Expect to hear Kenny Stills' name early and often Saturday night. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
How about we talk a little football and press the pause button on all this alignment crap. Even if Bob Stoops doesn't want to admit it, this is most definitely a revenge game for the Sooners. Mizzou fans are still relishing in their win from last year and if they tell you they're not, just ask them about "Celebration Dog." So this OU squad will be looking to exact some revenge and do so in a dominating fashion. The obvious question is whether or not they'll be able to accomplish this. One thing we certainly hope to see is an improved offensive performance from last week at FSU and most definitely a VERY improved performance from last year in Columbia.
Working in Mizzou's favor to prevent said revenge is a front seven, that despite losing 1st round pick Aldon Smith, is even better than the one who shut down the explosive Sooners offense last year. OU had an incredibly difficult time last year, rushing for less than 100 yards and forcing Landry Jones to throw the ball 50 times. The bad news for OU is that Mizzou has been very good through their first three games giving up a paltry 68 yard average per game. The good news is the Tigers still have secondary issues and while Oklahoma wasn't able to fully exploit that last year, I'd expect things to be a little different this time around in Norman. They've had some injury issues, with Kip Edwards, and a projected starter (Tavon Bolden) that was kicked off the team.
So let's get into some more specifics and discuss some aspects of this game Saturday night.
OU run game vs. Mizzou front seven. We saw last Saturday night, the Sooners were able to run the ball when they needed to on their first and final drive. The issue was what happened in between those two drives and the inconsistencies of said run game. While the Mizzou front four isn't as stout as the FSU line was, the collection of the front seven is probably on par with the Noles. I say that because Zaviar Gooden is a better LB (at least at this point) than anyone Florida State put out there last week. I know Mizzou fans are also really high on Andrew Wilson as well. Jacquies Smith and Brad Madison at the DE spots are All Big 12 type players and JUCO transfer Sheldon Richardson is a massive presence inside at DT.
All that said, the OU offensive line has look very much improved through two games and according to reports could be getting back both Daryl Williams and Jarvis Jones. Williams was the starter at RT before missing last week with a bum ankle and Jones was the projected starter before injuring his knee this spring. I'd expect the coaches to mix them both back in at times and continue to rotate their linemen as they always do.
As far as who will be running the ball, there is no reason to expect anyone other than Brennan Clay and Dominique Whaley to get the lion's share of the carries. I know OU fans (myself included) are calling for more Roy Finch, and I am optimistic that could happen Saturday night, but Stoops made it very clear this week that he's going to have to earn it and that it won't just be handed to him.
OU right tackle. As I mentioned above, it's not likely to be a single guy. So we could see any combination of Williams, Jones, and Lane Johnson and if last week was any indicator, it's that at least at times they can be had. Both Mizzou DEs are incredibly talented players and while Smith is coming back off an elbow injury, you can expect both he and Madison to play a majority of the game. It will be key for the OU RT to handle this match-up without requiring a constant double team or a TE to that side, so as not to take the Sooners out of anything they intend to do based on losing that match-up. If Mizzou is winning that on a consistent basis, they can start to bring blitzes off that and we all know we don't want Landry throwing under duress all night.
Expect a double team on #85. I'm sure they're all fine young men, but the Mizzou secondary isn't anywhere near the same league as that which the Sooners faced last week. Where as FSU had the ability to single up on Broyles at times throughout the game, I do not believe the Tigers will have that luxury. Doesn't necessarily mean they will have to double him on literally every single play, but I'd expect it to happen on a majority of them. If they do not, it has the potential to be a record breaking performance for Broyles. Mizzou has really struggled defending the pass thus far, most noticeably in the loss at Arizona State.
If it's not Broyles, then expect Stills have put up some big numbers. So if they double Broyles, as I expect they will, that means the secondary WRs will have one-on-one opportunities to exploit and there is arguably no better "secondary" WR in the country than Kenny Stills. We've seen in the past that OU isn't afraid to, and Broyles is unselfish enough to do so, use #85 as a decoy and that could certainly happen Saturday night if Mizzou sells out to stop him. I expect Stills to have a big game coming off that game winning TD catch against the Noles. I'll say seven catches, 100+ yards, and two TDs.
Will Heupel reincorporate the TEs in the offense? They've been virtually non-existent through the first two games, which is somewhat a surprise for OU fans given how extensively Heupel used them as a player. We know they have talented players there in James Hanna, Trent Ratterree, and Austin Haywood, but for whatever reason they just haven't been a big part of the offensive game plans thus far. Mizzou does have some issues at one of their safety spots with Matt White, so maybe that's something Heupel and Landry try to exploit.