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2016 season preview: Oklahoma Sooners

Behind Baker Mayfield's timely playmaking, a ferocious rushing attack and a stingy defense, Oklahoma rolled its way through the Big 12 and all the way to the College Football Playoff in 2015. This year, with a host of key players back, the Sooners have aims of not only making it back to to the playoff but also winning it all.

Here is our season preview capsule for the Oklahoma Sooners:

Key losses: WR Sterling Shepard, WR Durron Neal, C Ty Darlington, G Nila Kasitati, DE Charles Tapper, LB Eric Striker, LB Dominique Alexander, CB Zack Sanchez.

Key returners: QB Baker Mayfield, RB Samaje Perine, RB Joe Mixon, WR Dede Westbrook, TE Mark Andrews, T Orlando Brown, DT Charles Walker, LB Jordan Evans, CB Jordan Thomas, S Steven Parker, S Ahmad Thomas.

Preseason storyline: As dynamic as Oklahoma's passing attack was last season, it was fairly one-dimensional, with Mayfield completing pass after pass to Shepard. With Shepard now in the NFL, the Sooners no longer have an All-American at wideout. The position, however, could have more capable options, beginning with Westbrook, Andrews and Penn State transfer Geno Lewis.

Defensively, the Sooners face the daunting task of restocking the pass rush that Tapper and Striker supplied the past couple seasons. Oklahoma is hoping for a big jump from junior Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, who athletically has the tools to get after the passer.

How the receiving corps and the pass rush come together will go a long way in determining whether the Sooners defend their Big 12 crown.

Most interesting position: While the Sooners bring back a pair of All-Big 12-caliber tackles in Brown and Dru Samia, the interior of the offensive line appears to be in flux this preseason. The Sooners had originally planned to bump Jonathan Alvarez from guard to center. But he's now getting pushed by walk-on transfer Erick Wren. It took half a season for the offensive line to find its groove last year. With Houston and Ohio State on the September schedule, the Sooners won't have the luxury of time to gel up front.

Game that matters most: Ohio State on Sept. 17. There are a bunch of big games on this Oklahoma schedule: the opener at Houston, the Red River Showdown, a road trip to TC, Bedlam. But Ohio State might to be the most anticipated home game for the Sooners since top-ranked Nebraska visited Norman 16 years ago. The Sooners can lose to Ohio State and still get to the playoff, in theory. But a win would give them a monster victory while potentially catapulting them to the top of the polls heading into conference play.

Prediction: Behind the backfield of Mayfield, Perine and Mixon, Oklahoma goes 11-1, wins the Big 12 and advances back to the CFP.