There is no doubting that the Oklahoma defense is going to have their hands full Saturday night against a multi-talented Oklahoma State offense. It's more than fair to say that they're not likely to truly "shut down" any aspect of the Cowboys offense, but rather slow it down enough so that they can't simply dictate whatever it is they'd like to do. You have to think that DC Brent Venables has something up his sleeve for this game and he'll likely need to minus their most athletic defensive player in Ronnell Lewis and the coverage issues the OU defense has had at times this season.
So which aspect of the Ok. State offense do you focus on trying to slow down? Run vs. pass? Obviously there is a valid argument to be made for either and some of the points we'll touch on here will speak to both. On one side, you have the substantial threat that both Joseph Randle/Jeremy Smith present out of the backfield. While on the other you have Weeden, Blackmon, & Co. No easy decision to be sure and with that we'll focus on some more specific points as to, from an OU fans perspective, what can't happen Saturday night.
Brandon Weeden can't get comfortable- This one is pretty simple. No quarterback likes to get hit, this is not news. Most QBs that start to get hit let it affect their play and from what we've seen during his time at OSU, Weeden is by no means immune to this. In fact, there is an argument to be made that he's one of the worst at letting it affect his game. If the OU defense can hit him early and often, there is every reason to believe they can completely throw him off his game. And make no mistake, this will be key. Much like Landry Jones, Weeden doesn't get hit all that often and it's a testament to both his quick release and the OSU offensive line. OSU will certainly take their shots down field, but most of what they run are short to intermediate routes which allow Weeden to get rid of the ball quickly, thus reducing the chances he does take a hit. So expect Venables to dial up the pressure from all over the field and from unique spots as well. He'll have to because rattling Weeden not only could lead to turnovers, but by taking Weeden off his game it in turn helps to eliminate Blackmon as well.
Justin Blackmon can't get a clean release- Let me qualify this one with the caveat that I don't have faith in Venables or Willie Martinez to actually do this. I'm not sure why exactly since we have two of the best cover corners in the country, but the Stoops/Venables scheme just does not favor bump-and-run coverage very often (or at all). If the OU corners play like they typically do, which is anywhere from 2-12 yards off the LOS, then Blackmon will likely have a clean release the entire game and obviously the freedom to get in and out of his routes with ease.
What I'd like to see is Jamell Fleming matched up one-on-one with him and to repeatedly hit him as soon as the ball is snapped to throw off his route and he and Weeden's timing. (Minor aside - Don't get me wrong, I love Demontre Hurst. I just feel like Fleming is the better match up with the physical Blackmon being both bigger and stronger than Hurst) He'd, meaning Fleming, would probably get beat a couple times which I could live with. I could also very much live with a PI or defensive holding call or two as well all with the qualifier that it's being done to get in Blackmon's head.
Look, it's not secret the guy is a hot head. If you can push him around and rough him up, he's very likely to get thrown off his game. Maybe he gets a taunting penalty or maybe he gets careless with the ball, certainly wouldn't be the first time he's done either. I think a penalty or two would be well worth messing with the kid and while I seriously doubt Fleming would hold him to zero catches, I definitely think he's good enough to limit Blackmon as much as anyone can and/or has all year.
Travis Lewis/Tom Wort/Javon Harris/Sam Proctor can't get matched up one-on-one with an OSU WR. EVER!- Again, this one is pretty simple. And yet I can pretty much guarantee you it's going to happen multiple times Saturday night. I can guarantee you OSU will run crossing stuff across the middle basically all night and more times than not you'll see an OU LB helplessly chasing a WR they never should have been matched up on in the first place. Not to back track, but to the last point I'm sure OSU will move Blackmon inside at times (just like Baylor did with Kendall Wright) because they know just like every OU fan that it will lead to him being matched up on an OU LB and thus an easy catch and/or first down.
I can't believe I'm about to say this and it's only because this Stoops/Venables defensive scheme has worn me down to this point and because they are so predictable and so stubborn that nothing will change Saturday night. So back to my point, I can almost live with the short cheap crap over the middle that OSU is guaranteed to go to over and over again. Just please don't get beat over the top!!! You hope that if the WRs are taking hits from LBs on that stuff over the middle that eventually they'll start to short arm some catches, so in that sense I guess you can live with it. What can't happen though is one of these players having to cover a WR 20+ yards down the field, which we've seen the scheme call for countless times this year, and get burned for a long play giving OSU all kinds of momentum.
Bad Landry can't make an appearance like last year- I doubt I have to remind you of Landry's three INT performance in last year's game. The difference between this year and last year though is that last year's OU team could overcome it, I don't believe this year's team can. Not minus Dom Whaley and Ryan Broyles. I could be wrong and sincerely hope we never have to find out, but I don't think this OU team can come back if they were to get down by a substantial margin. Pick sixes cannot be on the menu for Landry Saturday night. I'm not saying if he turns it over we're guaranteed to lose or anything, but more that they can't be of the 'back breaking' variety.
Josh Heupel can't forget about the run game- I've been complaining all year that Heupel hasn't used the run game enough. Well Josh, all can be forgiven and it's just take this one game. If the weather is as bad as they're predicting, the run game will be OU's best friend. Whether it's Roy Finch, Brandon Williams, Trey Millard, Blake Bell, heck I don't care if it's Brennan Clay if it's working. It doesn't matter who it is or what combination of guys they use, they just need to run the ball and do so effectively. Do that and our chances of winning increase significantly IMO.
We'll have the customary "What needs to happen" up tomorrow, but for now we want to know what else worries you about this game?