Happy Almost Saturday, friends and fellow Sooners! And Happy Birthday, Coach Stoops!
Only hours now remain until the new stadium experience gets the home season underway. And by now the dust has settled after the Cougars kicked it up in our faces last week. The holes in the 2016 Sooners were clearly evident last week, but mostly because of a very prepared and fortunate Houston team that was able to take full advantage.
But fans are used to seeing many OU teams under one of the most consistent coaches of all-time improve through the season and usually finish strong (2011, 2014, I’m looking at you.) This season’s wake-up call came earlier than most of us really thought it ever would, but to a worthy opponent. The Sooners, nonetheless, will play on and hope to clean up a few big things before the Brutus and the Buckeyes come to town next week…
1) Offensive Line Issues: Mainly, this is to obviously improve cohesion and communication, and I expect this isn’t an issue tomorrow especially at home. But some experience is needed, and it’d be nice to see the offense be able to stick to the game plan because of a strong start and limited penalties/broken drives. Many reps are coming for the two-deep, hopefully setting up a few big plays for Samaje and Joe in the first quarter. But it’s all about that line, boss.
2) QB-WR Cohesion: Rhythm, concentration and confidence – all this group needs to worry about this weekend. I’m hoping for a Mykel Jones sighting this weekend. The short routes were there last week, as Coach Stoops made mention in last Monday’s presser, so let’s get the ball out quickly, give the playmakers some space and go to work.
3) Secondary Identity: There is a cornerback on the roster talented and capable enough to start opposite Jordan Thomas. Who that is still a work in progress, but I feel like the young bucks will eat up more and more of Dakota’s playing time, especially if he keeps doing stuff like this:
4) Defensive Line Discipline: The pieces are in place on a promising defensive line to realistically finish near the top of the conference by season’s end. There are the usual discipline issues that surface in big games, no reminders needed, that appeared last weekend as well. OU could choose to allow these issues to hinder the development of or possibly define said D-Line that is teeming with talent and athleticism. Or the players can focus and improve like we’ve seen them do in so many seasons past. I bet on the latter.
5) Linebacker Experience: Lots of reps for young guys like Caleb Kelly, Ricky DeBerry and Kapri Doucet. But Obo and the others also need a game to go nuts. The warm-up for JT Barrett was Greg Ward, Jr., last week, but after a whole lot of chasing, can’t wait to see the middle of the defense make some plays against ULM. This unit, like the D-Line, could be excellent come season’s end. Will Johnson showed flashes last week and seems to be emerging as one of the leaders of a group in need of it. We’ve seen the Stoops Bros. develop young players well and quickly, so it’ll be fun to see lots of guys in the rotation getting some valuable experience.
UL-Monroe is not a great football team, but they do bring back quarterback Garrett Smith and running back Ben Luckett, both redshirt sophomores, from a team that won only two games last season. Smith last week threw for 208 yards and two touchdowns against Southern with 150 rushing yards and one touchdown on the ground, and Luckett added 110 yards and a score, as the Warhawks compiled 533 total yards of offense.
The Sooners opened the season in 2013 with a 34-0 home win against the Warhawks, and while a shutout isn’t a totally farfetched expectation for tomorrow, it’s likely OU still comes close to or covers (-46) the whopping spread. My score: OU wins 45-13.
As far as a few of the other notable games in this muted, sleep-walky Week 2, I’m taking…
Vols over Hokies 23-20 in a race track.
TCU at home over Arkansas 38-24
Hawkeyes over the ‘Clones in the Iowa Derby 28-21
Red Raiders over the Sun Devils in a fun one 49-42
tOSU over the Golden Hurricane 42-20
Louisville is already in action at Syracuse. And they look pretty damn good. It’ll be a barnburner against the Cougars to likely decide a whole lot in college football come November 17.
Back to business though.... One week at a time, OU. The beast is fully awake. Now with even more to prove and the season’s goals still in mind, the Sooners are ready to get after any and all foes the rest of the season. Time to shake off some hurt and rust, get back that swagger and play some physical Oklahoma Football!