Week 3 is here and the Sooners are out in LA to take on Chip Kelly’s UCLA Bruins. This is Oklahoma’s first road-test of the season and despite their shortcomings, UCLA bump up in talent level compared to Houston and South Dakota. Combine that with all the distractions that LA has to offer and it’s caused some to believe this is going to be a close one. Vegas has Oklahoma as 23.5-point favorite and the over-under for total points scored is set at 73.5. Let’s get into it.
Date: Saturday, Sept 14th | 7:00 pm CST
Location: Rose Bowl, Pasadena
Storyline: Oklahoma is making a return trip to the Rose Bowl for the first time since their historic, albeit disappointing, game against Georgia. This matchup won’t have the same grandeur or circumstance as the semi-final as UCLA’s struggles won’t bring out much of a crowd and it’s bit of trip for a regular-season game for many Sooner fans. This will be Oklahoma’s first road test of the season and while Oklahoma has traditionally been a good road-team, there is plenty of speculation that the Sooners could struggle here in the spotlight. The offensive line noticeably took a step back last week against South Dakota and the defense, while looking improved, hasn’t really been tested.
UCLA: Dorian Thompson-Robinson returns as the starting QB for the Bruins. Last year, Robinson tallied 254 yards and a TD against the Sooners in Norman. This season, DTR has only 355 passing yards and 3 TD’s on 61 attempts, yikes. Something that may help DTR? The probable return of Theo Howard (a name I’m sure a few Sooners fans who follow recruiting remember). Howard was the 2nd leading receiver for the Bruins last season and may make his season-debut against the Sooners tomorrow. UCLA also saw the return of their senior running back, Joshua Kelley who ran for over 1000+ yards last season.
On defense, one could look at Elijah Gates to make plays on the back-end as UCLA will surely try to take advantage of Oklahoma’s shaky offensive line and force some errant passes out of Hurts. One guy that could do it? DE, Osa Odighizuwa who has 3.5 tackles-for-loss and a sack this season.
Oklahoma: It hasn’t been confirmed if Marquise Hayes will return this week or not. Assuming he does, both he RJ Proctor will look to improve the left side of Oklahoma’s offensive line that struggled last week. Jalen Hurts has been good for the Sooners thus far, against a likely better pass rush, he’ll need to show he can be more than a one-read QB. With CeeDee Lamb likely in double coverage a majority of the game, Charleston Rambo and Jadon Haselwood look to be in prime spots to have big games. Trey Sermon has really looked good in the limited snaps he’s received. UCLA hasn’t faced a great rushing attack thus far this season yet still ranks about average against the run.
With the above mentioned Theo Howard potentially returning tomorrow, Parnell Motley or Tre Brown should have a handful. Oklahoma had 6 total sacks against UCLA last season, I like for Jalen Redmond to continue that against an offensive line that ranks near the bottom in sacks allowed this season.
Facts & Stats
- This is the first previous 1000-yard rusher that Oklahoma will face this season. The Sooners are currently ranked as the 83rd rushing defense in the nation.
- UCLA struggles to run the ball on 2nd down while Oklahoma’s defense gives up the most YPC on 2nd down (5.55)
- Oklahoma plays the pass better in the 1st and 4th quarter while UCLA noticeably struggles to throw in the 2nd and 3rd quarters.
- Oklahoma throws more and at a higher percentage in the 1st quarter than any other quarter. UCLA’s defense sees the least amount of throws in the 1st quarter, but allows the highest completion percentage (78.6%).
- UCLA is 105th in 3rd down conversions allowed while Oklahoma’s offense is 4th in the nation in converting on 3rd down. Furthermore, Oklahoma’s defense has held it’s own on 3rd down only allowing a conversion rate of 25% (tied for 14th in the nation) while UCLA’s offense is 83rd in the nation in converting on 3rd down.
Things To Consider:
- This is Oklahoma’s 1st road game of the season, albeit it shouldn’t be a hostile environment.
- Oklahoma OL coach, Bill Bedenbaugh has put an emphasis on OL play this week.
- TE’s haven’t been heavily utilized yet this season making game planning for them tough. Perhaps that’s on purpose.
- Oklahoma has shown the ability to put on a pass rush, but not stop the run at the line. With 1000+ yard returning rusher coming in, we’ll see if Grinch adjusts to more of a run-stop personnel or stays with his base.
- All of Chip Kelly’s talent is upperclassmen. Should younger guys have to fill a role, the talent level noticeably dips on paper.
- Brendan Radley-Hiles will be playing in front of a hometown crowd, perhaps he’ll look to put together another big game.
- Oklahoma holds UCLA to 225 yards of offense.
- Trey Sermon rushes for 100+ yards.
- Rhamondre Stevenson assumes a larger role
- Oklahoma forces 3 turnovers
- Oklahoma makes a field goal
Maybe UCLA surprises me, but 0-2 against Cincinnati and San Diego St. doesn’t suggest this one will be as much of a surprise as some expect. Chip Kelly is a great offensive mind, but for one reason or another, hasn’t put it together in LA. This will no doubt be a test for the Sooners, but one they should pass without much trouble if they are indeed the 5th ranked team in the nation. I’m not quite sold on the secondary, but with Oklahoma looking the part on the defensive line, it should force a bad ball or two out of DTR. Score prediction… Sooners 48 | UCLA 21