Oklahoma football: From A to Z — 26 reasons to be excited about 2019 season

The Sooner Schooner takes the field (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
The Sooner Schooner takes the field (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images) /

With just 16 days to go, the anticipation is clearly building for another season of Oklahoma football — the 125th, if you’re counting.

Down the high-expectations rabbit hole that is Sooner football, we offer an A-to-Z look at the coming season along with 26 insights on why 2019 could be the best Oklahoma season yet under head coach Lincoln Riley.

A — The past two seasons, Oklahoma’s Air Raid offense has led the nation in total offensive yards per game, and there should be little, if any, drop-off in 2019.

B — Six Oklahoma players five on offense and one on defense) are Preseason All-Big 12 selections. In addition quarterback Jalen Hurts and linebacker Kenneth Murray were preseason choices by the media as Newcomer of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, respectively.

C — Junior tight end Grant Calcaterra caught 26 passes for nearly 600 yards in 2018. If he follows in footsteps of his predecessor, All-American Mark Andrews (now in the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens), the native Californian Calcaterra should double his production between his sophomore and junior seasons.

D — The elephant in the room and the biggest question mark by far hovering over the Sooners heading into the 2019 season is how much, if at all, the defense will be improved following several years as one of the worst in college football. The Sooners ranked 114th in the country a year ago in total defense (allowing 453.8 yards per game).

E — Oklahoma has been the model of efficiency in preventing one loss turn into a second straight setback. The Sooners have not lost back-to-back games in two decades. The last time that happened was in 1999, in Bob Stoops debut season as head coach.

F — The 2019 Oklahoma football roster contains 48 true or redshirt freshmen. That represents 42 percent of the 114-man roster.

G — Some experts view the hiring of Alex Grinch as the new OU defensive coordinator as the biggest coordinator hire in college football this offseason. One year before Grinch took the same job at Washington State under Mike Leach, WSU ranked 99th nationally in total defense (442 ypg) and 127th (out of 129) in pass defense (297 ypg) and turnovers gained (8). After three years in Grinch’s system, the Cougars had improved to 16th in total defense (323 ypg) and ninth in both pass defense (171 ypg) and turnovers gained (28). Oklahoma is hoping to see the same type of improvement, although not in one year.

H — Sophomore center Creed Humphrey is the lone starter returning from last year’s Oklahoma offensive line, recognized as the best in college football (and winner of the Joe Moore Award). The 2019 Sooner offensive line has a total of 12 career starts between them, and all 12 belong to Humphrey, who was a second-team All-Big 12 selection last season.

I — Jalen Hurts threw 12 interceptions in his three seasons at Alabama. Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray threw a combined 14 interceptions over the same three-year span (2016-18).

J —

K — Oklahoma has won 14 consecutive games against Kansas. The Sooners can’t afford to sleep walk, however when they visit Lawrence on Oct. 5. Several of the biggest upset losses in Sooner football history have come at the hands of Kansas. Twice under Barry Switzer (1975 and 1984), the No. 2-ranked Sooners lost to an unranked Jayhawk squad.

L — The Sooners lose their leading receiver from last year (Marquise “Hollywood” Brown) but return three of the top four, including preseason All-American candidate CeeDee Lamb, who caught 65 passes for 1,158 yards and a team-high 11 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2018.

M — Junior LB Kenneth Murray was Oklahoma’s leading tackler last season with 155, and is being counted on to help turnaround a deplorable defense that ranked 114th in the nation a year ago. He’s off to a good start. In July, the media that covers the Big 12 named Murray the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.

N — The Sooners have not lost in November since 2014. They are 16-0 since losing 48-14 at home to Baylor on Nov. 8, 2014.

Oklahoma Sooners Football
Oklahoma Sooners Football /

Oklahoma Sooners Football

O — Oklahoma’s high-powered, high-production offense last season included an embarrassment of riches at the wide receiver position. Nineteen different Sooners caught passes last season. Fifteen of those players are back in 2019, along with a top-five recruiting class that included three five-star wide receivers (Jadon Hasselwood, Theo Wease and Trejan Bridges) who were considered three of the top five nationally at their position out of high school.

P — The Sooners will be introducing a new punter and placekicker for the first time in four seasons. Austin Seibert handled both duties for Oklahoma the last four seasons. Redshirt freshman Gabe Brkic, out of Chardon, Ohio, is expected to do the placekicking (field goals, extra points and kickoffs) for the Sooners this season. Redshirt sophomore Reeves Mundschau, from New Braunfels, Texas, near Houston, will handle the punting duties.

Q — Oklahoma’s biggest scoring quarter a year ago was the second quarter. The Sooners outscored their opponents by 77 points (200-123) in the second 15 minutes.

R — In just two seasons as Oklahoma head coach, Lincoln Riley has won 24 games, delivered two Big 12 championships, taken the Sooners to two consecutive College Football Playoff appearances, produced two Heisman Trophy winners and two No. 1 overall NFL Draft picks. If he wins 11 or more games in season No. 3, he will pass Barry Switzer’s 32 wins as the most wins by an Oklahoma football coach in his first three seasons.

S — The second week of the season, Oklahoma will host South Dakota, an FCS (Football Championship Series) team from the Missouri Valley Conference with a 4-7 overall record last season. The Coyotes, who lost by just three points (27-24) at Kansas State last season, are the Sooners’ first FCS opponent since the 2012 season.

T — The Sooners’ biggest challenger in the Big 12 title chase this season is expected to be the Texas Longhorns. Those two teams meet on Oct. 12 this season in the annual Red River Showdown at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

U — OU’s showcase nonconference matchup this season is the second half of a home-and-home series with UCLA of the Pac 12. Oklahoma won the front end of the series a year ago in Norman, pummeling the Bruins 49-21 in Chip Kelly’s first season as the UCLA head coach. The Sooners are 4-1 all-time against UCLA, but that one loss was at UCLA in 2005. OU will take a 20-game winning streak in true road games to Pasadena and the Rose Bowl on Sept. 14.

V — Oklahoma is 7-0 against West Virginia since the Mountaineers became members of the Big 12 conference. The Sooners average winning margin in those seven games is 14.4. West Virginia comes to Norman on Oct. 19 this season.

W — Oklahoma’s 652 wins since 1946 is the most in college football. The Sooners are virtually unbeatable at home. Since 1999, OU is 113-10 in games played at Gaylord Family — Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. The Sooners have been pretty lethal on the road recently as well. They have won 19 consecutive true road games.

X — Team speed and more aggressive play are two prime tenets of new coordinator Alex Grinch’s defensive philosophy. Takeaways represent the x-factor in measuring how a defensive unit is progressing in Grinch’s system. The Sooners 11 takeaways last season were the third worst among FBS teams. Grinch would like to see that number double in 2019.

Y — Oklahoma led the nation in total offense in each of the last two seasons, under two different starting quarterbacks. In 2018, the Sooners tied an NCAA record, averaging 8.6 yards per play.

Z — Oklahoma has held its opponent to zero points 245 times in its 124-year history. Since the 2000 national championship season, the Sooners have recorded a dozen defensive shutouts, the last one coming four years ago at Kansas State (55-0).