The No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners (6-0, 3-0) are back in the comfy confines of the Palace on the Prairie after making a comeback for the ages in the Red River Showdown last Saturday. This weekend, the TCU Horned Frogs (3-2, 1-1) are due up, pitting offensive mastermind Lincoln Riley against Gary Patterson’s defensive wisdom for the eighth time in seven seasons.
OU has been especially dominant at the Palace as of late, having won 24 of its last 25 home games dating back to the 2017 season, including an active streak of seven consecutive victories in Norman.
Date, Time & TV: Saturday, Oct. 16 at 6:30 p.m. CT on ABC
Line: Oklahoma -13.5 (as of Friday at 4 p.m. CT)
Who does Lincoln Riley start at QB?
That’s the big question that’s been on everyone’s mind ever since true freshman Caleb Williams came in for Spencer Rattler and led OU to a record-breaking comeback victory against Texas. Once the celebratory dust finally settled, things took a strange turn this week after the OU Daily published a report that Williams was practicing with the first-team, leading to Riley pulling the plug on all media access until after this Saturday’s game against TCU.
All QB drama aside, it’s pretty plain to see for anyone who watched the Red River game that Williams gave Oklahoma’s offense something it hadn’t shown in its previous five contests. Whether it was his energy or his play-making abilities, the team around him responded and looked more like the championship-caliber group they were projected to be coming into the season. If you ask me, I believe Williams will get the start against TCU, but I also expect to see Rattler play a significant portion of the game throughout the night. Bottom line: while this isn’t an ideal situation for the Sooners to be in mid-way through the regular season, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing to have two capable quarterbacks competing for the No. 1 spot.
Watch out for TCU’s Zach Evans and Kendre Miller
The Horned Frogs have leaned heavily on their run game this season, and for the most part they’ve been successful on the ground, production-wise. Sophomore RB Zach Evans leads the way for Gary Patterson’s offense, as he’s put up some monster stats in just five games. Coming into the weekend, he’s recorded 586 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 74 carries, and he’s added 95 receiving yards and another score on seven catches. Keep an eye on his availability, however, as he was sidelined in the second half against Texas Tech last week after sustaining what has since been reported to be a minor foot injury.
Sophomore Kendre Miller has also proven himself to be a threat from the backfield, racking up 302 yards and six TDs on 34 rushes. Additionally, both Miller and Evans top the Big 12 with 8.9 and 7.9 average yards per carry, respectively, so it’ll be paramount that OU’s run defense steps up like it has for the majority of this season to contain TCU’s explosive duo.
Gary Patterson’s defense has struggled in 2021
Gary Patterson’s name is synonymous with defense. That’s what happens when you’ve built a reputation of fielding some of the smartest and most productive defenses in college football over the years. However, that hasn’t been the case for the Horned Frogs in 2021. By the numbers, TCU ranks 91st nationally in turnovers gained (six), 95th in third-down defense (.422 conversion percentage), 99th in total defense (429.2 yards allowed per game), 116th in rush defense (206.0 rushing yards allowed per game), 122nd in total team sacks (6.0) and 126th in tackles-for-loss per contest (3.8) coming into this weekend.
Needless to say, those kinds of statistics do not bode well for Patterson’s team considering they’re about to face an Oklahoma offense that may have finally turned the corner and hit another gear with a potentially new starting QB. If these figures stay true on Saturday, it could be another long night for Gary’s group.
Does Kennedy Brooks pick up where he left off?
Kennedy Brooks is quietly building himself a case as the most underrated running back in OU history. His patience is second-to-none, and he’s deceptively fast when he breaks into the open field. Coming off a career-high 217 yards and a pair of game-changing touchdowns, what will he do against a vulnerable TCU run defense?
Well for starters, in two career games (‘18 and ‘19) against the Horned Frogs, Brooks has carried the ball a total of 43 times for 317 rushing yards (7.4 average ypc) and one touchdown. That’s about as dominant of a two-game sample as you’ll find from any one player. Given what he looked like a week ago, his presence on the field should be squarely on the minds of Gary Patterson and company.
Looking at how much the TCU defense has struggled this season, especially against teams with respectable rushing attacks, I don’t envision OU having any real difficulty with generating yards on the ground. As anyone who has watched Oklahoma under Lincoln Riley could tell you, when his offenses are able to run the ball at will, it’s nearly impossible to stop. I believe Caleb Williams will get the starting nod, and both he and Kennedy Brooks will hurt the Horned Frogs with their legs throughout the night. That’ll gradually open up play action for guys like Marvin Mims and Mike Woods to take the top off of Patterson’s secondary. On the other side, the Sooners’ defensive line and linebackers will have their hands full with defending Zach Evans, but the pass rush be able to hurry Max Duggan into some dangerous throws that will keep them from moving the ball consistently. In the end, I see this as a relatively drama-free outing for the home team from start to finish.
Oklahoma 38, TCU 17
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