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Oklahoma Sooners Football vs. UTEP Preview: Who will step up on defense?

Oklahoma has an easy test in Week 1 — drink some water and enjoy the win but don’t make too much of it.

PUBG Mobile New Mexico Bowl - UTEP v Fresno State Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images

Whats good?

Happy Game Day, congrats on making it through one of the longest weeks of the year.

I was talking about this with some friends this week. All summer we count down the days until college football is back. The days crawl by but also the weeks seem to blend together.

Then Week 1 gets here. Everything comes to a screeching halt. Time moves slower and it feels like it takes us forever to get to Saturday.

Well, we’re here!

Oklahoma will be taking on UTEP to open up the 2022 season. Last time the Oklahoma Sooners opened up the season with UTEP? Yup, your memory serves you correct. 2017, Lincoln Riley’s first game as head coach.

Well that seems like a flashpoint in OU history.

Okay what about the time before that? Yup, man you have a good memory. 2012, the famous mustard game.

That is right, UTEP was using mustard to treat cramps on the sideline. As only a totally normal athletic department does (probably not a terrible idea tbh).

Wow, OU vs UTEP has some history to it. How weird. Well, unknown reader. Let me tell you, it does not stop there. THE FIRST TIME OU PLAYED UTEP?

... 2000. Bob’s second season. Led by a first year transfer QB who was left handed. You can’t make this up.

Storylines to watch

Tons to get through here and not enough time.

  • What kind of rotation do we see from our guy Jay Valai on the back end? Obviously we had a lot of conversation around Jaden Davis being named a starter of DJ Graham but how does the rotation work? Trey Morrison & CJ Coldon are both listed on the 3 deep but neither seem to be knocking on the door of a starting spot. Those two guys, both being red shirt seniors, I am sure expect playing time. How much do they get? Justin Broiles is listed as a co-starter with Key Lawerence... Chisholm’s worst nightmare. How do they rotate there?
  • Defensive line is the biggest concern for me now on this team. BV’s comments weren’t exactly building up a ton of faith that room has solved all their problems in camp. Grimes and Downs are starting on the edge but behind them? Lots of questions. Redmond, a guy who was labeled as a potential breakout star for this squad all off season seems to be in a position battle with Jordan Kelly. I have no idea how to take that and honestly we might not even after Saturday.
  • Gabriel’s target share is fascinating. Mims being pushed inside to allow Farooq and Wease work on the boundaries is a slight surprise but not exactly knocking me on my butt. Obviously that is not even considering the fact they have a pass catching back in Eric Gray and a tight end who returned to campus under the expectation he would be used in Brayden Willis. My guess? Mims, Wease, Willis, Gray, and Farooq in that order.
  • I am not sold that we should feel awesome about that offensive line unit. Sooners bring in four guys who were on the roster last year three of which who were starters. This group struggled. It is one of my biggest “red flag” indicators in college football. “well Chizzy, they have 11 returning starters so think about how good they will be this year with all that experience coming back”... well I mean.. sure? If you are saying that about a unit that was good the year prior? But if you offensive line stunk and all those guys come back congrats on a second year of bad players. YES, I know about the strength and conditioning program but I am just sticking to my guns. I am worried about the offensive line.
  • Does Brent give in and start calling the Cheetah position the Roy again? I have personally asked that he makes the switch, let’s see if he meets my demands.

Know your opponent: Who is UTEP?

  • UTEP was 7-6 last year but don’t let that record fool you. Their schedule was really underwhelming. Their wins over New Mexico State, Bethune-Cookman, New Mexico, Old Dominion, Southern Mississippi, Louisiana Tech, and Rice. Not exactly murderer’s row of opponents.
  • UTEP struggled with a ton of turnovers last year. Interceptions specifically, Starting (and returning) QB Gavin Hardison coughed up 13 interceptions last in as many games. Sooner’s secondary will have the chance to start this defensive rebuild on a high note.
  • UTEP’s offensive line, returning only 2 starters, gave up 19 sacks which tells me the Sooner’s SHOULD walk out of this game with 4 sacks. “Chisholm! Thats way more than they gave up per game last year! Such high expectations!” Yup. UTEP didn’t play a single power 5 team last year and struggled to block. Reggie Grimes should be writing a children’s book in the pocket because he is spending so much time back there on Saturday.
  • The Miners defense was the strength of their two units last year finishing 46th in the country (offense was 77th) so Gabriel and the offense has the tougher assignment. Miners bringing back 8 starters including their three leading tackers from last season. 25 sacks, a little under 2 a game. They gave up 3.9 yards per rush. So.. I don’t know even then I don’t think that it should be much of a cause for concern.

Final thoughts

  • OU should dominate. I am on the record, I think Kent State is the tougher game next week. Sooners should look good, give the fan base probably a little too much confidence. Gabriel looks good, Defense is suffocating. Party hard in Norman the new era has begun. Next week, honestly a little more fun.


UTEP - 13