Oklahoma’s season begins in just a couple short days when they’ll take on Lane Kiffin’s Florida Atlantic Owls. The Sooners begin the season ranked #7 in the nation with Owls’s returning a top-10 offense from a year ago — causing some to put Oklahoma on upset alert. If you listened to this week’s pod, you know we like the chances of Oklahoma winning this Saturday, but we do have our question marks for this team. Here’s what we’ll be watching for:
Defensive Line Play: Florida Atlantic boasts a strong run game with one the nation’s top backs in Devin Singletary — who as you know ran for 1918 yards last season. That said, the Owls are replacing the core of their offensive line with both guards and their center not returning. Oklahoma SHOULD be able to take full advantage of this, particularly with Neville Gallimore. Gallimore, who hasn’t yet lived up to the hype, has been reportedly having his best off-season yet. The 6’2, 300-pound red-shirt junior has all the physical talent to be a dominant defensive presence this Saturday — it’s time for him live up to it. More so, Oklahoma returns Amani Bledsoe, Kenneth Mann, Dillion Faamatau and other from last season giving them the depth to wear down this FAU offensive line.
Be Aggressive: Florida Atlantic is without quarterback Jason Driskel this season and has yet to name a starting quarterback for Saturday. With that, Oklahoma has the opportunity to force the Owls to be one-sided by stacking the box against their best offensive weapon, Devin Singletary. Let Florida Atlantic prove they can move the ball through the air before playing a bend-but-don’t-break style of defense.
Allow The Run To Open The Pass: Florida Atlantic returns a respectable defense headed by linebacker, Azeez Al-Shaair — who Lincoln Riley says is only second to Roquan Smith. That said, Oklahoma has a stout offensive line and two very physical running backs in Rodney Anderson and Trey Sermon. Last season, the Owls gave up an average of 6.61 yards per carry to P5 teams. Even getting close to that average will force FAU to load the box which should open up the play-action and deep ball.
Offensive Line: A lot of changes along the offensive line this season, none more important than that center position. The center is considered the “quarterback” of the line, however with two seasoned guards, there may be some leeway there. What’s more important is how well does this line work together? How fast can the gel? Because, let’s be honest, the only one that can beat this offensive line is themselves.
Kyler Murray: Kyler Murray’s abilities as a runner are well documented by now, however some still question his passing ability as we’ve only seen a small sample size. The unfortunate truth here is that, as talented as we think Murray is, he has yet to face a full-workload of snaps. How does he fair against starters? Will his accuracy drop off in late game situations? Can he rally his teammates? These are unknowns at the moment and truthfully, we may not get all the answers this weekend.
Ball Security: If there is one thing we do know, there is only one way the Owls stay in this game and that is if Oklahoma turns over the ball. As long as Kyler Murray and the Sooners can keep the ball safe, they’ll be in control of this game from beginning to end. If they can’t prepare for this one to be closer than it should be. Again, Oklahoma has all the pieces to wear this team down late. They just need to make sure they aren’t giving the Owls too many chances.