Athlon Sports Predicts Oklahoma With Top 10 Finish In 2018

Most publications produce their preseason Top 25 ranking based on where they believe a college program should start the season. Not Athlon Sports though. Athlon predicts where they believe a team will finish the season, and their prediction for Oklahoma could draw mixed results from fans.

Athlon has four Big 12 teams finishing in the Top 25, with the Sooners being the highest ranked at #10. Obviously that indicates they are picking OU to win the conference yet again.

Even though coach Lincoln Riley’s high-powered offense has a few big names to replace, Oklahoma is still the team to beat in the Big 12. The Sooners averaged 45.1 points a game last season, which nearly carried this team to the national championship. However, quarterback Baker Mayfield, left tackle Orlando Brown and tight end Mark Andrews have departed Norman. Mayfield’s lethal accuracy and all-around playmaking ability won’t be easy to replace, but Riley should find ways to keep this offense performing at a high level. Texas A&M transfer Kyler Murray is the favorite to replace Mayfield, with Austin Kendall pushing him once again in the fall. Murray is a dangerous runner but has room to grow as a passer. Regardless of who starts, they will have one of the nation’s top receiving corps at their disposal. CeeDee Lamb returns after a promising freshman campaign, with junior Marquise Brown back to provide more big plays on the outside. Until a quarterback emerges, Oklahoma’s offense can lean on its ground game. Running back Rodney Anderson returns after rushing for 1,161 yards last fall, with sophomore Trey Sermon providing a dynamic No. 2 option. Even though Brown must be replaced, the line is still one of the best in the nation. Left tackle Bobby Evans is a candidate for All-America honors, with Ben Powers and Dru Samia back to anchor the guard spots. With the offense likely to take a small step back without Mayfield, Oklahoma needs more out of its defense to make a run at the CFB Playoff. This unit surrendered 27.1 points a game and struggled to stop the run (156.5 ypg) last fall. True freshman Brendan Radley-Hiles should provide a boost in the secondary, and the duo of Caleb Kelly and Kenneth Murray provides a good foundation at linebacker. Riley’s ability to build elite offenses should minimize the concerns about the personnel losses on that side of the ball. However, the margin for error is a little smaller without Mayfield leading the way. – Athlon Sports

Joining Oklahoma in Athlon’s rankings, from the Big 12, are TCU (24), West Virginia (22), and Texas (20).

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