Oklahoma football: Scouting the Sooners’ first five games of 2020

NORMAN, OK - OCTOBER 18: Members of the Oklahoma Sooners cheerleaders perform during the game against the Kansas State Wildcats October 18, 2014 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. The Wildcats defeated the Sooners 31-30. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
NORMAN, OK - OCTOBER 18: Members of the Oklahoma Sooners cheerleaders perform during the game against the Kansas State Wildcats October 18, 2014 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. The Wildcats defeated the Sooners 31-30. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images) /

It’s seemed like a long time coming, but the COVID-shortened 2020 Oklahoma football season is nearing the starting gate.

The season officially kicks off for the Sooners and the rest of the Big 12 two weeks from this Saturday. To get Sooner fans ready for the new season, here is a preview of the first five games on Oklahoma’s 2020 schedule along with a prediction of who will will the game

Sept. 12 — Missouri State Bears @ home

This game has been moved around a lot on the schedule. It was originally scheduled for Sept. 5, but was moved up to Aug. 29 when the Sooners were trying to arrange the schedule to allow an extra week after each of its three nonconference games because of COVID-19 concerns. When the Big 12 announced a 10-game schedule for the coming season and a conference-only schedule plus one nonconference opponent, the season-opening game with Missouri State was moved a second time, to Sept. 12.

Missouri State is a Football Championship Subdivision team that plays in the Missouri Valley Conference and in a division one ier down from the Football Bowl Subdivision, where the Sooners reside. The MVC opted out of playing football this fall, but will allow its members to play nonconference opponents this fall. Besides Oklahoma, the Bears, coached by former Arkansas and Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino, has scheduled a home and home series with Central Arkansas.

This will be the first meeting between OU and Missouri State. The Bears were 1-10 a year ago. Oklahoma has won 33 of its last 35 home openers in Norman.

Oklahoma wins this one handily.

Sept. 26 — Kansas State Wildcats @ home

Oklahoma will have a bye week after its season opener with Missouri State to get ready for the Big 12 schedule and the conference opener with Kansas State. The Sooners will host K-State at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium with last year’s loss at Kansas State, Oklahoma’s only one in the regular season, still fresh on their mind.

The Wildcats defeated Oklahoma 48-41 last season but are just 20-76-4 versus the Sooners all-time and haven’t beaten Oklahoma two seasons in a row since 1996-97. Kansas State, however, has won two games in its last four trips to Norman.

The 2020 edition of Kansas State football features just three returning starters on offense and six on defense, but one of the returners on the offensive side is quarterback Skylar Thompson, who last season threw for 213 yards and rushed for four touchdowns against the Sooners.

Kansas State will stay in the game for a while, but the Sooners pull away in the second half and win by two or more scores.

Oct. 3 — @ Iowa State Cyclones

Oklahoma had won 18 games in a row against Iowa State when the Cyclones came to Norman in 2017 and upset the Sooners 38-31. The last four games between these two longtime conference foes have been decided by an average of 6.5 points, and last season Oklahoma, playing at home, they had to bat away a potential touchdown pass in the end zone late in the game to preserve a one-point win.

This will be the first of four consecutive games the Sooners play away from home in the month of October and a three game stretch in which OU faces Iowa State, Texas and TCU, probably the most difficult stretch in the 2020 schedule.

The Cyclones have one of the better quarterbacks in the Big 12, and some would say in college football, in Brock Purdy, who threw for 3,982 yards last season, including 27 touchdowns and also rushed for 249 yards and eight touchdowns. Purdy threw five touchdown passes against the Sooners last season in OU’s 42-41 narrow win.

Iowa State has been improving every season under head coach Matt Campbell and has been an especially tough out for the Sooners while Campbell has been there. ISU was 7-6 a year ago and 5-4 in the Big 12.

The Cyclones have nine starters back on a defense that could be the best in the conference this season.

This game will be closer than the experts think, to parrot ESPN “College GameDay” analyst Lee Corso, but Oklahoma wins a close one.

Oct. 10 — Texas Longhorns in Dallas

This is a big game every year, but it likely will be the biggest game for the Sooners in 2020. The Sooners will be missing some key personnel for this one due to suspensions for RB Rhamondre Stevenson, DE Ronnie Perkins and WR Trejan Bridges, not to mention the absence of RB Kennedy Brooks, who has opted out of the 2020 season.

Oklahoma has won four of the last five games in this longtime rivalry series, but the Longhorns own the overall record at 62-48-5. This will be the fourth straight year that a different Sooner quarterback has started the Red River Showdown against Texas. Redshirt freshman Spencer Rattler is the likely OU starter this year.  Meanwhile, Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger will be starting this game for the third consecutive year against the Sooners.

The ability to keep Ehlinger contained in the pocket and limit his running opportunities will be a key factor in the outcome of this game. The winner of this game will have a huge leg up in securing a spot in the Big 12 Championship game.

This game is a toss up and easily could go either way. The outcome of this game could be the difference between a 9-1 regular season or 10-0. Oklahoma wins by a field goal.

Oct. 17 — @ TCU Horned Frogs

Oklahoma owns a six-game winning streak against TCU and is 8-1 against the Horned Frogs since they became a member of the Big 12. The Sooners only loss, however, in their nine encounters with TCU as conference foes was in Ft. Worth.

This sets up as a huge trap game for OU, but the Sooners will have an extra week to prepare with a bye week after the Texas game. Something to keep in mind for this game, Oklahoma is 19-1 since 2000 in games following the Red River Showdown and 18-6 in games after a bye.

TCU returns five starters on offense, including sophomore quarterback Max Duggan, and seven on a defense that has always been good under head coach Gary Patterson. Duggan ran for 92 yards and scored a touchdown last season in a 28-24 Oklahoma win in Norman. The sophomore quarterback’s status, however, is somewhat up in the air right now after a previously undetected heart condition was revealed following preliminary COVID-19 testing. Duggan has been ruled out indefinitely because of the condition.

Three of the last five regular season games between OU and TCU have been decided by six of fewer points.

This one will be different, with Oklahoma winning by double digits.