After a barnburner in Lubbock, the Oklahoma Sooners head back to Norman for a Bedlam battle with the Oklahoma State Cowboys. The Pokes sit at 5-4 overall and 2-4 in conference play. Their defense has looked a lot like Oklahoma’s this year, meaning they have been wildly inconsistent on that side. Since this is a rivalry game, I am guessing the Texas version of OSU shows up. This means that Oklahoma needs to come out firing as well and get off to a much better start than they did last Saturday in Lubbock. Time for Bedlam folks!
Date: Saturday November 10th
Time & TV: 2:30PM CT on ABC
Spread: Oklahoma (-21)
Murray and the Preacher
Over the last few weeks, the Oklahoma rushing attack has been flat-out dominant. Kyler Murray has been great picking his spots running the ball, Trey Sermon is in top form and the offensive line has been bullying people at the line of scrimmage. While I am not surprised that the ground game has taken off, I had my doubts about the offensive line early in the year. They were struggling to open up holes and Sermon saw tacklers in the backfield far too often. Since the talent was always there, it was just a matter of guys like Bobby Evans and Cody Ford getting used to their new tackle spots and redshirt freshman Creed Humphrey adjusting to being the starting center. With the line getting a push, Trey Sermon has been able to flourish. He not only looks faster out on the field, but his vision and patience seem to have improved since 2017. The amazing part is that he has still maintained his power even with a slightly learner frame. I expect Sermon to go over 100 yards again on Saturday and for Kennedy Brooks to break off a big run or two as well.
With a offensive front that is able to dominate the line of scrimmage, Oklahoma can both wear down opposing defenses with Trey Sermon and help spring Kennedy Brooks and Kyler Murray loose for big runs. The power running game also keeps opposing defenses off balance while letting the Sooner defense rest. Against another good running team in Oklahoma State, the OU rushing attack will be huge. The Sooner defensive front seven needs to stay fresh against dynamic backs Justice Hill and Chuba Hubbard. If they don't get enough rest on the sideline before getting back onto the field, it could spell trouble for the Sooners.
Oklahoma Defensive Front vs. The OSU Offensive Line
Despite boasting a strong rushing attack, the OSU offensive line has struggled mightily in pass protection. The offensive line has given up an average of three sacks per game, which gives them a ranking of 108 out of 129 FBS programs. The Pokes have also given up a staggering 50 tackles for loss, which means that offensive line gets beat on a lot of plays. This weakness on the Oklahoma State offensive line creates an opportunity for the Oklahoma defensive front.
So far this year, the Oklahoma defensive front has been extremely mediocre in terms of getting after the opposing quarterbacks and total sacks. The numbers support this point; Oklahoma ranks 55th out of a total of 129 FBS programs in team sacks through nine games. This ranking is in spite of the fact that Oklahoma has yet to play a really good offensive line. Luckily, they get to go up against a reeling Oklahoma State unit this week.
To improve their sack numbers and put pressure on OSU QB Taylor Cornelius, the Oklahoma front seven needs to do a couple things. First, more linebacker blitzes should be utilized. When Kenneth Murray and Curtis Bolton have been sent on blitzes, it has been a net positive for the Sooner defense. Both players excel at hitting the right gaps and timing their blitzes well. In addition to the linebacker blitz, a four-man front should continue to be used by Ruffin Mcneill. This allows for Ronnie Perkins and Kenneth Mann (and now Jalen Redmond, as well) to get pressure on the quarterback and for the interior lineman get more push.
Speaking of the interior lineman, guys like Neville Gallimore, Amani Bledsoe, Dillon Faamatua, and Marquise Overton need to consistently generate more of a push. The interior defensive line has been solid playing the run this year but has not been as successful in terms of disrupting the pocket. When the interior of a defensive line generates a pass rush, it forces the quarterback to leave the pocket and sometimes into the hands of the edge rushers. With more help from the interior, Mark Jackson, Jalen Redmond, and Ronnie Perkins should be able to get more sacks and pressures from the outside. Pressure will be key against the OSU offense on Saturday, because the receivers are the real deal and can be found if Corn Dog has enough time.
OSU Receivers vs. the Oklahoma Secondary
After two strong games against TCU and Kansas State, the Oklahoma secondary seemed to understandably regress a little bit against Texas Tech last Saturday. With that being said, they made some plays when they had to and returned a two-point conversion late in the game to swing the momentum.
Against Oklahoma State, I expect the Sooner secondary to give up some big plays against Tylan Wallace and the talented OSU receivers. While I wish they could drastically improve in coverage, I do not see that happening right away. This means that they have to create turnovers and come down with interceptions when they get the chance. The quandary that Ruffin Mcneill faces is that Parnell Motley has the best hands of anyone in the secondary but also is the guy who gets burned the most. Tre brown and Tre Norwood will likely be the starters again and need to do a better job of coming down with the football when they get the chance. Tre Brown has been the best cover corner for this defense and will hopefully be able to pick off Taylor Cornelius to change the tone of the game.
At the safety spots, Oklahoma will need to be on point as well. They will need to respect Justice Hill on the ground while also trying not to get beat over the top. This can be a tough task for any set of safeties, especially if Khalil Haughton and Brendan Radley-Hiles are unable to go again this week (I’m somewhat confident about the latter being good to go). The good news for this safety group is that Robert Barnes continues to improve. He showed off his range and athleticism with his key interception last week and now has some extra motivation with OSU RB Justice Hill poking fun at him in a recent tweet. Let’s hope this extra push will lead to a strong Bedlam performance from Barnes. At the other safety spot, Jordan Parker still needs to find his groove. The talent is there for Parker, he just needs to some more time acclimating to the safety position after playing corner for Oklahoma in 2016 and missing all of 2017.
Seibert in the Record Books
After setting the NCAA record for extra points made(281) and attempted(285), Oklahoma kicker Austin Seibert has his sights set on the Oklahoma points record this week. With four points, Seibert will tie former Oklahoma kicker Michael Hunnicutt as the all-time Oklahoma points leader. My bet is it happens this weekend with a few extra points and a field goal. Seibert has had an amazing career and he has earned this record. Hopefully he can continue to stay on track and hit some big kicks for Oklahoma during “Championship November”.
Ultimately, the Oklahoma offense will be too much for the Cowboys in this one. I see this being a tight game through three quarters and then Oklahoma pulling away late. I still have my reservations about the Oklahoma defense, so it will likely be another high-scoring Bedlam affair.
Prediction- Oklahoma 48, Oklahoma State 35