Oklahoma football: Six bold predictions for 2021 Sooner football

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 11: The College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy is displayed at Hard Rock Stadium on November 11, 2020 in Miami Gardens, Florida. The Championship game will be played at Hard Rock Stadium on January 11, 2021. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 11: The College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy is displayed at Hard Rock Stadium on November 11, 2020 in Miami Gardens, Florida. The Championship game will be played at Hard Rock Stadium on January 11, 2021. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images) /

Last Saturday, the 2021 Oklahoma football season officially got underway

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The Sooners began their quest for a seventh consecutive Big 12 championship and 15th overall with a less than satisfying nonconference victory over a fired up Tulane team.

Although the game on Saturday has no bearing on the Big 12 race, it does serve notice that Oklahoma might be more vulnerable that first thought, and any more close calls like against Tulane last Saturday surely will have national championship implications.

Winning the Big 12 is always the goal every season, but that serves only as a stepping stone to the No. 1 goal, which is to play for and win a national championship.

The latter of those two lofty goals is the most difficult achievement in college football. In the modern era of college football, or from 1936, when the Associated Press college football rankings first came about, only 31 schools have been declared national champions at least once by either the AP Poll or the Coaches Poll, or both.

Oklahoma has reached that acclaim seven times since 1936, but just once in the last two decades.

A national championship is once again at the top of the list of Oklahoma football goals in 2021, and there are some college football experts who are projecting that this year’s Sooner team just might do it. There’s little denying that this OU team is the most complete team in Lincoln Riley’s five seasons as the Sooners’ head coach. But they are still going to have to prove it on the field.

We’ll have to wait and see about that one, but we have six other bold predictions for the Oklahoma football team this season.

Oklahoma will go a perfect 12-0 in the regular season

The last time was undefeated in the regular season was in 2004. The Sooners were 11-0 during the regular season and added a 12th straight win in defeating Colorado for the Big 12 championship. Oklahoma took a 12-0 record and a No. 2 ranking into the BCS Championship against No. 1 USC. That’s where the 2004 win streak ended with a 55-19 humbling at the hands at feet of the top-ranked Trojans.

The Sooners also were a perfect 11-0 in the regular season in 2000, and they finished off that year with a Big 12 title win over Kansas State and a 13-2 win over Florida State for the national championship and a perfect 13-0 season.

Oklahoma will run the table in the 2021 regular season, including a third straight win over Texas in the annual Red River Showdown and a huge home win over Iowa State on Nov. 20 in Norman.

Spencer Rattler will win the 2021 Heisman Trophy

Historically, the preseason favorite to win the Heisman Trophy more often than not is not the player who hoists the prestigious trophy in New York at the end of the season. This will be the season we see a near wire-to-wire Heisman winner. Spencer Rattler did not have his best game in the season opener against Tulane, but he still put up solid numbers. His two interceptions will prove to be a learning sequence that you will see him rebound and ultimately thrive from.

As he did a year ago, Rattler will get better quickly. He knows he has to. He will ultimately deliver the numbers and live up to all the expectations thrust on him this offseason and become OU’s third quarterback to win the Heisman in the past five years and fifth Heisman finalist in the last six years. Rattler will win in a close vote with Bryce Young of Alabama.

The Oklahoma defense will finish in the top 15 nationally

Despite what many college football analysts are thinking, if not saying, this week following the way the Oklahoma defense performed against a better than expected Tulane team, this is not the same defense of recent Sooner seasons. I’m confident the Tulane game will prove to be an anomaly over the course of the season. There is too much experience, talent and depth in this year’s defensive unit to prove otherwise. In fact, it is the depth and all the rotations that might be cause for concern.

Two years ago, in the first season under defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, Oklahoma ranked 38th nationally in total defense. That was an improvement of 76 spots (from 114th to 38th) from where the Sooners were the year before Grinch arrived.

Last season, the Sooners improved to 29th in that statistical category. Both seasons, OU averaged close to 350 yards of total defense per game. This year’s OU defense is deep in all position groups and is expected to be even better. The Sooners are finally able to play complementary football, and when all is said and done this season, the defense will finish in among the country’s top-15 teams in total defense and allow opponents just around 310 to 320 yards of offense per game.

Freshman WR Mario Williams will be Big 12 Newcomer of the Year

The last Oklahoma freshman receiver to set the world on fire in his first college season was Marvin Mims just one year ago. Get ready to see another star-studded freshman pass-receiving season in 2021 from Mario Williams. A highly recruited high school star, rated five stars and the No. 2 wide receiver in the 2021 class by Rivals.com, Williams is joining a deep and talented Sooner receiving corps, by he should see action a lot this season. He’s currently listed as the No. 2 “Z” receiver (or flanker) behind Arkansas transfer Mike Woods.

The more Williams show early, the more playing time he will get, and by the end of the season he will be a widely known name not just at Oklahoma but throughout the Big 12. He will make the All-Big 12 Freshman Team and be honored as Big 12 Newcomer of the Year.

OU will win Big 12 over Iowa State and earn a Playoff No. 2 or 3 seed

Oklahoma will sweep two game against their chief Big 12 challengers this season. The Sooners will win the game in Norman on Nov. 20, and two weeks later will repeat the effort, winning by 10-plus points in the Big 12 Championship on Dec. 4 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Oklahoma’s perfect 13-0 record will earn the Sooners a No. 2 or No. 3 seed and, more importantly, they’ll not have to play the No, 1 overall seed for just the second time in five College Football Playoff appearances.

Alex Grinch will leave to take a head-coaching job after this season

OU’s defensive coordinator was on the short list for several FBS head coaching jobs after the 2021 season. He has done well every place he has been as a defensive coordinator (Washington State, Ohio State and Oklahoma). The 41-year-old Grinch is on track for a head-coaching job, and next offseason will be his time.