7 takeaways from the Oklahoma Sooners 2023 schedule
The delay in the Big 12 schedule created a lot of buzz for the conference in the buildup to the Monday release. In what could very well be the last season in the conference for the Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Longhorns, everyone eagerly anticipated what that final slate could look like for the Sooners.
But as Tom Petty said,
The waiting is the hardest part.
Every day you get one more yard.
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart.
The waiting is the hardest part.
Waiting on the schedule might just have been the hardest part for the Oklahoma Sooners. Because with the way things look right now, the Sooners might have gotten a favorable final season from the conference they’re departing.
Here are five takeaways from the Sooners’ 2023 football schedule.
No Kansas State
Dec 3, 2022; Arlington, TX, USA; Kansas State Wildcats quarterback Will Howard (18) holds up the championship trophy as the Wildcats celebrate winning the Big 12 championship after defeating the TCU Horned Frogs overtime at AT&T Stadium. Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
With the rise of Kansas State under Chris Klieman and the fits they’ve given the Sooners over the last decade, I’m not necessarily upset about it not playing Kansas State. It’s just odd that the Wildcats, a former Big 8 foe, would be left off in favor of a team like TCU, West Virginia, or a third game against one of the four new teams.
No complaints. Just an odd scheduling choice for the Big 12 to leave off a matchup that’s been played 103 times for one, like UCF, where the teams have never met.
As it stands, Kansas State gets to hold a win over the Sooners until the next time they meet, which would likely be a nonconference battle or in the College Football Playoff.
BYU Wants the Smoke
Dec 18, 2021; Shreveport, LA, USA; BYU Cougars linebacker Ben Bywater (33) and BYU Cougars defensive back Ammon Hannemann (22) react after a defensive stop during the second half against the UAB Blazers during the 2021 Independence Bowl at Independence Stadium. Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
The BYU Cougars are the only one of the four new teams to have both Texas and Oklahoma on the schedule. They’ll host the Sooners but go on the road to face the Longhorns in Austin.
Interestingly, BYU holds a winning record over both Oklahoma and Texas.
BYU will be losing quarterback Jaren Hall to the NFL, but if we’ve learned anything from the Cougars in the past, it’s not to sleep on em. They’re a tough football team that will bring the fight. The Sooners will have to up their physicality level to matchup well on the road.
Bye to the Big 12 South
Oklahoma’s Jordan Kelley (88) pressured Baylor’s Blake Shapen (12) in the second quarter during a college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Baylor Bears at Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022. Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman
No Baylor or Texas Tech on the schedule. The only teams remaining from the old Big 12 south that Oklahoma will play are the teams that are considered rivals; Texas and Oklahoma State.
Oklahoma was 1-2 against Baylor under Dave Aranda and 0-1 against Joey McGuire.
The downside of not getting to play Baylor or Texas Tech is that those schools will be able to hold those losses over the Sooners’ heads until they meet in nonconference or the playoff. Who knows when that will be?
Uninteresting Home Slate
Nov 12, 2022; Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; Oklahoma Sooners defensive lineman Isaiah Coe (94) celebrates following a tackle during the first quarter against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
The Sooners’ home schedule won’t get a ton of folks excited. But that’s largely due to the lack of a big-time nonconference game on the slate. They won’t get their turn to host Texas Tech, which would have been the most intriguing option of the veteran Big 12 schools.
Though TCU contended for the national championship in 2022, they may be due for a step back with the departures of Max Duggan, Kendre Miller, and Quentin Johnston. It’s an intriguing game, especially with what happened in Fort Worth last year, but the Horned Frogs may not be as good as they were a year ago.
The remaining games against Iowa State, UCF, and West Virginia aren’t all that intriguing. They’ll be good games but not likely to draw much national interest or create a ton of local buzz.
Welcoming the New Blood
Sept. 25, 2010; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back DeMarco Murray (7) looks to get around Cincinnati Bearcats cornerback Camerron Cheatham (21) during the third quarter at Paul Brown Stadium. Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports
The Oklahoma Sooners won’t travel to face the Wildcats, but they’ll face the Bearcats in Cincinnati. They also have a home date against Dillon Gabriel’s former team, UCF. Then the Sooners go on the road to face BYU.
That’s three games against the new members of the Big 12. Welcome to the Power Five.
Those three have been tough Group of Five teams for years, and so the Sooners won’t have easy wins by any stretch. However, Oklahoma will likely be favored in each of those matchups if the team is improved like we think it will be.
Dec 17, 2022; Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA; Brigham Young Cougars head coach Kalani SitakeÊblows a kiss to fans after being given a Gatorade bath after defeating the Southern Methodist Mustangs at University Stadium (Albuquerque). Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports
On the plus side, the Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Longhorns will get a nationally televised audience when they play on Black Friday. On the downside, it creates a short week for both.
Oklahoma will be returning from what will likely be a physical battle in the cold in Provo, Utah. The Longhorns are in a better spot, hosting UCF in Austin and then will play in Lubbock the Friday after.
The short week isn’t great, but it’s not like they’re playing a Thursday game. If Oklahoma gets a favorable timeslot, 11 a.m., they could be back to Norman that evening to get a jump start on the Friday matchup with TCU.
Oct 15, 2022; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners running back Jovantae Barnes (2) celebrates with Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Dillon Gabriel (8) and Oklahoma Sooners offensive lineman Andrew Raym (73) after scoring a touchdown during the game against the Kansas Jayhawks: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
As we’ve seen over the last few years, the Big 12 provides quite the challenge. Nothing is easy, and nothing is given. 2023 will be no different. At the same time, the Sooners have a schedule that’s manageable.
There are tough matchups, like the Red River Showdown, which is a coinflip every year. Or the road trip to open Big 12 play against a Cincinnati squad that averaged 29.5 points per game last year. Or the road trip to Provo leading into the Black Friday showdown with TCU.
Still, the schedule will allow Oklahoma to see a jump in the win column from their 2022 season. Not having to go to Manhattan is a plus. Avoiding Texas Tech and Baylor is as well.
Stillwater creates a difficult place to play, but Oklahoma State could be in for a down season after the way they finished 2022 and with the mass exodus via the transfer portal.
Otherwise, you get Iowa State and West Virginia at home, and then you go on the road to face Kansas. Kansas is still improving, but it’s still Kansas.
The Oklahoma Sooners will be a better defensive team, which should help them get on the plus side of some of those close games. They won’t allow 30 points per game in 2023. They won’t allow 35 points or more in seven games. The offense will still be good, but the defensive improvement will be the thing that will make the biggest difference in 2023.
With that defensive improvement and this schedule, the Sooners should flirt with 10 wins and Big 12 title contention. It’ll have to play out on the field, but the Sooners should bounce back in 2023.
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