Well look... I thought the Oklahoma Sooners were going to be improved. I, however, have been trying to water down the overhype of this offseason. The Sooners could improve but not run the table and shove the Big 12 to the floor on the way out the door like your old bully in sixth grade.
Saturday did not change my mind on that, but I think it is going to be harder to keep expectations in check.
OU obliterating Arkansas State in the manner they did will set everyone’s imagination into overdrive. It is frightening what Oklahoma could look like if that is any reasonable parallel to the rest of the season.
Bad news? It is not. Arkansas State stands to be the worst team OU plays this year. Worse news? While SMU is absolutely better, I will likely feel the same next week. The Sooners should dominate this game again despite Brent’s respect of the Mustangs from the podium.
Last weekend was fun though, huh?
What will I be watching for?
- Oklahoma’s offense literally running Arkansas State off the field really isn’t that shocking. Truthfully I expect the same this weekend. Maybe not 70 points, but a good outing. This, however, will be a much bigger test for that Oklahoma defense. Pass rush will be key because SMU always has explosive playmakers on the outside and a QB who can get it to them. The big thing is forcing that QB off his mark and pushing that timing offense off tempo (basically what every team is going to try to do to OU this year).
- The running back room remains interesting to me. Sooner’s trotted out Tawee Walker first, and I think that job was clearly won this summer. Walker showed a little pop in the run game last week, but I remain incredibly optimistic about Jovantae Barnes. He led the Sooners in rushing last week but had five more attempts playing in the second half. Barnes did, however, have the longest run of the day at 16 yards. Yes, Oklahoma’s longest rushing attempt was 16 yards. The next closest was 11. Those numbers are fine, but as someone who has a flair for the dramatic, can this offense minus Eric Gray in the run game create a big explosive play? I think so, but I would like to see it, too!
- More Jackson Arnold? Yes please. Now, I for one think Arnold has a chance to be everything your Oklahoma Sooner super fan uncle thinks he can be. Hell, he showed us so on Saturday. I do stare at that 11 of 11 mark and think, “Well, I’ve got to see more of Arnold”. This year, hopefully we see much less of the back-up QB in meaningful games. However, in the ones that Oklahoma could possibly run up the score? There are a few of those left on the schedule and I for one look forward to watching more Arnold and that arm this weekend.
- Finally, Nic Anderson? Jayden Gibson? WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN MY WHOLE LIFE. A rocket down field in the passing game is may favorite thing in football. Why? Chicks dig the long ball. I hope to see that Anderson and Gibson — two forgotten receivers in the offseason — actually have the goods, because those explosive plays were so much fun. Give me more Anderson and Gibson, please and thank you.
Know your opponent: SMU Mustangs
- We are all familiar with SMU over the recent years. High-flying offense. This year, the ACC juggernaut has Preston Stone at the reigns. Stone only had 43 pass attempts all of last season but put up 37 in Week 1 for the Mustangs. Nothing has changed, but Stone has shown that he fits right in to the product of this offense. Stone was successful passing to all levels last week. If Okahoma’s pass rush can’t make him move off his spot, Stone has the ability to march down the field a few times just based off the scheme and talent on the outside. Louisiana Tech isn’t Oklahoma, but they didn’t muster a single sack last week against this Mustang offensive line.
- I am allllllllll the way in on LJ Johnson Jr. He put up a monster 67-yard run last week. I expect SMU to test to see if the 48 rushing yards allowed last week were more about Arkansas State or Oklahoma. If SMU can keep the defensive line worried about Johnson and Jaylan Knighton (a former OU commit!), it gives Stone more time. I really, truly believe in the game of pretend dominoes in my head — the first that has to fall for the Mustangs to have success is the run game. Without that, I don’t see how Oklahoma doesn’t dominate defensively. If SMU can run the ball? Maybe OU wins but not quite by the number we are expecting.
- Dink and dunk. While SMU did hit some long shots last week, most of the passing game lived underneath with guys like RJ Maryland and Moochie Dixon contributing. Oklahoma’s corners, if given the chance, will be able to break and attack the catch point on some of these timing routes that SMU lives on. I can only speak for myself, but DBs Billy Bowmen, Reggie Pearson, Gentry Williams, or Woodi Washington breaking down hill on a post or slant route and taking it the other direction sounds like a lot of fun. No interceptions last week, but if Oklahoma can time up this offense and Stone, they will have their chances.
- Last week, freshman Alex Kilgore racked up two sacks from the linebacker spot. Kobe Wilson is the guy I expect to start there, but my point will translate the same. Oklahoma will be tested by the SMU defense with blitzes. Watch for Ahmad Walker, Jaqwondis Burns, Kilgore and Wilson to come downhill on passing situations. The offensive line for OU will have to communicate, and RBs will have to pick up blitzes. We saw last season what Gabriel looks like under pressure, and SMU will try to recreate that magic by being aggressive from that position.
I like SMU a lot more that Arkansas State (duh), but I still am not totally convinced that this is a real test. Oklahoma looks ready to show last year was a fluke, but the real tests don’t come until they get to Dallas. Everything from now to then should just be, as Bob Ross would say, happy accidents. Even if things don’t go perfect like last week, Oklahoma should win comfortably. With Oklahoma favored by 16-ish, I will take OU 55 and SMU 23 in an easy win, but a little tape for Brent to yell about on Monday.
Talk to you knuckleheads next week!