Oklahoma football: The lasting legacy of Sooner gridiron glory

There is little question that Lincoln Riley fell into a gold mine when he became the 22nd Oklahoma football coach following his predecessor Bob Stoops’ sudden retirement in June 2017.

Very few head coaches have the opportunity or the willingness to leave at the top of their game, but that is exactly what Stoops did, and the then-33-year-old Riley was the serendipitous beneficiary. Instead of heading into his 19th season on the sidelines as the winningest coach in what has been a stupendous Sooner football history, Stoops decided to put on the brakes and head off into retirement.

When Stoops made the decision to step down, what he saw in the rear view mirror was a team that finished the 2016 season with an 11-2 record, winning its final 10 games and capped off with a second consecutive Big 12 championship (his 10th as the Sooner head coach) and an impressive 35-19 win over Auburn, the SEC’s second best team that season, in the Sugar Bowl.

All Riley did with the handoff was win 12 games, the most of any first-year Oklahoma head coach and just the fifth head coach in FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) history with no previous head-coaching experience at a four-year college to win as many as 12 games in his coaching debut.

And that’s just the beginning. Riley also laid the blueprint for the No. 1 offense among FBS teams in the 2017 season, led the Sooners to a College Football Playoff appearance and coached the Heisman Trophy winner (Baker Mayfield) and No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

It’s hard to imagine what the youngest FBS head coach could do better as an encore? The glorious Oklahoma football legacy rolls on…

If you haven’t had the opportunity to read the informative article “Four in store? 2018 Season Preview” on the soonersports.com athletic website, take a few minutes and do so. If you are a diehard fan of Sooner football, you will find this to be an excellent preview of the coming season and an excellent read.

Looking ahead to the return of Oklahoma football and the 2018 college season, here are a couple of things you might not know:

  • Lincoln Riley’s first recruiting class (2018) was a consensus top-10 class. And he is off to a great start in putting together the 2019 and 2020 classes. Rivals currently ranks the Sooners as the No. 4 class for both outlying years.
  • OU returns 12 players who started at least five games last season (six on offense and six on defense).
  • All three of Oklahoma’s nonconference opponents this season (Florida Atlantic, UCLA and Army) played in bowl games last season. The three teams produced a combined record of 27-13 last season.
  • OU’s 2018 schedule breaks down into seven home games, four true road games and one neutral-site game (the annual Red River game against Texas at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. What you may not know is: The seven games to be played at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in 2018 is the most since the 2007 season.
  • If the Sooners are successful in winning a fourth consecutive Big 12 championship, they would become the first team from a Power Five conference to with four consecutive conference titles since the Florida Gators won four outright SEC crowns from 1993-96.