How Oklahoma’s defense fares against BYU’s offense is hinged largely on controlling the line of scrimmage and that’s a match up that I like very much to favor OU. I don’t think any Sooner fan should realistically expect to see the Cougars shutout but I do believe that Oklahoma should hold them to well under their 34 points per game average of a year ago. Quarterback Max Hall, running backs Manase Tonga and Harvey Unga are the strength of the BYU offensive attack and they’ll be attacking Oklahoma’s front seven which is the strength of the Sooner defense. It’ll make for some great football but the Cougars are going to need help from an outmatched offensive line and unproven receivers to have a shot at success.
Max Hall/TE/WR’s vs. OU Secondary
Max Hall is incredibly accurate with his throws. Last season he completed nearly 70% of his passes and despite a youth movement among his receivers he looks to continue with a hot hand in `09.
There isn’t much give and take when you compare the size of the BYU receivers to the Oklahoma cornerbacks. The biggest difference between the two is experience. Both Dominique Franks and Brian Jackson are returning starters who have shutdown ability in one-on-one coverage while questions about BYU’s inexperience at receiver will linger until we see what they do on the field.
The position that concerns me here is Cougar tight end Dennis Pitta. At 6-5/248 he could be described as a poor man’s Jermaine Gresham and he’ll most likely draw linebacker or safety coverage. Oklahoma’s safeties carry the inexperienced label themselves and while former safety, and current linebacker, Keenan Clayton may be able to run with him we just don’t know how the Sooners will deal with his size and speed which no doubt will be a tall task for Oklahoma’s secondary.
Even with the possible damage done by Pitta I still like Oklahoma’s secondary to win this battle based on talent and experience. For any team to beat Oklahoma through the air it will have to be more than a one man show and I think that at best that is what BYU is going to get going up against Oklahoma’s secondary.
The hits here are going to be phenomenal. Tonga and Unga are both bruising backs who can hurt you in their own ways. Tonga thrives in short burst and will be called on in short yardage situations. He’s also likely to clear through the line and find a linebacker on the second level remove from the play. Meanwhile Unga will get most of the carries and while busting through the middle will more than likely be decided by the lines Unga can also bounce outside. He has deceptive speed and sure hands which can allow him to quickly turn a five yard swing pass into a thirty yard gain.
Oklahoma’s linebackers are going to have to shed blocks and be sure tacklers. Both outside linebackers have good speed and can make up ground in pursuit. Ryan Reynolds may not have blazing speed but has the sure tackling mastered. For that matter so do the guys on the outsides. Travis Lewis led the team in tackles in 2008 and Keenan Clayton was third.
The Cougars must run the ball effectively in order to accomplish what they want with their passing game. It will be up to Oklahoma’s linebackers to take away the run and then pin their ears back and come after Hall on third and long situations.
BYU’s offensive line averages 6-4/325 and Oklahoma’s defensive line averages 6-4/275. In a perfect world the Cougars would use that extra weight to wear down the Sooners by the third and fourth quarters. In the real world BYU is going to struggle with Oklahoma’s speed and the depth that the Sooners have at defensive line will allow for a consistent rotation of fresh bodies in every position along the line.
The battle of the line is huge and must not be overlooked. BYU is going to try to spread the field and Max Hall is a master at ball distribution. If Oklahoma can pressure the quarterback and make plays behind the line of scrimmage without blitzing then that gives them the upper hand.
Having the linebackers free to pursue and make tackles is huge as well and once again that is on the defensive line to make it happen. Oklahoma has a fast defense as it is and if the linebackers don’t have to shed blocks because the d-line isn’t letting anything through just makes them that much quicker.