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Oklahoma Football vs. Tulsa Preview: Sooners travel to their first road game

Sooners - after a slow 3 quarters last week - try to show a new gear they didn’t have last week.

NCAA Football: Tulsa at Houston Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

What’s good?

Last week, we watched the Oklahoma Sooners scrape and claw while sitting on 14 points for much of the second half. Begging the SMU offense to keep committing penalties and making crippling mistakes. SMU crawled within three points after a 13 play-drive, and finally the Sooners woke up.

Gabriel responded with touchdowns on two of his last four drives, and the Sooners pulled away. Whether we were filing out of the stadium or closing the ESPN app, I assume we all came to the same question...

What exactly was that and OH MY GOD WHO WAS ON THE FIELD?

The second question took the forefront of our minds, and 100% rightfully so, but I would like to ask this again... what exactly was last Saturday?

While agree with Brent Venables that it is likely a game they lose last year, I would like to respond that while that is true, it does not rub off the skepticism I felt for the offense from the eight-minute mark of the second quarter to the 12-minute mark of the fourth quarter between touchdowns. This offense, like last season, seems to really get stuck in the mud.

At least this year the defense looks like it can hold more water, because I think they will need to again this year at some point.

What will I be watching?

  • The big one for me — one frankly carrying over from last year — Why does it feel like on 3rd down or 4th down if I paused my TV I could tell you exactly what play OU was running purely based off formation? The Sooners feel very predictable on ‘key’ downs. It gave them issues against SMU, and while I don’t believe that Tulsa is as good of a team, it’s a trend the Sooners can’t allow to creep back in. Does anyone else remember West Virginia last year?
  • Peyton Bowen has done it. Freshman come, they have stars, people get excited about 18-year-olds with more stars than other kids with stars and the train leaves the station of hype nation. That happened for Peyton Bowen after his dramatic switch from Oregon to Oklahoma. Well, through two weeks it seems incredibly warranted. I need more of Bowen on the back end of this explosive defense. The safety rotation has been fun to watch, but I think Bowen and Bowman makes for great t-shirt possibilities and we can’t let that sneak through our fingers.
  • Farooq is the most talented guy in this wide receiving core — particularly with the ball in his hands. I have been plesantly suprised by Anthony, but the person who I believe can solve some of those ‘key down’ issues I raised earlier is Farooq. We saw the wiggle and talent against SMU, so the Sooners have to make sure he leads the team in targets. No way around it.
  • Finally, something else that I think seems to be carrying over from last year to this — The Oklahoma decision making on 4th downs has been interesting. Ultra-aggressive at times and conservative at others. No real rhyme or reason for either it seems to the naked eye, more of just a gut read in the moment by Lebby. Ya know, maybe that works. I, however, have always just felt if you are predictable in your aggression it allows your players to play with confidence that they know what will happen next. The OC’s job is more difficult as well, with many choices being made in a small window. I don’t love that process, and it bit them a couple of times last week. Can they dial that in?

Know your opponent: Tulsa Golden Hurricane

  • Tulsa just lost 43-10 to Micahel Penix Jr. and the Washington Huskies. This is the bar. No way around it. I think saying that the Sooners are a ‘Washington-level team’ is more than fair in 2023. If the Sooners want some national media push, handling a common opponent in a common way only makes too much sense. If we come out of this with a Sooner win, but Tulsa scores 24 or the Sooners only muster 30, I believe it will be a disappointing performance. Washington gave us the bar.
  • Cardell Williams & Roman Fuller are the two names to start at QB for Tulsa. To my knowledge, that is very much up in the air htis week. QB1 Bryalon Braxton got hurt on the first series of the year for Tulsa. Williams, a freshman, is the one who got the first swing and put up good numbers — three TDs and an average completion of 10 yards is nothing to sneeze at. Williams is my guess at who we see first, and OU can take advantage of the fact that he does hold on to the ball. Williams has been sacked three times this year already.
  • Jordan Fuller is the No. 1 guy in the running game. The Hurricane are averaging just under five yards per carry. Solid number for Tulsa, even after facing a Washington defense. Tulsa has leaned more pass-oriented, but I think with Oklahoma coming in, we see a heavy dose of run early trying to keep Danny Stutsman and crew guessing on what is coming next.
  • Kendarin Ray is the leading tackler from the Tulsa defense and plays downhill from his safety spot. If the Sooners can catch this right, they stand a good chance to use this aggressive play style against the Hurricane much like Penix did last week. Shots over the top should be there, and it is going to come down on Ray to play it right and not allow Anthony to slip by him becuase his eyes are in the backfield.

Score Prediction:

I felt so much more confident last week coming off the 73-0 game... which is obvious. The offensive stuff worries me. I obviously don’t think the Sooners are in danger of losing this game, but I do think it can have “mud moments” from this offense.

33-17, Sooners win on the road and march to 3-0.

Talk to you knuckleheads next week!