Image via SoonerSports.com
The season is here. All the talk during the offseason is behind us, as well as the preseason guessing and predicting. On Saturday afternoon, the Sooners will kick off the Lincoln Riley era as they host UTEP. As TFB did last year, a day or two before each game, I will be giving you my “Hot Takes,” or just general pregame observations. I like to engage with you in the comments section as well, so please feel free to ask me any questions, comment on my thoughts, or tell me I’m an idiot (ok, don’t do that).
One thing I want to make clear is that I do not dwell on depth charts. I honestly believe most coaches would not even release one if it were completely up to them. If you are taking more time “analyzing” a depth chart than it takes to actually read said depth chart…please stop. Depth charts don’t really tell you anything. I will make a few references to who is listed on the depth chart, but I am not going to lose my mind over who is listed and who is not.
Here we go…
UTEP – GAME #1
– CeeDee Lamb as the starting X has me all sorts of giddy. Lamb has been someone I’ve looked forward to since first watching his film last winter. For anyone scratching their heads how a true freshman can come in and assert himself at this position, please remember Lamb had one of the best single seasons in the history of Texas prep wide receivers. I think you will see Baker Mayfield target him early and often. I will even predict Lamb has five catches for 60-80 yards on Saturday.
– You have heard it said ad nauseam, but soak it in one more time before kickoff: Oklahoma’s offensive line is nasty.
– Ben Powers might be the most “overlooked”/underrated offensive linemen in the country. I love his physical style of play and the fact he is a “finisher.”
– Welcome to consistency, Jeffrey Mead. I really liked watching him develop throughout the 2016 season. He made some really great catches and I am very happy to see his hard work and dedication getting a bit of reward. But…
– That Z position is deep. I really like Jeff Badet and his skill set. I had a budding bromance with Marquise Brown back before he signed. I think it will be a “Z By Committee” this season.
– Mark Andrews is one of the best offensive weapons in the country who no one outside of Big 12 Country has heard much about. I truly think he is set to have a monster season and it starts Saturday.
– Grant Calcaterra would be starting on a ton of Power 5 teams. He is that good. I was super impressed with him during the spring. He will get a lot of reps and a lot of touches, and has the talent to become a household name.
– We all know about Baker Mayfield. He is consistent. He can beat you with boring. He can beat you with pizzazz. He has his offensive line back. He has a solid stable of receivers. He has unproven running backs. Last year, to start the season, he had the running backs and question marks over the other two. Will he try and do too much early this season? I think he did last year and it cost OU. Will he allow the game to just happen around him and be the defensive coordinator nightmare he has proven to be time and time again? When he allows the game to “just happen,” I don’t think there is anyone better at the quarterback position in FBS.
– I still think Sooner fans will see Rodney Anderson pull away from the running back race. He is big. He is powerful. Do I think he is Joe Mixon? No. But Mixon seriously might have been the most dynamic college football running back in the last decade. Is he Samaje Perine? No, but I think he possesses enough of both Mixon/Perine to be the kind of back OU fans are used to seeing in the backfield.
– If Anderson does not emerge as “the man” in the backfield, I think it will seriously be a running back by committee, which I personally do not care to see. I think guys have to be allowed to establish a groove and a feel for the game. Coming in every other series can prove difficult for a lot of talented guys.
– Marcelias Sutton is going to leave some UTEP defenders holding their jock straps.
– Kyler Murray will see the field in “non-mop up duty.” Murray is too talented, too fast, too just plain ol’ good to sit on the sidelines. When you have very dangerous weapons, you deploy them at just the right time, and I think fans will see Riley do just that with Murray.
– Speaking of Murray’s playing time on Saturday…a friend asked me if I thought OU would show much in the way of Murray’s offensive role with Ohio State looming in Week 2. My thoughts are that Riley will show just enough to let the Buckeyes know Murray is going to play, but not enough to let Ohio State feel they can comfortably plan for what is coming to Columbus.
– UTEP’s defense was not good last year. Oklahoma’s offense should roll. All the key pieces are in place. Excellent returning quarterback. Proven and talented offensive line. That is where it all begins. Wide receiver and running back will play themselves out over the course of Saturday’s game. That may sound ridiculous to say, but if OU scores quickly and has comfortable leads Riley may take the opportunity to give multiple guys field experience. Who knows when a guy might have his light bulb “come on.”
– Parnell Motley is going to be as good as his offseason buzz has been loud.
– Another friend of mine made a great point; if OU had not caught two bad breaks when Tay Evans had to hang it up and Bryce Youngquist never made it to campus, combined with a certain former commit flipping a week before signing day, the Sooners would be solid at linebacker. Instead, it sort of looks patchwork and has people freaking out a bit. Either way, it’s interesting to think about.
– The Sooners defensive line will be better than expected.
– Marquise Overton is a guy I think has a breakout season along that defensive front.
– Over/Under on the number of times message boards, radio talk shows, and sports writers wonder after the game if Ruffin McNeil and Mike Stoops are “getting along”: 4,590.
– I think you will see a different approach to the defensive line as they have had some time under McNeil’s tutelage. Pay attention to this unit during the game.
– The defense will have two takeaways.
– Caleb Kelly will pick up where he ended the 2016 season.
– I think fans will see a new sense of “nasty” on the defense. There will be a bit more flying around and aggressiveness. I want to see them play with a sense of urgency on every single snap. I know it will just be UTEP, but it is evident when defenses have this mentality.
– Kenneth Murray is going to make you very angry during the game.
– Kenneth Murray is going to make you very excited during the game.
– OU’s upgrade in secondary talent will be evident.
– Robert Barnes is just sitting there waiting. I have this gut feeling when he gets his way onto the field…he might not come off.
– Mayfield Passing Yards: 295
– Oklahoma Total Rushing Yards: 160
– Abdul Adams Carries: 15
– Meaningful Plays With Kyler Murray On The Field: 8
– Obo Sacks: 1.5
– Sutton Touches: 10
– Rodney Anderson Rushing Yards: 80
– UTEP Passing Yards: 225
MCKINZIE’S FINAL SCORE PREDICTION
Oklahoma 52 UTEP 17