The Oklahoma Sooners narrowly secured a win in Provo, Utah, against BYU and now faces an intriguing matchup against the TCU Horned Frogs — OU’s final regular-season game in the Big 12. Here are the keys to an Oklahoma victory on Friday:
Oklahoma’s Pass Rush
One of the most crucial factors in this game is the Sooners’ pass rush against TCU. While Oklahoma is rebounding from what might be considered their worst defensive performance against BYU, this week’s matchup appears more favorable. TCU’s Josh Hoover has found success through the air but operates mostly as a one-dimensional QB with limited mobility outside the pocket. This allows Oklahoma’s front seven to be more aggressive against a TCU squad that has conceded 18 sacks this season. Additionally, Oklahoma’s secondary, particularly at corner, is grappling with injuries. A consistent pass rush would alleviate pressure on that unit against a solid TCU receiving corps.
The Sooners are potentially heading into Friday’s matchup without starting QB Dillion Gabriel, who sustained an “upper body” injury against BYU. We could see the five-star true-freshman, Jackson Arnold, lead the Oklahoma offense through their final game in the Big 12. Arnold started slow in the second half against BYU but showed flashes of his elite potential as the game went on. A key for Oklahoma would be getting their young quarterback settled in. Fortunately for the Sooners, their run game is finally starting to hit its stride, with Gavin Sawchuk having three consecutive games with over 100 yards rushing. Blending that run game with some routine throws would go a long way in getting Arnold in rhythm early.
TCU comes into Norman as one of the most turnover-prone teams in the country, posting a -8 turnover margin. On the Oklahoma side, the Sooners have done incredibly well in this metric with a +12 turnover margin. Theoretically, the Sooners should have plenty of opportunities to create turnovers against the Horned Frogs. Arguing the turnover margin is key is usually obvious, but it could be particularly important for this matchup for one reason — Jackson Arnold. The excitement surrounding his potential first start in an Oklahoma uniform is palpable, but you have to understand that with a true freshman comes mistakes, and mistakes lead to turnovers. This places more importance on Oklahoma’s defense to capitalize on opportunities.
Understanding Four-Down Territory
With only one game left in the regular season, Oklahoma sits outside the top-100 in field goals with a 66% overall accuracy. That percentage drops to just 58% when you look at the last four games with a field goal attempt. At this point, the field goal unit simply isn’t reliable outside of 20 yards. Fortunately for the Sooners, TCU’s red zone defense has been lacking throughout the season, ranking just 74th in the country overall, as well as 64th in the country in opponent fourth down conversions. This should give the staff confidence to take their chances to convert or score on late downs.