OU Football: Midseason Report Card


Outside of the Texas game, OU football is pretty much where it had hoped to be at this stage of the 2015 season.

The Sooners began the season at No. 19 in both the Associated Press Top 25 and the Amway Coaches Poll. They are currently No. 17 in the AP poll, after having climbed all the way to No. 10 in Week 6, and stand at 5-1 on the season.

Two of Oklahoma’s five wins in 2015 have come against teams ranked in the top 25. The Sooners capped off the first half of the season with a more-than-convincing 55-0 hammering of a Kansas State team that got flattened early and often and had the befuddled look of a team that didn’t know what had hit them. That game alone marked the largest margin of victory for the Sooners over a Power Five team this season and the first time a Bill Snyder-coached K-State team had been shut out at home since 1991.

Certainly a good way to end the first half of the 2015 season, especially coming off the humbling loss in the annual rivalry game with Texas.

So how does this edition of Oklahoma football stack up at the season’s midpoint, and how do things look heading into second half of the schedule. Here is our assessment:

When the Sooners Are on Offense

Oct 17, 2015; Manhattan, KS, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) is chased by Kansas State Wildcats defensive end Jordan Willis (75) early in a game at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Offensively, Oklahoma is averaging close to the same number of offensive yards per game as all of last season. The big difference is, this season, operating in a new Air Raid offense, pass yardage is considerably higher (330 yards per game vs. 203 yards a year ago). Last season, Sooner quarterbacks combined for 17 total touchdown passes. This season’s starting quarterback, Baker Mayfield, has 19 TD passes already in the first six games and has completed 67 percent of his pass attempts. His touchdown to interception ratio (19/4) is among the best in the league. The Sooners’ rushing numbers are down this season, but that is largely because they are able to throw the ball more effectively. Samaje Perine, the leading rusher in the Big 12 last season, is still OU’s big horse in the run game, but this season he has a couple of new running mates in redshirt freshman Joe Mixon and Daniel Brooks. All three running backs are averaging better than four yards per carry. Sterling Shepard, Durron Neal and newcomer Dede Westbrook are having excellent seasons as Mayfield’s primary receiving targets. Fourteen different Sooner receivers have caught at least one pass this season. Midseason Grade: B+

When the Sooners Are on Defense

Oct 3, 2015; Norman, OK, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers running back Wendell Smallwood (4) is tackled by Oklahoma Sooners linebacker Eric Striker (19) in the first quarter at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Sooners have played well on defense, but not on a consistent basis, through the first six games. Average points and yards allowed are both down from a year ago, but that can be a little misleading because OU has not gotten to the most difficult part of its schedule yet. For a half against Tennessee and the entire game against Kansas State, defensive coordinator Mike Stoops’ defense was as good as it gets, but then you have the mental and physical breakdowns that occurred on defense against Texas, and it forces you to ask yourself: Has this OU defensive unit really gotten any better than it was in 2014, or is it just wishful thinking? The Sooners had all kinds of trouble defending the good spread offense teams in the Big 12 last season. Their secondary play appears to have benefited from the year of experience, but there is still some vulnerability in the back end of the OU defense. The Sooners have picked off seven passes this season. Six of them came in two games (vs. West Virginia and vs. Kansas State). The true defensive test will come over the final six games, especially during the month of November, when Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State show up on the schedule. Midseason Grade: C+

Special Teams

The kickoff and punt return teams have been average at best for the Sooners through the first six outings, but the Sooner kicking game has been exceptional. True freshman Austin Seibert is averaging 43.4 yards per punt, with 13 of his 30 punt attempts placed inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. Even more impressive is his placekicking.  Rated as the No. 1 kicker in the 2015 national recruiting class by ESPN, Seibert is a perfect 10 for 10 in field-goal tries, the longest of which has been 44 yards, and he is 30 for 30 in extra-point attempts. Midseason Grade: B

Coaching Staff

Oct 3, 2015; Norman, OK, USA; Oklahoma Sooners head coach Bob Stoops watches his team in action against the West Virginia Mountaineers in the first quarter at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Bob Stoops brought on four new assistant coaches in the offseason, including a new offensive coordinator in Lincoln Riley, considered one of the brightest young offensive minds in college football It took a couple of games for the OU offense to seemingly get comfortable with Riley’s new Air Raid offense. But ever since the big fourth-quarter comeback over Tennessee by Baker Mayfield and the Sooner offense, OU has reeled off offensive outputs of 773, 427 and 568 yards in three of the subsequent four games. The Sooners also have new assistant coaches for the secondary (Kerry Cooks), the defensive line (Diron Reynolds) and inside receivers (Dennis Simmons). Adjustments also were made with Mike Stoops, Tim Kish and Cale Gundy. Stoops has moved from the sidelines to the press box for his defensive coordinator responsibilities, and the linebacker responsibilities have been divided between Stoops and Kish. Gundy has moved from coaching the running backs to working with the inside receivers. So far, so good. These changes appear to be working out positively for the Sooners. Midseason Grade: B+

Best Win of 2015

Sep 12, 2015; Knoxville, TN, USA; Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Sterling Shepard (3) dives over Tennessee Volunteers defensive back Brian Randolph (37) to score the winning touchdown during double overtime at Neyland Stadium. Oklahoma won 31-24. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Without question, the best all-around game by Oklahoma this season was last weekend at Kansas State. The Sooners dominated in all aspects of the game, piling up 568 yards of total offense while allowing Kansas State just 110 yards of offense for the game. The best OU win of the season thus far, however, is the 31-24 overtime win on the road at Tennessee. Baker Mayfield completed 11 of 14 passes for 103 yards and three touchdowns and a TD run in the fourth quarter and overtime to bring the Sooners back from a 17-3 to start the final quarter. Bob Stoops called the improbable victory “one of the more special wins, maybe my favorite of all of them.”

Most Valuable Player Through Six Games

This one is pretty easy. Baker Mayfield has been the heart and soul of a rejuvenated Oklahoma offense all season. He has 1,875 yards passing with 19 touchdowns and a pass efficiency rating of 180.1, third best in the Big 12, which is loaded with elite passing quarterbacks. In addition to his passing ability, Mayfield has kept many drives alive with his ability to pick up valuable yards with his legs. He has 166 yards on the ground and four rushing touchdowns.

Best Newcomer

After sitting out all of last season because of a suspension, running back Joe Mixon hit the ground running in his Oklahoma debut. Most of his yards gained in the season opener against Akron, however, were yards after the catch. He caught three passes out of the backfield for a total of 115 yards, one of which went for 76 yards and a touchdown. Mixon is averaging nearly five yards a carry when he runs the ball, with two touchdowns, but his biggest contribution has come as a receiver. He is fourth among the Sooner receivers with 17 catches, including three for touchdowns.