As we continue our Keys to the Season segment (OSU here), we turn our attention to Big 12 favorite, Oklahoma.

A Healthy Baker Mayfield

After having a terrific season in 2015 (3700, 36 TD), Baker Mayfield is the one who can make or break OU’s conference and national title hopes. With only one other scholarship QB on the roster (a freshman), keeping Mayfield healthy is priority number one. Last year, the Sooners saw what could happen if Mayfield goes down (a 17 point lead evaporated), so all eyes will be on no. 6 to not only lead the offense, but also keep from taking big hits.

The Rise of Defensive Stoppers

Gone are Charles Tapper and Eric Striker, but with upperclassmen anchoring the D-Line and Jordan Evans at LB, the leadership is there. Evans is the only returning linebacker with significant playing time, however, so Mike Stoops and the defensive coaches are looking for a couple of stoppers to step up to give Evans a hand. Look for Ogbonnia Okoronkwo to have the chance to prove himself early.

Leaning on the Run

Even with Mayfield able to sling it around, the real strength of this team is the run game. Samaje Perine is 1,057 yards away from being OU’s all-time leading rusher and Joe Mixon could join the 1,000 yard-season club this season. As a few pieces on the O-Line jell and a group of unproven receivers show what they can do, look for the Sooners to rely heavily on this duo in the early going.

The Sooners have a few battles in non-conference (@Houston, Ohio State), so they will be tested from the get-go. This will only serve to prepare the team for the Big 12 grind, which should give Oklahoma a chance to stay at the top of the title heap and in the playoff picture.