The Oklahoma Sooners will enter the 2018 football season as three-time defending Big 12 champions eying a fourth straight conference title.
It won’t be easy — the Sooners have to replace a Heisman winner, and the conference is only growing stronger — but Oklahoma is still the favorite. As Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated writes, the Sooners shouldn’t be handed the trophy just yet, but they’re in line for Lincoln Riley’s second Big 12 championship in his coaching career. Still, it won’t be as dominating as it was last year.
“The Sooners have won the past three Big 12 titles,” Staples wrote. “That streak coincides with two circumstances—Lincoln Riley running the offense and Baker Mayfield playing quarterback. Only one of those two things is going to continue in Norman, which means there probably will be an opening for another team or two to at least compete for the conference championship.”
He identified four teams — TCU, Texas, Oklahoma State and Iowa State — as contenders for the Sooners crown, but pointed out flaws in each one that should prevent them from dethroning Oklahoma.
The Sooners have won 11 titles since the 2000 season, and winning is an expectation in Norman, Okla. Riley has passed on that tradition from Bob Stoops — and in 2018, he’ll be the favorite to win yet again.