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Oklahoma looks to keep the Sooner Schooner moving Saturday. After a thrilling, overtime victory at Tennessee, Bob Stoops & Co. look to take down in-state rival Tulsa.
Here are the keys to the game:
1. East Tennessee hangover: The Sooners have started both games this season uncomfortably slowly and what’s to make one think that won’t be the case Saturday at brunch time? It would not shock me to see Tulsa score first to provide the Sooners and their crowd a needed wake up call. BTW, it is true that folks in East Tennessee make a fine ‘shine … for medicinal purposes only of course. The bottom line is what mental frame of mind will this Sooner team be in and will OU fans sell out the stadium and come ready to establish a true, home-field advantage? If this game isn’t sold out, we Sooner fans should be ashamed.
2. OU offensive line: It’s in rough shape with issues betweem youth and being banged up. Bill Bedenbaugh is one of the best offensive line coaches in the game and he will be tested to rally his troops because you know that the Golden Hurricane are coming for OU QB Baker Mayfield. Left tackle Orlando Brown has an unlimited upside, and will likely be a rich man some day thanks to the NFL. However, young Orlando has to better control his emotions. Nonetheless No. 78 can be mighty special.
3. Tulsa offense: TU won’t resemble UT of a week ago. This offensive can put up gaudy numbers that new coach Philip Montgomery learned from the follically impaired, offensive guru Art Briles while serving as offensive coordinator at Baylor. Montgomery’s Baylor DNA is that of a passing coach but his team is averaging 236 yards running the ball per game thus far this season. Cutting to the chase, this Tulsa offensive has the ability to stay on the field longer than one would prefer.
4. OU defensive front seven: Tulsa QB Dane Evans has been sacked five times already this season and that should make Eric Striker, Charles Tapper and company “hungry.” These two highly touted seniors want to earn a living at the next level and having big time, productive games against the likes of Tulsa still count on the stat sheet. Getting more productivity from Striker and Tap would be timely for a defensive that had a helluva game in Knoxville. This is arguably the best linebacking group Oklahoma has had in years. DT Charles Walker has morphed into a beast.
5. Sooners running game: This could be a game where running backs Samaje Perrine and Joe Mixon both could have 100-yard rushing games as Tulsa is allowing an average of almost five yards per carry. Run-blocking for a banged up OU offensive line might be easier to execute than pass blocking which was not good in Knoxville for the majority of the game. Mixon in the “Joe Cat” is intriguing, nice coaching by OC Lincoln Riley, and Samaje was hurting people in the fourth quarter and OT running with strength and power.
6. Oklahoma’s mental toughness: I’m not sure what was learned Saturday night in Knoxville before 102,455 rapid and loud orange clad Vol fans but one thing that was certain is that this Sooner team has character and are relentless which are two, highly desirable qualities. At no time on the sideline Saturday night, and I never left that area, did I sense that the team had even the most remote feeling that they weren’t going to come back and win a Slobber Knocker of a game that many experts felt that OU had no business winning in 2 OTs.
7. Baker Mayfield: A national media member asked me in the third quarter if I thought Coach Stoops should think about pulling Mayfield for Trevor Knight because of Baker’s struggles. I looked incredulously at this individual as if they, too, had discovered some quality ‘Shine and said that the thought never crossed my mind. Baker Mayfield is the exact type of quarterback that every football team needs. He has boundless energy, he never lays on the ground as if he’s fragile or wounded, he can avoid on coming assailants, his arm is big time and, most importantly, his teammates love and believe in him. If No. 6 stays healthy and his supporting cast can improve steadily each week, there isn’t a game on the schedule that the Sooners can’t win. Not many people would have said that before the season started. Without question, Baker Mayfield is tougher than a $2 steak.
Random thoughts: Freshman kicker Austin Seibert is a prodigy and a difference maker. Dede Westbrook is due to take one to the house but Shep No. 3 is still the man. Tight End Mark Andrews needs to be a bigger part of the offense because at 6-foot-6, 250 pounds he’s a matchup nightmare for any defender. Steven Parker may be OU’s best DB. For those that did not go to Knoxville, you missed a great trip. Wonderful fans, Neyland is a cathedral like stadium, storied program and a memorable game.
Prediction: Oklahoma 41, Tulsa 17 (Sooners favored by 30.5)
Jim Ross @JRsBBQ
You can follow Jim Ross on Twitter @JRsBBQ, listen to him on the Ross Report Podcast, and see him live atRINGSIDE: An Evening with Jim Ross. JR’s products are also available online at wweshop.com,americansoda.co.uk and beyondtheropes.co.uk