Oklahoma can actually be better in 2024 and finish with a worse record

Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Sterling Shepard (3) scores the winning touchdown in double overtime against the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Sterling Shepard (3) scores the winning touchdown in double overtime against the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports / Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

A case can be made that the Oklahoma football schedule the next two seasons is the most difficult in the Sooners 129 previous seasons playing college football

In fact, the 2025 schedule could be even harder than the 2024 slate as the hardest because OU plays Michigan as part of the nonconference schedule. The one mitigating factor in 2025 is that the Sooners play Michigan in Norman and four of the eight SEC conference games are in Norman instead of just three in 2024.

This time next week (July 1), Oklahoma and Texas will officially have become members of the SEC after a nearly two-year build up and plenty of negative press and social media warnings about how big, bad Oklahoma football is about to be humbled in a league filled with bigger, stronger and better teams.

The Sooners enter the SEC with talent and depth in most every position group. The two big unknowns are in the offensive line, which has had to replace all five starters from a year ago and at the quarterback position, which is not so much an unknown with former five-star recruit Jackson Arnold as it is this being his first season as the starting signal caller.

Arnold made his first start as a Sooner against Arizona last season in the Alamo Bowl. Although he three for over 300 yards and two touchdowns, he also committed four turnovers, three coming on interceptions. He looked very good, however, in spring practice and in OU's annual Red-White scrimmage. Much of the Sooners success as a new member of the SEC this season, though, is predicated on Arnold's performance.

The offensive line in of some concern, with all new guys manning the important front line protecting the highly acclaimed OU second-year quarterback, but he is surrounded by a wealth of riches at wide receiver and in the running back corps.

Defense has been the Sooners' Achilles heel for a number of years, but there is little question that the Oklahoma defense is better than when Brent Venables took over as head coach two seasons ago. That in and of itself, will improve OU's chances in the defensive-minded SEC and should make every game they play competitive in what is widely regarded as one of the toughest conference schedules in the country.

Having said all of this, though, you have to acknowledge that Oklahoma's four true SEC road games this fall include Auburn, Ole Miss, Missouri and LSU, three of which are ranked in every preseason top 25 and all considered extremely difficult places to play for the visiting team. And then, of course, their is the annual Red River Rivalry with Texas, an opponent that OU know well but also is widely touted this season as being one of the top national championship contenders.

The Sooners do get Alabama and Tennessee along with South Carolina at home, which won't be a cake walk, either.

Oklahoma has a relatively easy 2024 nonconference schedule. All four games are very winnable. Say the Sooners go 4-0 in the nonconference and, hypothetically, split their four conference games, beating Tennessee and South Carolina at home and Missouri and Auburn on the road with losses against Texas, at both Ole Miss and LSU and at home against Alabama.

Under that scenario, the Sooners would finish their debut season in the SEC with an overall record of 8-4 and an even .500 4-4 in the conference. That would be tied for the fourth worst overall record in the last 25 years of Sooner football (Bob Stoops had a 7-5 team in 1999 and and 8-5 teams in 2009 and 2014; Venables' first season as OU head coach was 6-7). Those previous Sooner teams all competed in the Big 12. The 2024 Oklahoma team will play in the much stronger SEC.

Who knows, the Sooners could surprise by stealing another game and reaching nine wins. Just as unpredictable, though, they could be upset by one of their nonconference opponents, lose five conference games instead of four and finish with a 6-6 overall record (3-5 in the conference)

Circling back to the original premise of this article: Can Oklahoma actually be a better football team in the SEC this coming season than last season's 10-3 Big 12 team and finish with a worse record?

The answer is an emphatic "yes."