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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Oklahoma Football 2016 Countdown From A to Z





By Chip Rouse
July 26, 2016

Big 12 Media Days, which every year serves as the unofficial start of the college football season for Big 12 teams and fans, has come and gone. What’s left now is the opening of preseason training camp for Oklahoma football and the nine other Big 12 squads in a couple of weeks and getting down to business for 2016.

The Sooners are a consensus favorite to win the Big 12 for the 10th time in the 19 football seasons the conference has been in existence. No other conference team comes close to that domination in the high-stakes, high-revenue sport of college football.

We’ve broken down the 2016 edition of Oklahoma football for you from A to Z:

A – Attendance at Oklahoma football games has been sold out (82,000-plus) for every game in the Bob Stoops coaching era, which commenced in September 1999. That adds up to 104 consecutive sellouts at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. The Sooners are 96-8 at home under Stoops.

B – With junior Samaje Perine and sophomore Joe Mixon minding the store in the Oklahoma backfield, Oklahoma features one of the most lethal running back tandems in college football. The prolific pair ran for more than 2,000 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2015.

C – Oklahoma owns seven national championships in football, the most of any Big 12 school. That ranks third best among all FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) teams, tied with USC, since 1936 (80 years ago), the year of the first Associated Press college football poll. The closest Big 12 team to the Sooners with national titles in football is Texas with four.

D – OU was the top defensive team in the Big 12 last season. Oklahoma led the conference a year ago in scoring defense (22 points per game), pass defense (203 yards per game) and total defense (365 yards per game). The Sooners return six starters on defense from last year’s Big 12 championship team.

E – The ESPN “College GameDay” crew has made 27 appearances in Norman, Okla., for football games. My guess is that No. 28 will be on Sept. 17 for the OU-Ohio State showdown.

F – Oklahoma has been picked to finish first four times in the preseason media poll in the six seasons since the Big 12 championship game was discontinued in 2010, including the preseason poll for the 2016 season.

G – Except for four seasons in the mid-to-late 1990s, Cale Gundy’s entire coaching career has been at Oklahoma. He has been on Bob Stoops’ staff all 17 seasons Stoops has been at OU. The former Sooner starting quarterback (1990-93) coached the OU running backs for 16 seasons, before switching to wide-receivers coach last season. He also serves as the team’s recruiting coordinator, a position he has held for 11 seasons.

H – The Sooners waste little time in 2016 playing in big games. The top-five-ranked Sooners open the season with a road game against the University of Houston, which went 13-1 in 2015, defeated 2013 national champion Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Bowl and finished No. 8 in the final AP poll.

I – Oklahoma owns a 73-5-2 record all-time vs. the Iowa State Cyclones. Since the Big 12 came into existence in the 1996 season, the Sooners have a perfect 12-0 mark against the Cyclones. The two teams will meet this season in a Thursday night game on Nov. 3 at Iowa State.

J – With five defensive starters gone from last year’s Big 12 champions, a couple of guys named Jordan are being counted on to play major roles for the Sooners on the defensive side in 2016. Senior linebacker Jordan Evans was Oklahoma’s second-leading tackler last season. Jordan Thomas was a formidable force on the back end of the defense at cornerback, an All-Big 12 First Team selection. Thomas’ status is unclear, however, after being arrested this summer for public intoxication, police interference and alleged assault. He was suspended twice last season for undisclosed violations of team rules. Bob Stoops has not said anything publicly about the latest incident involving their All-Big 12 cornerback.

K – Caleb Kelly, rated as a five-star prospect out of Fresno, Calif., is a first-year Sooner player in the right spot at the right time. With Oklahoma losing three starters at the linebacker position, Kelly could easily earn a starting slot as a true freshman this season. Kelly was rated as the third best player at outside linebacker coming out of the high school ranks.

L – Oklahoma is 34-3 under Bob Stoops coming off a loss. Only three times since Stoops became head coach have the Sooners lost back-to-back games in the same season (1999, 2003 and 2014).

M – The Sooners are led at quarterback by Baker Mayfield, who helped direct Oklahoma to an 11-2 record, a Big 12 championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff last season, his first active season in a Sooner uniform. The former Texas Tech transfer finished fourth in the 2015 Heisman Trophy voting and was granted another year of eligibility this offseason, which means he can play for Oklahoma again in 2017 if he chooses to do so.

N – The Sooners have been near-perfect 17 times in 121 years playing college football. Seventeen times Oklahoma has lost just once in a season. On the other hand, the Sooners have gone undefeated in a season 12 times in their history.

O – In 2016, Oklahoma and Ohio State play the first of a two-game, home-and-home series in successive seasons. The Buckeyes come to Norman on Sept. 17 this season, and the scene shifts to Columbus, Ohio, the following year.

P – Samaje Perine is 1,058 yards shy of becoming the all-time rushing leader at Oklahoma, a school that has featured a number of All-American running backs. Perine has 3,062 rushing yards in his first two seasons at Oklahoma. The great Billy Sims is the OU career rushing leader currently with 4,118 yards. Perine’s presently stands 10th on the all-time list of Sooner career rushing leaders. Joe Washington, Adrian Peterson, Steve Owens and Quentin Griffin rank two through five behind Sims.

Q – Oklahoma outscored its opponents 304-150 in the first two quarters last season. The Sooners really unloaded in the second quarter, owning a 172-95 scoring edge.

R – Sooner offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley enters his second season at Oklahoma. The 32-year-old assistant is considered one of the brightest young offensive minds in college football.

S – Head coach Bob Stoops recorded his 11th season of 11 or more wins last season. His 179 career wins at Oklahoma is the most of any Sooner head football coach. Barry Switzer is second in that category with 157 wins in 16 seasons as the OU head coach.

T – Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley’s Air Raid offense produced 308 passing yards per game and 530 yards of total offense a year ago. That ranked fourth in the Big 12, but the Sooners were seventh in the country in total offense. Sophomore tight end Mark Andrews was a big part of Oklahoma experiencing a rise in passing yardage per game over almost 100 yards from 2014 to 2015. The 6-foot, 6-inch tight end averaged 16.7 yards per catch last season and was on the receiving end of seven touchdown passes. An even greater contribution is expected from the big tight end in the coming season.

U – Only two times in Bob Stoops’ 17 seasons at Oklahoma have the Sooners finished the season unranked (outside of the top 25) in the national college football polls. Oklahoma has ended the season unranked only 22 times since the Associated Press poll, the first national college poll, was established in 1936.

V – After defeating hated rival Texas by over four touchdowns four seasons ago, the Sooners have lost two of the last three Red River Showdowns, and by all rights should have dropped all three. OU posted a 31-26 victory in 2014 but was outgained by more than 230 yards of total offense, most of it through the air, which is not really the Longhorns’ game. That brings us to 2016, with the Sooners certainly seeking some vindication when these two longtime rivals meet for the 111th time at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on Oct. 8.

W – With Sterling Shepard and Durron Neal, the Sooners’ top two receivers a year ago now departed, senior Dede Westbrook will be counted on to step up in their absence. Westbrook caught 46 passes for 743 yards and four touchdowns last season and was voted Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year. Westbrook will be a prime target for QB Baker Mayfield this coming season.

X – Placekickers are considered an X-factor in close games, which is something that was never an issue for Oklahoma in the 2015 season. Austin Seibert, who was a freshman a year ago and the top kicker in the country coming out of high school, converted 18 of 23 field-goal attempts (78 percent) and 70 of 72 extra points. He is definitely a key weapon for the Sooners in close games. Oklahoma outscored its opponents 566 to 286 in the 2015 season, averaging 21 points more a game than its opponents.

Y – The longest tenured of Oklahoma’s 21 football coaches all time was Bennie Owen, who spent 22 years on the job from 1905 to 1928. Bob Stoops is entering his 18th season at OU, just five behind Owen.

Z – ESPN.com’s Football Power Index gives Oklahoma a 16.9 percent chance of running the table this season and ending the year with zero losses in the regular season. That is the highest percentage this season of any team from a Power Five conference.

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