Welcome to conference play! We are here and the Oklahoma Sooners are welcoming in a new conference member with whom will start a rivalry that will last all of about four hours. The Sooners are riding high coming out of non-con play and kicking the crap out of instate school Tulsa last week. What can you really complain about? Not a lot up to this point.
In 2022, the Sooners beat Nebraska, 49-14, entering conference play. Everyone was riding high. What waited the next week? A team coming off a disappointing loss to a Group of Five team. OU’s opponent had a mobile QB, a good head coach and a great game plan.
The Sooners lost, and that is when we all saw the first obvious flaw of the team after a week of “Can this team make the playoff in a bad Big 12” talk coming out the land of corn.
OU fans should be excited, but there are some similarities that are hard to ignore about Week 4.
What will I be watching?
- Dillon Gabriel’s sack rate has been outstanding. Only been sacked once this entire year. The offensive line looks better, Gabriel looks more mobile, and it is showing in the stats. HOWEVER, Arkansas State, SMU and Tulsa aren’t exactly scaring anyone at night. Cincinnati, while playing lesser competition, has 11 already this year. It is a real — well, kinda real — test of this group. If this game “blew up” because something wasn’t as good as we thought, I would say this would be my No. 1 guess. The interior worried me at the start of the year, maybe it worries me on Saturday? Yeah yeah yeah, straws.
- The Jackson Arnold package, has been a roller coaster, hasn’t it? Can I tell you what I find the dumbest about it? It hasn’t worked hardly at all because the other team is stacking the box like Jerome Bettis is taking the snap. However, in garbage time when Arnold is just, you know, playing QB... he has been great. Hear me out — maybe the Arnold should just play QB? Like he has done really well? I can’t believe this in an idea I honestly have to pitch. You have a strong back in Tawee Walker, so maybe just use him in short-yardage situations?
- Finally, the defense creating sacks. Emory Jones will give the Sooners chances to end drives with his scrambles. The Sooners’ pass rush and attacking style of defense have been great at such this year, HOWEVER... all that’s fine until that rush doesn’t get home or Jones slips through a tackle and is off the races. Mobile quarterbacks bring oppurtunity and risk for a defense, and navigating that will be big for Oklahoma.
Know your opponent: Cincinnati Bearcats
- Jones, at times this year and in his career, has been one of the most dynamic players in the sport. He also is a car crash at times, and which player shows up will matter. The Oklahoma defense, because of Jones, could look like world beaters on Saturday. They also could get exposed if there are weaknesses in this defense.
- Corey Kiner, the lead back for Cincy, has been explosive this year. Even if you take away his longest rush of the season of 68 yards, he still averaging just a hair under 5 yards per carry. Not allowing Kiner to make a few plays to keep the Bearcats in it will be big.
- As mentioned above, the pass rush from the Bearcats has been solid. Eric Phillips & Malik Vann are the guys who are coming off the edge. Testing the tackles will be good for us to see. Both are 6’3 and about 270 pounds, creating large men to push in those tackles who everyone seems to be happy with so far. If you are a Bearcat fan, you are hoping of those guys to possibly force penalties like the Sooner’s have had a times.
Last week was obviously an amazing performance. Hard to really nitpick it too much. I was critical of the third down and fourth down offense and how did they do? Six of seven in those situations with the first team offense. Ya know, what am I going to belly ache about? The Sooners have a better test this week, but not world beaters. I don’t know what else to do then expect something positive.
I’m thinking a 41-20 Sooners win on the road to march to 4-0 and end their conference rivalry with Cincy quickly.
Talk to you knuckleheads next week!