How well will Oklahoma football adjust to the SEC in 2024?

Valero Alamo Bowl - Arizona v Oklahoma
Valero Alamo Bowl - Arizona v Oklahoma / Ronald Cortes/GettyImages

One of college football’s most anticipated stories as of late has been the one about Texas and Oklahoma football joining the SEC this summer, and let’s be real, how could it not? I mean, we’re talking about two of the sport’s mightiest powers joining what is already its mightiest conference; in what world would that not be conversation-worthy?

However, throughout the prolonged attention, it has become increasingly obvious that one-half of the realigning couple has sparked significantly more discussion than the other, and that's Texas.

This has happened so easily thanks to Oklahoma as of late being stuck in “good” mode; it’s better than the once-forgettable Texas that appeared to have no chance of standing out in the SEC, yet worse than the 2023-24 Texas that looked like it could’ve led the SEC.

With this period on the back burner in mind, I embraced the task of analyzing Oklahoma for a change, breaking down its upcoming slate in hopes of pinpointing just how good — or bad — the 2024 Sooners will do in their inaugural run as a Southeastern power. With that said, let’s get moving.

Oklahoma should get things started on as strong of a note as possible

Well, regardless of how they’ll hold up competitively, it’s safe to say that Oklahoma has one part of the SEC lifestyle down, and that’s the weak non-conference slate. I kid of course, but in all seriousness, many criticize the league’s veteran members for not welcoming tougher challenges to certify their often-praised formidability — yet what the Sooners are working with puts even them to shame.

Of the three non-conference foes the Sooners face early, not a single one is on the road, with them hosting -- wait for it -- Temple, Houston, and Tulane. Yeah.

With them not exceeding three wins in any of their last four seasons, I don’t think I need to walk anyone through why the Owls are inevitable victims here, and as much as I would like to pretend otherwise, I can’t say that the Cougars and Green Wave are much different.

Sure, Houston is a typically respected name that is now officially Power Four opposition, and Tulane has taken the college football world by storm the past couple of years, but those glorifications didn’t keep the former from going 4-8 in 2023, nor did they keep the latter from losing both its esteemed head coach (to Houston) and star quarterback.

Therefore, I have to believe that Oklahoma will have what it takes to not just beat each of these teams, but do so harshly as it heads into its conference opener. Speaking of which, it’s there where things, expectedly, begin to get quite interesting.

Oklahoma's SEC play wastes no time getting testy

The Sooners are introduced to their new home by Tennessee before having to take a trip to Auburn. Especially with the Volunteers having amassed 20 wins in the last two seasons and Jordan-Hare being a jarring road environment even by SEC standards, that pair is far from negligible.

However, neither school is good enough for me to assume that Oklahoma wouldn’t be favored against them, so while they will serve as a rather aggressive leap in the competition, I have the Sooners sitting at 5-0 as it enters its first bye week. And I hope the Sooners enjoy that bye, too, because if it hasn’t already, it’s about to become painfully clear that their schedule won’t be doing much waiting up on them.

If you’ve done the math to figure out where we are on the calendar at this point, then you probably know why I say that, but for those who haven’t — the Texas Longhorns have entered the battlefield.

I’ll keep this part especially brief, as despite the Red River Rivalry always being a good time, the magnitude of the game and why it’s a danger zone for Oklahoma needs hardly any explanation. As a result, we’ll just cut to the chase.

Can the Sooners win? Definitely, as they just did so last year over a playoff-caliber Texas. But, I think they will fall on a crucial factor that I haven’t previously addressed: The loss of quarterback Dillon Gabriel.

Gabriel was a statistical masterpiece for the Sooners in 2023, but with the veteran having since transferred to Oregon, I see the offensive edge leaning heavily in favor of the Longhorns, courtesy of Quinn Ewers. In a series with pencil-thin finishes like this one, I can’t help but feel that said edge will be enough to deal Oklahoma its first loss of the year and send the Golden Hat back to Austin.

From here, the word “turbulent” doesn’t begin to do Oklahoma’s schedule justice

So, good news and bad news for the Sooners here. The good news is that they get a break after their heartbreaking loss to Texas via a home game against the struggling South Carolina Gamecocks; the bad news is that such graciousness won’t last, nor does it at any other point between now and the postseason.

After downing the Gamecocks, Oklahoma heads back on the road to duel Ole Miss in Oxford. Being another SEC squad known for the show they put on at home, along with just coming off of one of their best seasons ever, the Rebels will certainly not be pushovers (though the departure of multiple defensive talents drops them a lot closer to that title).

Then, it’s both Oklahoma's final and weakest non-conference opponent, Maine — getting anything less than a 52-point win from that one would be a darn shame. But whoa, hold on there, don’t start feeling funky just yet, because then it’s another road game to a good-looking SEC adversary, and this one turns all the more heads because it and Sooner faithful go way back: Missouri.

The former Big 12 nemeses will be meeting in Columbia, and that combined with the Tigers offense bringing back quarterback Brady Cook and leading receiver Luther Burden III makes Mizzou more than worthy of being added to Oklahoma's ever-growing list of troublemakers.

But again, troublesome does not mean unbeatable, and with the Tigers not only appearing to have a similar ceiling as Ole Miss but also losing several impact players of their own (predominantly on the defensive side of the ball as well), I’d say they belong in the same gray area as the Rebels. So, for the sake of keeping things fair, we’ll just press on under the assumption that the Sooners split those games.

That puts them at 8-2 as they enter their second bye, and just like the first, it couldn’t have been put anywhere better, as it prepares them for the toughest pair of battles they’re set to endure all season.

The climax of OU’s run comes at the perfect time, and epitomizes the perfect SEC welcome

There’s no other way to put it — those who died on the hill of Oklahoma not surviving in the SEC had Weeks like 12 and 13 in mind, as those will have the Sooners hosting the Alabama Crimson Tide before trudging into Death Valley for a showdown with the LSU Tigers.

That is a one-two punch they almost certainly won’t come out of clean, and there isn’t any shame in that, as most other teams wouldn’t either. However, I wouldn’t go as far as to categorize both battles as sure losses, as this year will see an Alabama-LSU duo be about as manageable as it ever could be.

Between the visiting Tide losing legendary head coach Nick Saban and the already-imperfect LSU losing Heisman winner Jayden Daniels, both powerhouses are at risk of being considerably less impressive than they were in 2023. Even with Oklahoma also suffering from severe loss, that can’t hurt its chances of success.

With that said, these two are also rather difficult to call, so I will once again give Oklahoma the benefit of the doubt in one of them, but not the other. That leaves the Sooners standing tall at 9-3 as they move on to the postseason.

Doubters can say what they want about the SEC being too good for its newcomers, but if I’m correct, and an Oklahoma that just won 10 games finds itself accepting a bowl invitation in hopes of hitting the same threshold, then who are they to continue doubting? And if that’s what the Sooners have in store for the SEC just one season in, imagine what they could accomplish once they get settled. Scary.

Post-spring Top 25 projections for 2024. Post-spring Top 25 projections for 2024. dark. Next