The Oklahoma Sooners rumbled through a daunting slate of regular-season games and the revived Big 12 title game in 2017 to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff. Lincoln Riley and his staff are facing some serious challenges to repeating that feat this year. The schedule isn’t really one of them.
Notably, the home-and-home series with the Ohio State Buckeyes has come to an end. The marquee non-conference game now becomes the rebuilding UCLA Bruins, who are visiting Norman in the second week of the year.
The Sooners do have some stiff tests to come in league play. Here are OU’s 12 regular-season games ranked from easiest to toughest.
12. Nov. 17 vs. Kansas
The lowly Jayhawks rankled OU last season with some of their antics before and during their game. (Ask Baker Mayfield about it some time.) Don’t be surprised if the Sooners put a big number on the scoreboard against the Big 12’s most hapless program.
11. Sept. 22 vs. Army West Point
The Black Knights will throw a curveball at OU’s oft-maligned defense with their version of head coach Jeff Monken’s flexbone offense. The Sooners might be in a letdown spot the week after a revenge game against Iowa State.
10. Sept. 1 vs. Florida Atlantic
To the surprise of absolutely no one, Lane Kiffin made waves with the Owls in his first season. He can make an even bigger splash by upsetting OU in the opening week of the season. Kiffin must be thrilled about the opportunity to face the Sooner D.
9. Sept. 29 at Baylor
The Bears put a scare into the Sooners a year ago down in Waco. Matt Rhule’s team gets another crack at the defending Big 12 champion this fall in Norman.
8. Sept. 8 vs. UCLA
Things could get hairy for the Bruins in head coach Chip Kelly’s first season. On the other hand, the Sooners won’t necessarily know what to expect out of UCLA in Kelly’s second game in charge. That adds some intrigue to a matchup in which OU will probably go off as a double-digit favorite.
7. Nov. 3 at Texas Tech
A road trip to Lubbock usually gets wild for the Sooners. A new twist this year: The Red Raiders might have a decent defense.
6. Nov. 10 vs. Oklahoma State
The Sooners and Cowboys have played some classics in recent years, but this looks like a tougher rebuilding job for Mike Gundy than usual. Getting the Pokes at home also makes this particular game look a little less imposing than your typical Bedlam date for the Sooners.
5. Oct. 21 vs. Kansas State
The Wildcats nearly knocked off the Sooners a year ago in Manhattan behind a bruising running game that pushed OU’s defense around. It took a Herculean effort from Baker Mayfield to stave off an upset. The Heisman Trophy winner won’t be around to bail out Oklahoma this time.
4. Sept. 15 at Iowa State
The Cyclones have played the Sooners tough in coach Matt Campbell’s two year as head coach, including last year’s stunning upset at Owen Field. ISU won’t take OU by surprise in 2018. The ‘Clones don’t need to catch the Sooners off-guard to beat them, though.
3. Nov. 23 at West Virginia
Black Friday will be a little more subdued around West Virginia this year. One of the nation’s rowdiest fan bases will bypass the bargain bins at local stores to descend on Morgantown for a matchup in prime time with the Sooners. If both teams live up to billing, they could play again a week later in Dallas.
2. Oct. 20 at TCU
OU blew out the Horned Frogs twice in 2017. TCU head coach Gary Patterson doesn’t ever let that kind of thing go. His squad will be primed to give the Sooners some payback
1. Oct. 6 vs. Texas (in Dallas)
The Longhorns took OU to the limit in a bloody battle in last year’s Red River game. It felt more like the annual fistfights of yore in the Cotton Bowl.
The Sooners have won six of the last eight games in this rivalry. Looking to regain the upper hand, Texas will certainly come out swinging again.
-- Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.