Losing Baker Mayfield shouldn’t stop Oklahoma from being considered the favorite to win the Big 12 championship again in 2018, according to Sports Illustrated’s Chris Johnson.
In his post-spring practice Big 12 preview, Johnson said the Sooners are still the top team in the conference, despite losing the reigning Heisman winner and No. 1 overall draft pick. Why? Because they still have Lincoln Riley’s offensive genius.
Baker Mayfield may be gone, but the loss of one player — even the Heisman Trophy winner, No. 1 draft pick and single-season pass-efficiency record-setter — won’t slow down Lincoln Riley’s explosive offense. In his second year as the Sooners’ head coach, the 34-year-old has a real shot to make his second appearance in the College Football Playoff. Whether it’s redshirt sophomore Austin Kendall or redshirt junior Kyler Murray (assuming he doesn’t leave to pursue a professional baseball career) filling Mayfield’s shoes under center, Oklahoma has enough playmakers back to torment Big 12 defensive coordinators.
Despite losing Mayfield and two other All-Americans, tight end Mark Andrews and left tackle Orlando Brown, Oklahoma still boasts plenty of weapons on offense. Wide receivers Marquise Brown and CeeDee Lamb are game-changing pass-catchers. Running back Rodney Anderson was destroying opposing defenses over the last few games of the season.
The biggest question remains at quarterback, but SI’s projection maintains that Oklahoma will be fine regardless of who is behind center. If it’s Murray, Mayfield himself has said Riley will create an offense that emphasizes his talents. And the Sooners’ dominant run game should take pressure off whoever starts at quarterback.
Oddsmakers generally agree with SI’s assessment. The Sooners have the highest projected win total in the league and have the best playoff odds in the conference too. They open their 2018 campaign at home against Florida Atlantic on Sept. 1.