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Eight bold predictions for the 2017 Oklahoma football season

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Some of the these Oklahoma football predictions could make me look good. Others... not so much.

NCAA Football: Big 12 Media Days Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Oklahoma football season starts this Saturday, so the clock is ticking for predictions. Last week, I created a mock depth chart for the 2017 opener against UTEP (and it looks like we’ll have to wait a bit longer to see how accurate/inaccurate it actually is). Well, today I’m going to try to get more of my fill and make some bold-ish predictions for the upcoming fall. Some of these may be close to obvious, while others could potentially make me look smart. Some, however, could crash and burn worse than Seneca Wallace’s 2002 Heisman campaign. Here goes:

Three backs will reach the 600-yard mark in 2017

The Sooners ended the 2016 season with a total of 3,078 rushing yards, roughly 76 percent of which came from departed backs Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon. While living up to those numbers may seem like a tall task (it is), it’s not outside of the realm of possibility for the Oklahoma Sooners to surpass its 2016 rushing total. It’s important to remember that OU returns all five starters along the offensive line and has plenty of quality depth up front.

When adding the rush yards form Abdul Adams and Dimitri Flowers to the totals from Perine and Mixon, the number is 2,732. For the purposes of this conversation, let’s say OU’s four running backs (Rodney Anderson, Abdul Adams, Marcelias Sutton and Trey Sermon) end up totaling the same number in 2017. That would leave about 1,100 yards for the leading rusher (lets’s say it ends up being Rodney Anderson), about 700 for Abdul Adams, and about 600 for Marcelias Sutton, which would leave around 300 for freshman Trey Sermon. I can see it going down.

Actual likelihood: 35%

Jeff Badet will be OU’s leader in catches and receiving yards

Those of you who follow us on Twitter (DO IT IF YOU DON’T ALREADY!) probably know that I rode the Marquise Brown train for the majority of the offseason. However, the less I hear about him, the colder my feet get. Well... I’m officially chickening out. By all accounts, graduate transfer Jeff Badet appears to be pretty comfortable with Baker Mayfield (and vice versa) at this point. He’s someone who demonstrated an ability at Kentucky to run good routes, beat people deep and make tough catches. I predict Badet will have at least 60 receptions and over 1,000 receiving yards.

Actual likelihood: 30%

Kenneth Murray and CeeDee Lamb will be Freshman All-Americans

How many Power Five true freshmen will be starting at middle linebacker in 2017? Kenneth Murray will likely be OU’s starter at the MIKE position, so his chances of being named to at least one Freshman All-American team are pretty solid.

I see another freshman, CeDarian Lamb, having a big 2017, as well. Lincoln Riley mentioned at Monday’s presser that Lamb would be the starter at punt returner if the season were to start today. I don’t think those words are hollow, so we should probably expect him to be back there this year.

I think Lamb will turn some heads at receiver this season, but I actually think he’s more likely to earn Freshman All-American honors as a punt returner.

Actual likelihood for Murray: 65%

Actual likelihood for Lamb: <10%

Neville Gallimore will emerge as a star

It may be tough to measure his worth with stats in 2017, but I’m going to set the over/under for TFLs at 12.5 for Big Canada. Hitting the over would be a tall task (Ogbonnia Okoronkwo finished with 12.0 in 2016), but I can imagine Gallimore blowing things up in the backfield on a somewhat regular basis. Even if he doesn’t hit that number, I think he’ll earn All-Big 12 honors in 2017.

Actual likelihood: 75%

Ogbonnia Okoronkwo will lead the Big 12 in sacks

After a slow start in non-conference, Obo finished the 2016 season with 9.0 sacks, which was good for third in the league. Preseason Big 12 Defensive POY Dorance Armstrong is the lone returning player with more sacks last season, but I don’t see him improving on his 2016 number (10.0). I could easily see Obo getting 12.0 sacks in 2017 if he has a complete season. I think his main competition will be Texas’ Malik Jefferson — who should have a big season after taking a step back in 2016 — and Kansas State’s Reggie Walker.

Actual likelihood: 45%

Oklahoma will beat Oklahoma State twice

I’m a firm believer that Oklahoma State is the second-best team in the Big 12, which isn’t exactly a bold proclamation. Unless TCU plays light-out on Stillwater on Sept. 23, the two Oklahoma schools will probably come into their Nov. 4 matchup with unblemished conference records. If that’s the case, expect College Gameday and a whole lot of hoopla to come along with it.

I’d expect OU to win a close one in Stillwater, and I think both schools then would run the table en route to a matchup in Arlington. I’d expect OU to control the second game and maybe win by a score of 38-21 or something like that. OSU had trouble protecting Rudolph a year ago, and I think they may face some of the same issues in 2017. I also don’t think their defense will be any better than the one we saw last year. An OSU win in Stillwater is certainly a possibility, but a win on a neutral field would obviously be much less likely for the Cowboys.

Actual Likelihood: 45%

Mark Andrews will be an All-American

With Baker Mayfield in need of a go-to guy in 2017, expect Andrews’ production level do increase. Will he be OU’s primary target? Maybe not. I think Baker will probably utilize more targets this season, but a Andrews could potentially reach the 1,000-yard mark (no pun intended) if he stays healthy. Penn State’s Mike Gesicki and Wisconsin’s Troy Fumagalli are pretty great at the tight end position, but Mark is better after the catch than both of them. A consensus All-American distinction is a tough thing to achieve at the position since there’s only one spot, so that probably won’t happen. But I predict that one or more of the major All-American teams will include him on its first team.

Actual likelihood: 30%

Lincoln Riley will be named Coach of the Year

It’s tough for a coach at a program like Oklahoma to win this type of award, as it usually is awarded to the overachievers of the world. However, he will likely earn points for being a first-year coach, and if he can lead his team to a College Football Playoff berth mere months after taking the reigns in Norman, he’ll earn a ton of national recognition for it. I predict Oklahoma will fall in Columbus, run through the Big 12 and get the fourth CFP spot in December, so I think the award will be within his grasp.

Actual Likelihood: 20%

Poll

Will three backs reach the 600-yard mark in 2017?

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    Yes
    (455 votes)
  • 39%
    No
    (297 votes)
752 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Will Jeff Badet lead OU in receptions and receiving yards?

This poll is closed

  • 54%
    Yes
    (401 votes)
  • 12%
    Just receptions
    (95 votes)
  • 15%
    Just yards
    (114 votes)
  • 17%
    No
    (126 votes)
736 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Will Kenneth Murray and CeeDee Lamb be Freshman All-Americans?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    Yes, both will be Freshman All-Americans
    (206 votes)
  • 14%
    Neither player will earn the honor
    (106 votes)
  • 57%
    One player will be a Freshman All-American
    (419 votes)
731 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Will Neville Gallimore emerge as a star in 2017?

This poll is closed

  • 84%
    Yes
    (604 votes)
  • 15%
    No
    (107 votes)
711 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Will Obo lead the Big 12 in sacks this season?

This poll is closed

  • 74%
    Yes
    (528 votes)
  • 25%
    No
    (184 votes)
712 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Will OU beat OSU twice in 2017?

This poll is closed

  • 60%
    Yes, they’ll play them twice and beat them twice
    (458 votes)
  • 12%
    They’ll play them twice and beat them once
    (98 votes)
  • 1%
    They’ll play them twice and lose twice
    (15 votes)
  • 22%
    They’ll play them once and win
    (172 votes)
  • 2%
    They’ll play them once and lose
    (19 votes)
762 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Will Mark Andrews be named to a major All-American team in 2017?

This poll is closed

  • 72%
    Yes
    (516 votes)
  • 27%
    No
    (194 votes)
710 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Will Lincoln Riley be named Coach of the Year in 2017?

This poll is closed

  • 46%
    Yes
    (338 votes)
  • 53%
    No
    (391 votes)
729 votes total Vote Now