Our season preview capsule for the Oklahoma Sooners:
Most important player: LB Eric Striker. The senior sets the tone for the Sooners' defense with his aggressiveness and energy. One of the best pass-rushers in the nation, Striker enters his final season with 15.5 sacks and 27.5 tackles for loss in 39 career games (26 starts). Look for Oklahoma to build its defense around the two-time All-Big 12 honoree.
Breakout candidate on offense: HB Joe Mixon. The redshirt freshman was reinstated to the roster after being suspended for the 2014 season after an off-the-field incident. Mixon could be the perfect complement to sophomore Samaje Perine in the Sooners' backfield, given his quickness and versatility. Don’t be surprised if you see the duo on the field at the same time in Lincoln Riley’s offense.
Breakout candidate on defense: S Steven Parker. If the Sooners are better in the secondary, the sophomore will likely play a big role in their improvement. Parker had 31 tackles, one sack and six pass breakups in 13 games (four starts) as a true freshman. His coverage ability and range make him a valuable asset, particularly against Big 12 offenses, as new defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks looks to rebuild the secondary.
Most important game: The Sooners have several key games this fall, including road trips to Baylor and Oklahoma State, along with a home tilt with TCU. But none of those conference matchups are more important than OU's non-conference game at Tennessee. The Sept. 12 contest could be a make-or-break game, in terms of confidence for the Sooners. A win could catapult Bob Stoops' team into title contention, while a loss could reignite the offseason anxiety surrounding the program.
Class of 2015 signee to watch: Bob Stoops isn't one to gush about younger players, especially true freshmen, but he can't hide his affinity for running back Rodney Anderson. Anderson was an ESPN 300 recruit out of Katy, Texas, and he has been on the same level as the Sooners veteran rushers, including the heralded Perine. Also look for true freshmen receivers A.D. Miller and Dahu Green to get a long look at early playing time in OU's new, wide-open passing attack. -- Jeremy Crabtree
Class of 2016 storyline: The Sooners have their quarterback of the future in line with ESPN 300 pocket-passer Austin Kendall. Kendall was a major national recruiting victory for the Sooners. OU also has a good defensive foundation in place in the 2016 class, highlighted by top-10 linebacker Bryce Youngquist. -- Crabtree
Record/season prediction: 8-4. Inconsistent quarterback play from Baker Mayfield and Trevor Knight hampers Stoops' squad. Perine and Mixon are the real deal, combining for more than 2,500 total yards and 20 touchdowns in Riley's offense, but the passing game lets OU down in big games, which results in a four-loss regular season, as the defense is solid but not dominant enough to overcome the offense's occasional struggles.