Oklahoma football: Ranking Sooners’ 2022 opponents from worst to first

NORMAN, OK - NOVEMBER 25: A general view of the stadium during the West Virginia Mountaineers vs. the Oklahoma Sooners game at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on November 25, 2017 in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated West Virginia 59-31. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
NORMAN, OK - NOVEMBER 25: A general view of the stadium during the West Virginia Mountaineers vs. the Oklahoma Sooners game at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on November 25, 2017 in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated West Virginia 59-31. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images) /

For nine months now, new Oklahoma football head coach Brent Venables has been preparing for what is about to happen: the long-awaited kickoff to a new college football season.

Just ahead of the 2021 postseason, Venables left Clemson, South Carolina, and returned to Norman, Oklahoma, to become the next head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners. At the time, Venables, a former member of the OU coaching staff under Bob Stoops, appeared to be the right choice for the time. Now, nine months later, he appears even more so. But he and the Sooners have yet to place their first game under his leadership.

The Sooners’ 2022 schedule is extremely favorable with home games against three of OU’s biggest opponents, and it all gets underway on Sept. 3 with the season opener at home against UTEP.

As a preview of the 2022 season, we are ranking all 12 regular-season games in ascending order from least to most difficult, Today’s article will begin with games ranked 12 through 7.

12 — UTEP, Sept. 3 in Norman

The University of Texas-El Paso heads to Norman this weekend having already played one game this season. The Miners lost to North Texas 31-13 but put on an impressive offensive display despite the double-digit loss. UTEP has six returning starters on offense, led by junior quarterback Gavin Hardison, and seven returners on defense. The Miners are coming off a 7-6 season a year ago and are hopeful of putting together a second straight winning season for the first time since 2004-05. Oklahoma is 4-0 all-time in games against UTEP with an average score of 51-7. Don’t expect the margin to be much different in game five between these two schools.

11 — Kansas, Oct. 15 in Norman

Oklahoma has won 17 straight games over Kansas, and it doesn’t get any better this season with the Jayhawks having to come to Norman. The one thing that might be going for Kansas in this game is that it follows the Sooners annual rivalry game with Texas, so an emotional and physical OU letdown against a lesser opponent is not out of the question. Kansas put a huge scare into the Sooners last season in Lawrence before OU pulled away late for a hard-earned 35-23 victory. Kansas head coach Lance Leipold has the Jayhawks headed in the right direction and they should be a little better this season, but they are not yet at the level of Oklahoma.

10 — Kent State, Sept. 10 in Norman

Kent State won the East Division of the Mid-America Conference last season but lost in the championship game to Northern Illinois. This will be the Golden Flashes first ever meeting with Oklahoma, and it will be only the Sooners fourth game all-time against a team from the MAC. Kent State runs an up-tempo offense like the Sooners will employ this season under new offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby, but the Flashes lack the offensive weapons that Oklahoma has, and to complicate matters further, the Kent State defense was not very good a year ago and that shouldn’t change much this year.

9 — Nov. 12 @ West Virginia

As Big 12 teams, Oklahoma has never lost to West Virginia. The Sooners are 9-0 since the Mountaineers joined the Big 12 and 11-2 all-time. Oklahoma has to go to Morgantown this year, which is always a long trip and a difficult place to play. This game comes one week after OU entertains Baylor in Norman, which could take something out of the Sooners given the major importance of the Baylor game in the Big 12 championship race. OU needs to be careful of the West Virginia game. It sets up as the perfect trap game for the Sooners.

8 — Sept. 17 @ Nebraska

This will be the 88th renewal of a longtime conference rivalry that ended when Nebraska left the Big 12 for the Big Ten after the 2010 season. Oklahoma owns a 46-38-3 advantage in the all-time series. The two teams had not played each other since the 2010 Big 12 championship game before last season, the first of a home-and-home series between the two old rivals. Oklahoma won last season’s contest in Norman 23-16, but only by a one-score margin. The Sooners are the better team but playing in Lincoln before 100,000 passionate fans is no easy task for any opponent. And this is a rivalry game of sorts, and we all know that anything goes in these types of games. This is another game Oklahoma needs to be ready for. The Sooners are 18-22-2 all-time in games played in Lincoln.

7 — Nov. 26 @ Texas Tech

Oklahoma closes the regular season at Texas Tech. The Sooners have won 10 straight games against Texas Tech and is 23-6 all-time. The Red Raiders have a new head coach, Joey McGuire, who comes to Lubbock from Baylor, where he was an assistant since 2017. The Red Raiders also have a new starting quarterback, Tyler Shough, a transfer from Oregon, and a new offensive coordinator, Zach Kittley, who previously was at Western Kentucky. Interestingly, Matt Wells, who was replaced after last season by McGuire, is now an offensive analyst on Brent Venables’ staff at OU. Coming in the final game of the regular season, this could be an important game for the Sooners with Big 12 championship implications.

Next week we will breakdown the six most challenging games on the Oklahoma 2022 schedule.