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F20: Bedlam Beating?

Oklahoma's 2022 season is now just weeks away and as such it's time for our annual trip inside the mind of co-publisher Josh McCuistion. What are his expectations for year one under Brent Venables? In this week's five predictions we talk about Bedlam, the chance for the Sooners to flip their players preseason Big 12 snubs to big postseason honors.

20. Jovantae Barnes Will End up Second on the Team in Rushing

Breakdown: Well, this prediction was made before the news emerged that Barnes is still healing up and isn't quite full go for the Sooners yet. But, alas the show goes on and Barnes is a player who probably has the most potential of any back on the roster. The freshman from Las Vegas will take time to ease into things but his talent is undeniable and he may get there by popping some of the longer runs of the year for Oklahoma.

19. Marvin Mims Breaks a Streak of non 1,000 Yard Years

Breakdown: 1,000 yard receivers were once something of a birth right for Sooners. From 2008-2019, 10 receivers passed the threshold but since 2019 not one receiver has hit that mark. Now obviously that's just two seasons but it's been since 2012-2014 that Oklahoma has gone three straight seasons without a 1,000 yard receiver. In 2022 Marvin Mims will avoid that ugly triple from happening again thanks in part to a large number of big plays from Jeff Lebby's offense.

18. Oklahoma Won’t have Two Players Over Six Sacks in 2022

Breakdown: Alright, well time to bring some balance to the scales and the reality is this is a two part situation. First of all, I think it's possible one player might have a couple of big games and get north of eight sacks but I don't see any two players doing so. My guess is that the distribution of sacks is fairly spread out and that limits any one, or in this case two, players ability to really put together a huge statistical season. Beyond the reality of what seems most likely, I also think Oklahoma has very good, steady, defensive ends but may not have yet found that elite edge rusher who can really put up the biggest and scariest numbers.

17.  Oklahoma’s defense ends up top 35 in SP+

Breakdown: I know it may surprise some of you after reading the previous prediction to read this one. I think this defense will be very sound, avoid a lot of the mental miscues that they struggled with for the better part of the last decade. I also feel like this is as deep and talented as they've been in the back two-thirds of the defense in quite some time.

For those that don't know the SP+ is a weighted rating of teams that tries to find the middle ground and remove the variance that is opponent driven. Top 35 isn't exemplary but it's far better than No. 58 that they finished with in 2021.

16. Nine true freshmen play beyond their four allowed games

Breakdown: It's a testament to just how talented this 2022 class is that so many players could play a real factor beyond their allotted time. Those freshman will be Jovantae Barnes, Nic Anderson, Jayden Gibson, Jason Llewellyn, Jake Taylor, R Mason Thomas, Jaren Kanak, Jayden Rowe, and Robert Spears-Jennings.

Barnes has been covered but the two receivers may just be too talented to keep off the field. Llewellyn could fill a key need while Taylor, Thomas, Kanak, Rowe, and RS-J could be of a very similar nature and a key piece to building for 2023 and perhaps finding a few new stars.

15. Oklahoma wins Bedlam by Two Touchdowns

Breakdown: While everyone may focus on all that happened after last year's Bedlam, it's kind impossible for me to not marvel at the fact the Sooners were even in that game. There was, according to anyone not named Lincoln Riley, some incredibly conflicted motivation and a team that was clearly living in two very separate realities. How does a team like that fight against a very good Oklahoma State team - maybe their best in roughly a decade - in Stillwater to a near stalemate? Fast forward a year when the Sooners have gone through plenty of change but seem as on the same page as any Oklahoma team in years. By the time the Cowboys roll into Norman Oklahoma figures to have not only revenge on their mind but a clear idea of who they are as a team. I just think the Sooners have a clear personnel edge and aren't facing the most veteran, and successful, defense in Cowboys history.

14. OU Will have Six All-Big 12 Honorees

Breakdown: There are few things less important than preseason rankings, award lists, and all conference nominations but to see Oklahoma not have a single first team member on offense or defense was still a bit mind blowing. That said, I'd expect a very different finish to the season when people are forced to face the reality that it's unlikely the Sooners are falling off anytime soon under Brent Venables. Look for six Sooners on offense or defense to make the list with Dillon Gabriel, Anton Harrison, Wanya Morris, Woodi Washington, Key Lawrence, and David Ugwoegbu.

13. Look Out for TCU

Morris, the former Sooner QB, could be ready to run the show in Ft. Worth.
Morris, the former Sooner QB, could be ready to run the show in Ft. Worth. (Imagn)

Breakdown: I really don't expect Oklahoma to continue to have some of the issues with lesser opponents that we've seen in the past. That being said, even the best teams fall into traps sometimes. And while this is a good Oklahoma bunch they've got a long way to go to prove their talent and preparation will just wear out one team after another. When you add in where this game falls on the schedule and it feels like the Horned Frogs, under their own first-year head coach Sonny Dykes, might have a trick up their sleeve. Having Kansas State before the trip to Ft. Worth and before their annual meeting in the Cotton Bowl just feels like it could be a challenge for the team's focus.

I'm not ready to predict the upset but I'm willing to be the Sooners, again, get a serious test at Amon Carter.

12. Look for the Same Starting 5 on the O-Line All Year

Breakdown: Oklahoma's offensive line over the past few years has felt a bit like musical chairs with the group, for a variety of reasons never really being able to find a rhythm. But the early returns are that this offensive line could see some resurgence of Bill Bedenbaugh's position group. There's budding depth but a starting lineup of Anton Harrison, McKade Mettauer, Andrew Raym, Chris Murray, and Wanya Morris may be tough to break up barring injury. If there is a real fly in the ointment here? It could be the rumored development of Savion Byrd at guard, the Sooners may have trouble keeping him off the field but I'll bet that they find a way to keep him in heavy rotation without messing with the starting five. Regardless, Oklahoma's offensive line may be ready to start playing like the group that many came to expect in the last 2010s.

11. Jalen Redmond Has 12+ TFLs in 2022

Breakdown: This prediction was made several weeks ago, before the rumors of Redmond being held out a bit this fall. But coming off what many have said was a big-time summer for Redmond it still all feels possible. He's a tremendously athletic defensive tackle who can make numerous plays behind the line of scrimmage. He knows this is going to be a huge year for his future and I'd expect his strongest performance to date. And while 12 may not feel like a huge number, it would surpass Perrion Winfrey's 11 in 2021.