The Oklahoma Sooners enter the College Football Playoff for the third consecutive season. Oklahoma is making its first appearance in the Peach Bowl in this College Football semifinal. They are 29-22-1 in 52 bowl games in their history. The Sooners are still searching for their first victory in the Playoff. Oklahoma got into the Playoff after going 12-1 and winning the Big 12 championship in overtime 31-27. Oklahoma is currently the longest shot in Vegas with odds of 12-1.
1. Jalen Hurts
The most important player for Oklahoma is their quarterback and Heisman finalist and will need to be at his best in what the Sooners hope will be his next two games. Hurts is tied for points responsible for at 308 for 23.7 points responsible for per game. The Heisman finalist has 51 touchdowns and over 4,900 yards in his career. He is throwing for 279.5 yards per game and is running for 96.5 yards a game. Hurts should enter this game with plenty of familiarity against LSU having played them twice before. In his two previous matchups, Hurts has gone 21-43 for 287 yards and rushed for 158 yards on 34 carries.
Oklahoma leads the nation in yards per play at 7.8 yards per game. They also are averaging 539.5 yards per game which is second in the country. Their leading playmaker this year is CeeDee Lamb enters this matchup against LSU with 20.8 yards per game which is seventh-most in the nation. Kennedy Brooks at running back is also capable of explosive plays as he is averaging 6.7 yards a carry which is 13th in the country and is questionable of this one. Hurts is averaging 11.8 yards per completion which are also best in the country.
3. Lincoln Riley
This will be Lincoln Riley’s third appearance in the College Football Playoff with an 0-2 record. Riley is an offensive mastermind and has had his offense in the top 7 in points per game in each of his three years in charge. Oklahoma also has been in the top 2 I yards per game since Riley arrived as well. The Sooners under Riley scored 34 points last season in the semifinal of the College Football Playoff. They also scored 48 points in the 2017 playoff in double overtime.
4. Game Control
The Sooners have improved their time of possession from last season. In 2018, Oklahoma only possessed for 29:04 while in 2019 they have controlled the ball more with 31:08 of time of possession. In their last three games, they have the ball 36:43 of the time which is 61.2% of the game. The Sooners are also rushing for 251.2 yards per game and can control the game. This could keep the high-scoring offenses of the other three teams on the sideline. Also, the Sooners will be able to kick the ball with having one of the best placekickers in the nation in Gabe Brkic. He has gone 17-17 with a long of 50 and 48-48 in extra-point attempts. That should give the Sooners confidence if they need to run out the clock in a tight game and kick a field goal for the victory.
5. Better Defense
The defense for Oklahoma is greatly improved from last season only allowing 329.9 yards per game which is an improvement from last season which saw them allowing 453.8 yards a game. They also are allowing 25.4 points a game after allowing 33.3 points per game in 2018. The Sooners rely on their improved defense with defensive tackle Neville Gallimore forcing two fumbles and four sacks this year. They have also created more pressure on the quarterback under first-year defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. They now have an 8.44% sack percentage up from 5.561% last year and have a 9.09% in their past three games.
Oklahoma may be the biggest underdog in the Playoff but an upset isn’t out of the question. The Sooners will have a tough road to get there. Oklahoma is a long shot but if they are able to get past a dominant team in LSU then they will certainly carry momentum into the National Championship game. Experience and coaching could be the difference and with players who are used to this stage, the Sooners have what it takes to shock the College Football world. Oklahoma is a team that could have a storybook ending with Jalen Hurts in his only season at the helm and Lincoln Riley could cement himself within Sooner lore with a national title.