Oklahoma football: Five bold predictions for Sooners’ season opener

NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 10 : Safety Stephen Amoako
NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 10 : Safety Stephen Amoako /

There is very little risk in predicting a Sooner victory on Saturday in Lincoln Riley’s first game as Oklahoma football coach. Not so much looking ahead to next weekend and the highly anticipated showdown with Ohio State.

The Sooners are six-touchdown favorites to defeat the University of Texas-El Paso in the season opener Saturday at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, according to the latest odds on the game put out by Sportsbook Review. So predicting an Oklahoma victory is hardly a bold play.

Saturday’s home and season opener will mark a series of firsts.

It will be the first game of the 2017 season for the Sooners as well as  Riley’s first game as the Oklahoma head coach. It also will be the first game in 6,859 days that Bob Stoops has not patrolled the sidelines as the headmaster of Oklahoma football.

With not much in doubt — other than the margin of victory — over which team will come out the victor on the scoreboard on Saturday, what else can fans look forward to in 2017 curtain-opening of Oklahoma football? We have some bold predictions for you:

  • Baker Mayfield will open his third Heisman campaign with three touchdown passes, one rushing touchdown and no interceptions. The Big 12 Preseason Offensive Player of the Year has heard a lot in the offseason about how the Sooners’ Air Raid attack won’t be the same without a Dede Westbrook or Sterling Shepard on the sure-handed end of Mayfield’s downfield throws. Look for Mayfield to show the fiction of this misguided perception right from the start of the new season.
  • The Sooners will win by more than the 46-point spread. Oklahoma ranked third in the nation in total offense last season. Despite the loss of three BIG weapons from last year’s offensive juggernaut, OU retains 65 percent of its total offense, largely with the return of Baker Mayfield. The Sooners average victory margin in three previous games with UTEP is 49-7. The only factor that might stand in the way of this predicted outcome would be if Riley calls off the dogs in the second half and goes with backups in an effort to protect against injury with Ohio State looming next weekend.
  • Kyler Murray, the backup QB behind Baker Mayfield, will see almost a quarter of action against UTEP. Murray, who transferred from Texas A&M, has been impressive in training camp and is itching to get on the field after having to sit out last season because of the NCAA transfer rule. He poses a dual threat, with quickness and speed a foot and a good touch throwing the football. The Sooners shouldn’t lose much with Murray at QB. He just offers a little different style of play than Mayfield.
  • A much improved Oklahoma defense will force three turnovers and score a defensive touchdown on Saturday. Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops’ defense is switching to a 4-3 front-seven alignment, which should allow the Sooners to get more pressure on the quarterback and lower the possibility of giving up big plays on the back end, which has been a problem area in recent years. Lincoln Riley and his coaches have emphasized starting out faster in games this season. That goal not only applies to the offense, but to the defense, as well. Getting defensive stops allows the Sooners to take over on offense and, more importantly, keeps the other team’s offense on the sidelines.
  • Senior wide receiver Jeffery Mead caught no more than two passes and did not exceed more than 42 receiving yards in nine games for the Sooners last season. In fact, those represent career highs for the 6-foot, 5-inch wide receiver from Tulsa. Mead is anxious to demonstrate that he is the next man up among the OU receiving corps, and the 2017 home opener is an excellent time and place to demonstrate that. The Sooners want to better utilize Mead’s height as an offensive advantage over smaller defensive backs. Look for Mead to have a career game in  both receptions and yards against UTEP.