No. 11 Oklahoma

Who’s more important, the legendary coach or the studly Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback?

Gould Headshot square

We may get some insight into that this year, Oklahoma carries on without Bob Stoops, 56, who stepped away from one of the premier college football jobs in America when he had it going and was seemingly in his prime.

That just doesn’t happen. One explanation offered was that Stoops’ father, a legendary Youngstown, Ohio, high school coach, died young, and Stoops has a heightened sense of mortality. Another is that his protege, offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, was going to get the job sooner (Sooner?) than later—and Stoops’ departure assured that he wasn’t lured away.

Whatever the reasons, Riley ascends to the throne in Norman with a coveted component, quarterback Baker Mayfield, who will be mentioned for the Heisman Trophy early and often.

There’s a lot to like about Oklahoma. And yet, there are three thorny issues.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

First, are people under-estimating the impact of losing standout contributors like Joe Mixon, Damaje Perine and Dede Westbrook, who combined for 2,435 rushing yards and 2,168 receiving yards?

Second, how are the Sooners going to cope with road trips to Ohio State and Oklahoma State, and maybe even Baylor and Kansas State?

Third, while there’s no question that Riley looks like the real deal, until you do it, you haven’t done it.

I’m not doubting him. I’m just saying he’s got a lot on his plate, and the expectations leave no margin for error. That’s a lot to ask from a 33-year-old first-year guy. I’m actually trying to cut him some slack.[/membership]