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Lincoln Riley - Oklahoma Head Coach (Photo  by Josh Gateley / OU Athletics)
Lincoln Riley – Oklahoma Head Coach
(Photo by Josh Gateley / OU Athletics)


Who are the Sooners to watch for the 2017 College Football Playoff Semifinal Rose Bowl game featuring Georgia versus Oklahoma?


LINCOLN RILEY (Sooners Head Coach)

In his first season at the Oklahoma helm, the 34-year-old Riley has guided the Sooners to a 12-1 record, the Big 12 championship and a berth in the College Football Playoff semifinals in the Rose Bowl. Riley is also among the finalists for the Eddie Robinson National Coach of the Year award with Georgia’s Kirby Smart also being one of the eight finalists. You can bet Riley will have his Sooners ready to play on Jan. 1, as will Smart with the Georgia Bulldogs.


You might not can pronounce his name but if you watch Oklahoma play, you will know who this guy is. The 6-1, 240-pound senior has been a disruptor for the Sooners’ defense all season long, having totaled 71 tackles, 17.5 tackles-for-loss for a minus-103 yards and eight sacks. So, like the challenge facing the Bulldog defense in this national semifinal playoff game, the Georgia offense has a huge one as well in trying to keep Okoronkwo out of the Bulldogs’ backfield.


Okoronkwo’s fellow linebacker on the Sooners’ defense is pretty good also. The 6-0, 218-pound Beal is Oklahoma’s leading tackler with 89 total stops and has six tackles-for-loss and one interception. Not the biggest linebacker around, Beal makes up for his lack of size with outstanding speed and, like Okoronkwo, must be accounted for by the Bulldogs’ offensive front.


Baker Mayfield - Oklahoma QB (Photo  by Josh Gateley / OU Athletics)
Baker Mayfield – Oklahoma QB
(Photo by Josh Gateley / OU Athletics)



This year’s Heisman Trophy winner, the 6-1, 220-pound Mayfield makes the Oklahoma offense hum and presents a huge challenge for the Georgia defense in the CFP semifinals at the Rose Bowl. Certainly, the Bulldogs will have to bring the heat when Mayfield drops back to throw the football. He has compiled amazing numbers this season, with 4,340 yards passing and 41 touchdowns, while throwing just five interceptions in 369 attempts. Mayfield, with his mobility, has also run for 310 yards and five scores. Most certainly, the Georgia defense hasn’t encountered a quarterback like Mayfield this season.


The other half of the Sooners’ 1-2 backfield punch, the 6-2, 218-pound Anderson was Oklahoma’s leading rusher this season with 960 yards and 11 touchdowns, while averaging 5.9 yards per carry. While the sophomore has encountered some off-the-field problems and it isn’t certain at this point how they will affect his participation in the Rose Bowl, Mel Tucker’s defense must prepare to stop this guy because the Bulldogs will have enough of a task in slowing down Mayfield’s passing and can’t allow Oklahoma to gouge them on the ground as well.


Mayfield, as you would expect, has a number of talented receivers to throw to and Andrews, a 6-5, 254-pound junior, is at the top of the list. He has a team-leading 58 catches for 906 yards and eight touchdowns. Along with wide receiver Marquise Brown (#5), who has 49 receptions for a team-leading 981 yards and six touchdowns, the Georgia secondary must be ready to render its finest performance of the season.



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Murray Poole is a 1965 graduate of the University of Georgia Journalism School. He served as sports editor of The Brunswick News for 40 years and has written for Bulldawg Illustrated the past 16 years. He has covered the Georgia Bulldogs for 53 years.