Coach: Bob Stoops (160-39, entering 16th season; 160-39 overall)
2013 record: 11-2 (7-2 in Big 12 Conference, tied for second)
Pictures: Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders 2015 Swimsuit Calendar
Look back: Over the past six seasons, Oklahoma’s record is one of the best among schools in the Power Five conferences with the Sooners winning 78 percent of their games (63-17). Only Alabama (72-9) and Oregon (67-12) have a better winning percentage over that same stretch. Last season was no different as Oklahoma secured another double-digit win season — its 12th since 2000.
Offensive starters returning: 7
Offensive starters lost: 6
Defensive starters returning: 11
Defensive starters lost: 3
Key losses: WR Jalen Saunders, FB Trey Millard, RB Brennan Clay, RB Roy Finch, OL Gabe Ikard, DB Aaron Colvin, DB Gabe Lynn, LB Corey Nelson
Top returnees: QB Trevor Knight, WR Sterling Shepard, G Adam Shead, T Tyrus Thompson, T Daryl Williams, LB Frank Shannon, LB Dominique Alexander, DB Quentin Hayes, DB Julian Wilson
Strengths: Trevor Knight opened the season as the starting quarterback, but an injury and inconsistent play cost him the job after two games. Blake Bell started eight games before relinquishing the job to Knight late in the season. But it was Knight’s performance in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama (348 yards passing and four touchdowns) that earned him the nod heading into 2014.
Oklahoma’s offensive line returns plenty of experience in a trio of seniors: Tyrus Thompson, Adam Shead and Daryl Williams. The group accounts for 68 career starts, but that shouldn’t discount the impact of losing All-American center Gabe Ikard (50 career starts). He was the anchor in the middle, although his replacement — Apopka High graduate Ty Darlington — should be up to the task.
Oklahoma returns the core of its defensive unit including the team’s top tackler in LB Frank Shannon (92 total tackles). The linebackers return three of their four starters, including the team’s leading sack leader in Eric Striker. Aaron Colvin and Gabe Lynn are gone and their loss will be felt, but the secondary returns three starters that account for 39 career starts.
Weaknesses: Oklahoma traditionally is known for its punishing running attack. The Sooners improved dramatically in the rushing game last season — going from 161 yards per game in 2012 to 224 in 2013. But the departures of Brennan Clay (957 yards, 6 TDs), Damien Williams (553, 7) and Roy Finch (347) mean the Sooners must make up for the loss of close to 70 percent of their rushing production from 2013. Keith Ford appears the most likely candidate to start the season along with Alex Ross. Freshman Joe Mixon was expected to have an impact, but his suspension for an alleged assault leaves his status uncertain.
Outlook: Knight’s growth as an elite quarterback will be key for the Sooners, who will lean heavily on a much more experienced defense in 2014. Luckily, Oklahoma’s schedule only features two teams ranked in the AP Top 25 poll: Kansas State and Baylor. A Big 12 title could come down to the season finale against Oklahoma State.
Aug. 30 Louisiana Tech
Sept. 6 at Tulsa
Sept. 13 Tennessee
Sept. 20 at West Virginia
Oct. 4 at TCU
Oct. 11 vs. Texas (Dallas)
Oct. 18 Kansas State
Nov. 1 at Iowa State
Nov. 8 Baylor
Nov. 15 at Texas Tech
Nov. 22 Kansas
Dec. 6 Oklahoma State
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