NORMAN, OK - SEPTEMBER 3: Offensive tackle Lane Johnson #69 of the Oklahoma Sooners congratulates running back Dominique Whaley #8 after a touchdown during the first half against the Tulsa Hurricanes September 3, 2011 at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Tulsa 47-14. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
Before we even get started, I'm just going to assume some of you will interpret this as 'panicky' and that's probably fair. I wouldn't say I'm necessarily worried Oklahoma will lose Saturday against UTEP, but if Texas Tech taught me anything last year it's that strange stuff can happen and no team is exempt from that. I can still remember Matt, Rich, and I on the podcast Thursday night before the game and how there wasn't a shadow of doubt in my mind that OU would roll Tech. Heck, even Seth from Double T Nation had basically conceded the game. And then it happened.
So as the Sooners head to El Paso, there are a couple of things I believe they can do to help, reinforce shall we say, their chances of leaving with a victory.
At the time when I wrote about OU being wise to copy the Texas offensive model I expected whatever the Internet equivalent is for people throwing produce at you. I was reassured in my belief shortly thereafter when Nate put together a fantastic post on how the Sooners could help themselves and their offensive line. And that's essentially where I am going with this and what Oklahoma should (but won't) do Saturday night.
I'm certainly not an expert on UTEP football, but were I Mike Price wouldn't it make perfect sense to challenge an OU defense that is potentially soft up the middle, a middle that is dealing with significant depth issues, with a ball control offense? They have what they feel is a quality starting running back and depth behind them, while many believe the strength of this Oklahoma defense to be the secondary. Couple that with the expectation of many that Mike Stoops is going to employ a 4-2-5 defense and UTEP's best defense against the OU offense is to keep the ball out of their hands, right?
Another factor is that, especially in the last couple years, this OU offense has not been doing the defense any favors. What I mean by that is when they run the hurry up it obviously limits the time the defense has on the sidelines to recover/regroup. It's only magnified, which we've heard Stoops tells us countless times this offseason, when the offense is in the hurry up and they go three and out.
Yet another point in favor of this strategy is the fact that according to this, UTEP only averages 6'2" 268 pounds along their defensive line. On the flip side, the OU offensive line averages 6'5" 301 pounds. The point being that even a depleted Sooners o-line should (I stress should) be able to push around UTEP up front. Therefore, wouldn't it then make sense to pound UTEP with whatever your preferred combination of Dom Whaley, Damien Williams, Brennan Clay, and company? Especially when you take into account the Sooners effectiveness will only increase as the game wears on and the UTEP defensive line wears down?
However, even though all of this makes absolutely perfect sense in my armchair offensive coordinator mind I can virtually guarantee you it's not what we will see Saturday night. And I doubt I have to be the one to tell you just how frustrating that will be.
Ed note - Just in case you were wondering. Yes, I'm aware of the fact we haven't even played the first game of the season yet and I'm already, preemptively, criticizing Josh Heupel.