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The Oklahoma Sooners find themselves in somewhat unfamiliar territory, starting the season at 1-2. Another loss and the chances of winning the Big 12 fall dramatically, if not diminish completely. Not living up to preseason rankings and falling out of the top 25 has already led some to question the future of the Stoops brothers in Norman. To add more fuel to the fire, LSU fired their long-time coach, Les Miles after losing to Auburn last weekend. What did the “Mad Hatter” do for LSU? Boasted a 114-34 record, 7 bowl wins and a national championship. It remains to be seen whether or not this was a good move by the LSU program, but it hasn’t stopped Oklahoma fans from asking, “why aren’t we making these kind of moves?” I only bring this up to emphasize the importance this game will not only have on the season, but also the staff.  A win in Fort Worth would certainly put the Sooners back in the top 25, but also quiet Bob Stoops’ critics. Another loss and things could start to get messy. So without further ado, lets get into it.

Offense

  • First off, I still don’t believe this offense is far off from being very good. A majority of it’s issues are just executing in key moments. Here are few things to watch for on offense.
  • “I’m going to work harder in this program. I’m going to work harder, I’m going to try to do it harder than Coach Stoops has ever seen.” – Baker Mayfield. That is one hell of a statement to make, even for Mayfield. Is it one that he’s taken to heart? That will be answered this Saturday. Mayfield’s hero-ball and decision making has certainly stalled the offense on numerous occasions this season. Watch for Mayfield to be more disciplined with the ball, make smarter throws, and ultimately be himself. Mayfield shines when he’s the general on the field, when he’s decisive and lets the plays come to him. Forced throws, taking unnecessary sacks need to be a thing of the past for Baker. However, more than anything his offense team needs leadership. I suspect Mayfield will take it upon himself to be more active in the huddle as well as on the bench.
  • This isn’t really isn’t something to look for, but it has been somewhat of a hot topic. The run game has been brought up numerous times over the past week so I’ll take this time to address the question, “Does Oklahoma have problems running the ball?” Short answer, I really don’t think so. The running backs are doing better as a group than this year than they were last year. I do think there is a problem with the volume of carries and TOP. Check this out:
    • Last season, through the first 3 games Perine averaged 18.6 carries per game, with an average of 87.6 rushing YPG. Mixon averaged 9.1 carries with an average of 31 rushing YPG. That is 118.6 yards on 27.7 carries between the two.
    • This season, through the first 3 games Perine averages 11 carries with per game, with an average of 49.6 rushing YPG. Mixon averages 9 carries with an average of 78.3 YPG. That is 127.9 yards on 18 carries.
    • By the averages, it shows Oklahoma has been far more efficient running the ball. Yardage is being distributed more evenly, albeit Mixon has had a huge increase in production. The concerning stat is the decreasing number of carries. I don’t think this is as much on Lincoln Riley as it is Mike Stoops. Consider this, if you look at the two losses the opposing offenses had 11 more minutes on offense than Oklahoma. ELEVEN MINUTES. Third-downs have been an issue for the defense and have led to some prolonged drives by opposing teams. Drives that have kept Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon sidelined.
  • “What is wrong with Samaje Perine?” Listen, this isn’t 2014. The name Samaje Perine is synonymous with power running. It has become too predictable. If Perine is the lone-back, it is more than likely a draw play. If Oklahoma wants to open up the field for Perine, it must have Mixon on the field as well. Mixon’s versatility is invaluable to this offense. He’s an electrifying runner, everyone knows that, but defenses fear his pass catching ability just as much. TCU brings their safeties down for run support, effectively stacking the box. If Mixon is on the field with Perine, it should keep the safeties from over-playing the run which is what Perine needs. With TCU being much smaller than the Ohio State defense, look for Oklahoma to use the dual-back offense more often.
  • Speaking of Mixon, his increase in production is deserving of more snaps. If he kept up his current numbers, Mixon would be one of the nations top running backs in terms of yards-per-carry. However, he does not meet the minimum number of carries to qualify in those rankings. Ranked or not, that kind of production is something Oklahoma cannot shouldn’t ignore. If any changes were to made on offense, it would be which back starts off the first series. Prediction: Mixon starts.
  • TCU likes to bring pressure and lead the Big 12 with 14 sacks on the season. Saturday could be a tough day for the O-line, as TCU will bring pressure nearly every down to make up for their struggling secondary. It isn’t uncommon for them to draw up blitzes where they send 5 to 6 guys on back-to-back plays. Watch just how in sync the line is. Whether they can identify and pickup these blitzes. Make no mistake, this is a trench game for the TCU defense. They will live or die by how well they play here.
  • Growing up fast is something Wren will have to do as starting center. It is almost a sure thing TCU will bring pressure up the middle early and often.
  • Dimitri Flowers has been relatively quiet, could this be his weekend? TCU struggled to pickup Arkansas’ fullback and TE’s. It will be interesting to see if Riley tests the TCU defense in the same manner. Watch for the Sooners to disguise Flowers as blocker or use him on rub-routes.
  • After being one the biggest concerns in the preseason, the wide receivers have played pretty well. AD Miller has started to become a viable option for intermediate and deep routers. Oklahoma needs both him and Mark Andrews to keep up that level of play. Why call them out specifically? Well, they are both big-bodied receivers who’s physicality could be a deciding factor against the smaller TCU secondary. Not only can they high-point the ball, they could also be very effective downfield blockers. Watch for them to get more minutes that usual.
  • This is also a very personal game. Last year, a cheap shot from TCU LB, Ty Summers took Baker Mayfield out of the game with a concussion. Watch how they treat #42, I suspect it could get pretty chippy.