahoma Sooners team that finished last in total defense last year.

Oklahoma finished as an average team against the run (53rd) and tied for last against the pass. Grinch’s Buckeyes were better, but not by much. He’ll work with talent like linebacker Kenneth Murray, but there’s plenty to work to do before the Sooners are taken seriously. Grinch also isn’t the only new outsider joining the Oklahoma Sooners team.

The arrival of Jalen Hurts

This may seem weird, but the Sooners needed a quarterback that can win in the playoff. Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray both won the Heisman Trophy the last two years, but Hurts brings something they don’t have. Playoff wins.

As a freshman, Hurts brought Alabama to the national championship game in both 2017 and 2018. He eventually was replaced by Tua Tagovailoa, but he knows how to win in the playoff. That’s something the Sooners need. Hurts gives Oklahoma a quarterback who’s as talented physically as the last two guys, but has the poise and leadership to win on the biggest stage.

Oklahoma’s not lacking in terms of resources. They just need to find a way to take that next step. The Big 12 is closer than many people think to a national championship, and this could be the year they take the next step. They have another potentially elite quarterback, but it will (once again) come down to the play by their defense.

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