In spite of a pair of convincing wins, sadness hovers over much of the state of Oklahoma following the season-ending knee injury suffered by ultra-talented running back Rodney Anderson during Saturday’s game vs. UCLA. It’s a bummer for a number of reasons — most notably the fact that it’s his third season-ending injury in four years —but I’m confident that he’ll come back from this and have a productive career in football. If anyone can do it, Rodney can certainly get it done.
In the meantime, the Oklahoma Sooners have to find something that works. Losing the most complete (and probably best overall) back in college football obviously stings for the offense as a whole, but all is not lost for this team. This is still the most talented roster in the Big 12, and it now appears to boast a defense that can do some damage.
Additionally, the running back room isn’t exactly devoid of talent. The do-it-all, home-run threat posed by Anderson is gone for 2018, but Trey Sermon is a patient, powerful and proven back who can be very productive and carry the load when needed. Having said that, expect to see a bit of the ‘hot hand’/committee approach from Riley once again, as Marcelias Sutton, Kennedy Brooks and TJ Pledger all have the potential to thrive in this offense.
Behind Trey Sermon, there's not a whole lot of experience there. Talented? Absolutely. But what will be intriguing is who earns those carries.— Eddie Radosevich (@Eddie_Rado) September 10, 2018
Marcelias Sutton: 9 carries, 71 yards 2 TD
TJ Pledger: 14 carries, 92 yards
Kennedy Brooks: 4 carries, 51 yards 1 TD pic.twitter.com/CNo8zT6elF
As far as the passing game is concerned, it’s not quite as pretty as what we’ve grown accustomed to over the past few years. However, it might not have to be. With a defense that appears to be up to the task against spread attacks (albeit against two inexperienced QBs with subpar offensive lines), this offense hopefully won’t feel the pressure to score on damn near every drive. Baker Mayfield was able to handle that, but it’s probably not reasonable to expect Kyler Murray — as talented as he may be — to bear that burden.
Speaking of Kyler, the redshirt junior has a few things to polish as the season progresses. He occasionally has trouble hitting guys in stride. He doesn’t always make the right read. Still, the guy went 19-33 for 306 yards and three TDs while also adding 69 yards on the ground — a nice contribution on a day in which the running backs struggled to get going. He’s not perfect, but he’s still able to make some throws that most others simply can’t.
Oh, and have we mentioned Kyler’s targets? That Marquise Brown guy is pretty good...
Marquise Brown has catches for 2⃣2⃣1⃣ yards through Oklahoma's first two games.— Sooner Gridiron (@soonergridiron) September 9, 2018
"Lights. Camera. Action. Hollywood Brown. 58 Yards. Game. Changer."
"Sometimes your Jimmy's just gotta be better than their Joe's, and that's this case right here."#BoomerSooner pic.twitter.com/lvkSFB5cCs
...and that CeeDee Lamb fellow is no slouch himself.
AD Miller is also stepping up in a big way, as he’s showing off the talent that has garnered so much praise in offseasons past. The fact that he has finally developed into someone who can be trusted is just gravy for this offense. Then there’s Grant Calcaterra, who hasn’t quite flashed the skills yet through two games but has the makings of a reliable threat in the red zone and over the middle. The young guys waiting the the wings — Charleston Rambo, Jaylen Robinson and Drake Stoops to name a few — could find ways to establish themselves, even if in limited roles.
As important as the people I’ve mentioned happen to be, this offensive line is the key to it all — which is a good thing. Did they look particularly sharp on Saturday? Not really, but there’s absolutely no reason to doubt the group’s ability to dominate the Big 12. Then there’s the head coach/OC, who happens to be the hottest name in coaching at the moment. Does anyone doubt his ability to adjust accordingly in this situation? I obviously don’t. With all of this in mind, Oklahoma is still the clear-cut top dog in this league.
1. Oklahoma (2-0) - OU looks like the best team in this conference, and a run at a College Football Playoff berth is still very much in the cards. Unfortunately, the recent injury development makes one a bit less confident in the team’s chances in the CFP if it were to make it that far. Losing the most dangerous weapon in college football undeniably stings, but I’m interested to see what Riley has up his sleeve moving forward.
2. TCU (2-0) - West Virginia has the better individual win/performance with its Week 1 victory over Tennessee in Charlotte. And no, TCU didn’t look incredible against SMU in the Battle for the Iron Skillet. Having said that, nothing that occurred this week was going to sway my decision from last week, and I’m still a bit more confident in TCU’s defense moving forward.
3. West Virginia (2-0) - WVU had more trouble (at least i the first half) with Youngstown State than I would’ve expected, but it’s not like Bo Pelini’s FCS program is a doormat. We can chalk it up to looking ahead to NC State, I guess.
4. Oklahoma State - Taylor Cornelius a.k.a. Corn Dog still doesn’t look like a confident quarterback, and that could be problematic this week as Boise State comes to Stillwater. The Broncos have received plenty of hype, but their two dominant wins are against UConn and Troy, so the jury is still out on them, as well. One thing is for sure — this is a pretty big game for the league, and I wouldn’t expect a dull affair. Does the Big 12’s drop-off exist behind three teams, or is Oklahoma State in the league’s upper echelon?
5. Iowa State (0-1) - Iowa State gained 188 yards in what was a very on-brand win for Iowa. Part of that can be attributed to the injury of Kyle Kempt (who is now day-to-day), but the offense really looked like it had a pulse in this one. Although it certainly speaks to Iowa’s defense, this didn’t look like the dangerous team we saw of the the in the latter portion of the 2017 season. However, the book certainly isn’t closed on that.
6. Texas (1-1) - Yup... a team that just defeated Tulsa by seven (7) points looks like the sixth-best team in the conference at this point. They’ll have a chance to change the narrative against USC this weekend, but I’m not counting on it (in spite of USC’s own issues). Do I think they’ll get better and end up going bowling? Probably, but they don’t look like that type of team at the moment.
7. Baylor (2-0) - This offense is going to score a lot of points this season. The defense is absolutely atrocious. The Bears currently have two very ‘mehhhh’ wins against two weak opponents, but a game against a decent Duke team presents an opportunity to make a statement this week.
8. Kansas State (1-1) - I didn’t think K-State would beat Mississippi State this past weekend, but I certainly expected some more fight out for the Wildcats. This team displays ineptitude in some of the areas at which it usually thrives. When coupling that with an inability to throw a forward pass, it could be a long year in Manhattan.
9. Texas Tech - The Red Raiders played Lamar this past weekend, so there’s nothing to see there. However, they face Ed Oliver this week, so please keep this team in your thoughts and prayers.
10. Kansas - Man... how far has Central Michigan fallen? They won in Stillwater two years ago (some would dispute that fact), but now they’re losing to Kansas at home? That’s pretty rough, no?
Big 12 Schedule - Week 3
Oklahoma at Iowa State - ABC, 11 a.m.
Rutgers at Kansas - FSN, 11 a.m.
Duke at Baylor - FS1, 11 a.m.
West Virginia at NC State - ESPNU, 2:30 p.m.
Boise State at Oklahoma State - ESPN, 2:30 p.m.
UTSA at Kansas State - FSN, 3 p.m.
Houston at Texas Tech - FOX, 3:15
USC at Texas - FOX, 7 p.m.
Ohio State vs. TCU - ABC, 7 p.m.