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Blogging about college football by an Oklahoma Sooners fan.

Podcast: Picks Trying Not to Suck and OU-Texas Review

Oklahoma fans have been basking in the warm glow of another blowout win against Texas. The Skinny joins BH for a podcast to give their weekly sports betting picks before taking a Red River Shootout victory lap.

Skinny and I discuss:

*Where 2012 ranks in terms of Oklahoma's biggest wins over Texas.
*The impact of Mike Stoops' return on the program.
*What changed with the OU offense.
*Where does Texas go from here?
*Does this put Oklahoma back in the national title hunt?

(Subscribe to Blatant Homerism's Podcast through iTunes. Please rate and review the show if you get the chance, too. Thanks.)

Dumpster Fires of the Week: Bevo, well-done

BevoWe have a new No. 1, and it's a team many thought to be a darkhose Big 12 championship candidate and BCS team.

1. Texas

Not quite sure if Bevo doused with lighter fluid in a dumpster qualifies as Texas BBQ, but Mack Brown, Manny Diaz and Bryan Harsin must seem to think that they are creating some kind of haute nouveau cuisine. That's the only explanation for the Longhorns looking as bad as they did on Saturday. It's your biggest rivalry and a must-win game, and UT got completely dominated.

SEC-style D apparently has taken on touch-football tackling. Offensively, Bryan Harsin just got dominated by Mike Stoops. It's the third 60-plus outing in a win by Bob Stoops over Mack and the fourth with 50-plus scored points.

Mack's program overhaul that started after the awful 2010 season appears to be in need of a complete overhaul of its own. In 2011, UT could not score. In 2012, UT can't stop anyone. Can Mack survive another 6-6 season?

2. Auburn

Auburn is still competing for the No. 1 spot with a terrible game against a terrible Ole Miss team. Auburn actually scored 20 points for the first time in SEC play, but somehow gave up 41 points.

A friend texted me that Gene Chizik had been fired on Saturday, and I completely believed it. It's a total mess, and Auburn hasn't played Alabama or Georgia yet. Auburn does have two awful non-conference games in November to
pad the schedule a little, but a three-win season is a real possibility if the War Eagle cannot beat Vandy this weekend.

3. West Virginia Defense

You just knew that there would come a game where Geno Smith was a little off and the WVU defense would need to play much better. Instead, the opposite happened versus Texas Tech: Smith really struggled, and WVU – in a performance on some level worse than the UT debacle in Dallas – gave up 35 in the first half. The worst play was a sprint draw to a Tech running back with 30 seconds left before halftime that saw him outrun the entire WVU defense for 53-yard score. Tech QB Seth Doege broke his previous record (against a horrible Brent Venables defense) with a new high of more than 500 yards passing.

4. Kentucky

Should UK be on here? Does anyone in Lexington even realize that they have a football team?

When Arkansas beats your team 49-7, even on a low sliding scale like Kentucky football, you've become a total dumpster fire.

5. UT's Milli Vanilli DB Duo

I usually follow a strict rule for the Dumpster Fires: Coaches and teams are fair game, but individual players are out of bounds. However, the awfulness of this tackle attempt by Texas defensive backs Mykele Thompson and Adrian Phillips on Trey Millard deserves its' own listing in the top five, since the animated GIF will live in Sooner fan lore forever.

Thompson appears to be assuming some kind of fetal attacking position out of fear of seeing Millard running unopposed for 20 yards. He hits the ground like a stunned goat. Meanwhile, Phillips is trying some jump tackle. Congrats on a Milli Vanilli-like effort.

Kansas has played spoiler to Sooners before

Charlie Weis

Kansas, with a 1-5 record, appears to be an easy win for Oklahoma Saturday night. But the Jayhawks have spoiled the Sooners' party before.

Barry Switzer had not lost a single game in two-and-a-half seasons (29-0-1) before OU hosted the Jayhawks, unranked with a 5-3 record, in 1975. Oklahoma, the defending national champion, held a 28-game winning streak and 37-game unbeaten streak. The Sooners had not lost a game since 1972.

Second-ranked OU took a 3-0 lead on Tony DiRienzo’s field goal, but Kansas took over and rolled to a 23-3 victory thanks to Nolan Cromwell’s three touchdowns.

Nine years later, No. 2 Oklahoma limped into Lawrence with a 5-0-1 record. Danny Bradley, the Sooners’ starting quarterback, was sidelined with ankle and finger injuries. Inexperienced freshman quarterback Troy Aikman replaced him. Defensive end Kevin Murphy also was sidelined with a sprained foot and fullback Earl Johnson sat out with a busted kneecap.

The Sooners’ offense was basic and conservative due to Aikman’s lack of experience. They committed six turnovers—three interceptions, two fumbles and a blocked punt. Kansas capitalized on five of those errors en route to a 28-11 victory.

Ironically, the Sooners won the national championship each of those years they lost to KU. The Jayhawks have put a scare into the Sooners on a few other occasions when OU seemed invulnerable with a Top 10 ranking.

No. 3 Oklahoma traveled to Lawrence in 1950 to meet a 5-2 Kansas team, which was ranked 19th. Four lost fumbles killed Sooner drives leaving Oklahoma scoreless in the first 30 minutes. The Jayhawks scored a touchdown late on the first half and added another TD early in the third quarter for a 13-0 lead. Then, the Sooners got down to business. Quarterback Claude Arnold tossed four TD passes and Tom Catlin returned a KU pass for another score. At one point the Sooners scored three times in a span of five minutes and 20 seconds in the fourth period. Oklahoma went on to win its first national title.

KU drew within three points, 21-18, on the sixth-ranked Sooners in 1963 with a minute-and-a-half remaining. OU held on for the win.

Four years later, the unranked Jayhawks held a 10-7 lead on the seventh-ranked Sooners. A Kansas punt pinned OU at its four-yard line with 6:37 to go. OU moved the ball toward the south end of the stadium, but not without overcoming a couple of obstacles. The Sooners gained crucial first downs—one on a third-and-four at their 34 and the other on fourth-and-one at their 43. The Sooners continued to the KU 30. That was when OU offensive coordinator Barry Switzer, sitting in the press box, called down “24 pass,” a toss to the tight end.

Steve Zabel took off from the line of scrimmage and Bob Warmack faked to Steve Owens and faded back to heave the ball towards Zabel, who outraced KU defender Tommy Ball. The pigskin began its descent over Zabel’s shoulder in the end zone. Zabel reached out and clutched the ball with 1:02 remaining.

The fans and OU bench exploded, and oranges rained down from the stands. The Sooners won, 14-10, securing a bid to the Orange Bowl.

The Sooners sat atop the polls with a 5-0 record before heading to Lawrence in 1978. The 1-4 Jayhawks were heavy underdogs. But, Oklahoma was without the services of four offensive starters—Kenny King, Thomas Lott, Steve Rhodes and Victor Hicks. Needless to say, OU turned in a sloppy performance offensively (three fumbles and two interceptions). Oklahoma took a 10-0 lead, Kansas answered with a touchdown, and the Sooners countered with another score for a 17-7 lead early in the fourth period.

Kansas kicked a field goal to cut its deficit to 17-10, with 10:17 to go. The Jayhawks scored a touchdown with 15 seconds remaining. KU coach Bud Moore ordered a two-point conversion to win the game and stun the nation by knocking off the nation’s No.1 team. The Jayhawks took too long to get the play off and were flagged for delay of game, moving the ball from the three-yard line to the eight.

Moore changed his mind and decided eight yards was too many to try to win the game. His team would still pull off a moral victory if his kicker made the conversion. OU jumped offside forcing a bad snap to KU holder Mark Vilendese. Vilendese scrambled to find a receiver to throw to, but the Sooners knocked down the airborne football. Oklahoma was penalized five yards for the encroachment and officials replaced the ball at the three-yard line.

Take three: Moore changed his mind once again and ordered the two-point conversion. Sydney took the snap and was forced to hurry his throw. The ball sailed over his receivers’ head and the Sooners held a 17-16 advantage.

Kansas forced Sooner fans into near cardiac arrest as the Jayhawks retrieved the ensuing onside kickoff. Officials ruled that the ball was not ready for play and ordered the Jayhawks to kick it again. This time OU’s Rod Pegues grabbed the bounding pigskin to seal the victory.

Oklahoma 63, Texas 21: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and The Scary

Casey WalkerI seem to recall warning readers last week not to overlook OU's dominating performance in Lubbock – that the
Red Raiders are a solid team that would make some noise in Big 12 play. Well, I should have taken that prediction to Vegas this weekend.

Looking ahead, OU has grabbed massive momentum in the last two weeks and should be 5-1 awaiting a chance to knock off ND and have even more momentum heading into November. The last two weeks could not have gone better.

Now to review the Red River Cannae...

(History sidenote: Hannibal's most decisive military victory over the Romans was at Cannae. The term in military history refers to an overwhelming tactical victory. Hannibal destroyed nearly 50,000 Roman soldiers while losing only 5,000 of his own troops)

The Great

*I've been speculating about Bob Stoops' level of intensity/desire for the job after 14 years. Maybe it was the loss to Kansas State or his brother Mike's return that has re-energized him, but Bob was his previous aggressive self again on the sidelines, just like at Lubbock. It was a reminder of their first run together watching Bob and Mike
give Corey Nelson the business after he missed an assignment while OU was up by five touchdowns. I don't mind if Bob is "red-assed" with the media as long as he brings that same fire to the game day sideline.

Damien Williams

*Heupel's play-calling seems to have found the right balance in emphasizing the power running game of Damien Williams and Trey Millard while giving Landry Jones the passing attempts he needs to get comfortable. There were signs of it versus KSU before getting off track, and it was evident in full force against Texas Tech, which we now know has a pretty good defense. It's the scheme that OU fans have been waiting to see since 2007-08, blending our skill players at running back, fullback and tight end with the abundant talent at wide receiver. Throw in a liberal use of the BellDozer in the red zone to eliminate the primary weakness of the spread and you have an offense that is a total motherfucker to defend.

*OU got very close to redefining Millard into the "Gresham" role for this offense – the no-huddle piece that causes defenses problems since it can mean power football or another spread pass receiving weapon. Millard is not the receiver that Gresham was, but he brings that power running threat that Gresham didn't. Williams and Millard in the backfield together is a serious matchup problem for teams, considering both RBs are excellent receivers as well. Millard's 75-yard catch-and-run is going to be the stuff of OU-Texas lore from now on. He did a great job blocking,
running and receiving.

*Jonathan Gray got the pregame hype from the announcers, but Damien Williams is the next NFL RB from OU. He's going to follow Demarco Murray and AD into the NFL. His 95-yard TD run was a thing of beauty. His moves, cuts and speed were all elite RB level. He's on track for a 1,500-yard season in terms of total offense. That figure could get bigger as he gets more carries.

*I've been saying in this space that the Sooner offensive line is not a real weakness. Depth is an issue, but the top six guys are talented and getting better week after week. The best part of UT's malfunctioning defense is its front four. OU dominated them. UT's NFL-caliber defensive ends made life difficult for Geno Smith, but Jones barely noticed them. You don't rush and pass for three bills without executing at a very high level.

*Mike Stoops might appear in Bryan Harsin's nightmares. Therapy will be needed after Saturday. Mike has OU playing defense at a level not seen since 2003. It's getting better every week, and the front four played out of their minds on Saturday. Bobby Jack Wright needs to convince R.J. Washington that every game is the UT game. Washington acted like David Ash stole his wallet. Jamarkus McFarland nearly killed Gray on some running plays, while Walker was in the backfield all day.

*To continue the military history thread, Hannibal for OU is Tony Jefferson. He's the on-field general that just makes everything click. He quietly dominated the game Saturday. It's not often that I'll quote Barking Carnival's Nickel Rover, but here goes:

"At halftime, Tony Jefferson was leading their team with three tackles and two of them were behind the line of scrimmage. That's my favorite stat for demonstrating their utter domination of our offense. They understood our concepts, as usual, and were well positioned on every snap to completely shut down whatever we threw at them. They got pressure with four rushers and blanketed our receivers with Hurst and Colvin, which is easily the best corner tandem in the nation."

The Good

*Jones played an excellent game inside the confines of the new game plan that Heupel constructed for OU. He didn't force things, save for one bad interception. He shook that off and then made some great throws like the first completion to Jalen Saunders. Jones managed an NFL-type game plan with excellent efficiency. He forced some passes downfield at times, but that kept UT from ignoring the deep passing game. If he can play like he has the last two weeks, it will be easy to see an NFL team drafting him in the early rounds. He's finally looking comfortable doing less. However, some team soon is going to badly overplay OU's running game, and Jones is going to just torch them for 400-plus.

*Justin Brown had a great all-around day and just missed the great section due to his drop of a bomb in the third quarter. It would have been a great catch. Brown needed to have a big game with UT bracketing Kenny Stills. Sometimes I think Manny Diaz plays OU under the misconception that OU only has one good WR. Brown is the big possession target to complement the speed of Stills and Co. He's also a great run blocker on the edge. He's making more plays as the season goes on, and I could easily see him having a huge game coming up. He had a big punt return and also made the play that led to OU forcing a safety.

*The linebacker rotation. The stars of the game were the DL and secondary, but the infusion of speed at LB from Frank Shannon and Aaron Franklin has really helped. Mike's doing a great job using all of his pieces at LB, even using Jayden Bird in short yardage at times. Bird was the first player tackling Joe Bergeron for the safety. Tom Wort had his best game with limited reps, and Corey Nelson seems to be playing better and better since Shannon joined him in the lineup. This is a position that could be radically improved by the end of the year.

*Both kickoff coverage and the kickoff return game for OU were excellent. UT's returners have been making big plays this year, helping their offense, and OU has given up TDs on returns before in Dallas. Michael Hunnicutt forced several touchbacks, and the coverage team did a great job staying in lanes and making tackles. Brennan Clay had three excellent returns for nearly 100 yards. Clay's generally setting up good field position for OU on kickoff returns.

The Bad

*OU's OL depth is becoming a huge concern. Right now, OU moves Darryl Williams inside to guard if something happens to Adam Shead or Bronson Irwin.

The Ugly

*OU's botched PAT attempt was pretty bad.

The Potentially Scary (for UT Fans)

Normally, with a senior QB graduating, UT could expect to have a big edge under center to end the Sooners'  three-game win streak – this series usually goes to the team with the veteran QB. However, OU's likely starting Blake Bell next year, and he will be surrounded by four returning OL starters plus a part-time starter in Tyrus Thompson. Millard and Williams are set to return at RB, along with Brennan Clay and Roy Finch providing depth, and OU will integrate more elements of the QB run game into base sets. Bell's going to be the best-prepared new OU QB with the most critical playing time experience by a huge margin. All those BellDozer reps will help Bell a lot in taking over the QB spot full-time.

At WR, OU will lose Justin Brown and probably Kenny Stills, but Jalen Saunders (who by the end of this year will be terrorizing Big 12 secondaries), Trey Metoyer and Sterling Shepard will all be back, plus Lacoltan Bester and Durron Neal. In other words, Bell is going to have the best returning receiving corps for any new OU QB since Nate Hybl inherited Heupel's national title group.

Overall, Bell will inherit the best supporting cast ever for a new starter under Bob Stoops.

On the other side of the ball, Mike will lose the front four who just terrorized the Horns. OU will need to reload there ,especially at DT. Jackie Shipp is arranging JUCO help to be in Norman for spring ball. LB could be a strength in 2013, with Shannon taking over at MIKE and Nelson and Franklin manning the outside spots. If Colvin and Jefferson return, OU could have a great secondary again if replacements for Demontre Hurst and Javon Harris are found.

If DL guys step up, there might not be any real dropoff at all on defense.

Oklahoma 63, Texas 21: Same story, different year

The one-sided Red River rivalry of the Mack Brown-Bob Stoops era grew even more so Saturday. The Sooners ran roughshod over Texas in every way imaginable in the Cotton Bowl, coming away with a 63-21 win.

Stoops’ teams have won Red River Shootouts by wider margins before, but never have they tuned up their neighbors to the south the way that they did in this game. Offense, defense – everything worked for OU. In the aftermath, any number of statistics point to the Sooners’ dominance, but a 400-yard difference in total yardage (677-289) tells the whole story.

OU accomplished all that in spite of a relatively pedestrian performance from senior quarterback Landry Jones, who notched a school record 33rd win as a starter and ran his record versus Texas to 3-0. He was frequently off-target on his throws and tossed a poor pick-six that led to one of Texas’ three touchdowns. Jones’ numbers (21-37 attempts, 321 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) looked pretty sweet in the end, though, which is a testament to just how badly the Texas D played.

Given how well OU ran the ball, Jones and his receivers didn’t really have to do too much. The Sooners pounded out 343 yards on the ground, led by 167 yards (7.6 yards per carry) from tailback Damien Williams. Williams’ day included a 95-yard touchdown run in the first half that gave a pretty good indication as to where this game was headed.

Defensively, the Sooners rendered Texas’ “SEC-style” offensive attack Big Ten-level effective. Texas started the game with something like 42 consecutive three-and-out drives. The Longhorns never really threatened to put points on the board until Stoops had pulled his starters.

Trey Millard

Not only did OU beat UT in every phase of the game, the Sooners physically battered the Longhorns. Texas players began dropping early in the contest and didn’t stop until the game was over.

The beatdown culminated in an apparent wrist injury that may have ended sophomore quarterback David Ash’s season. For Ash, it represented an unfortunate end to a rough day in watch he fought hard, but got little support from anyone around him.

Ash and Texas’ explosive offensive entered the game as one of the big surprises of the season, ranking second nationally in passing efficiency. The second-year QB’s struggles (13-29 attempts, 113 yards, 2 INTs) versus the Sooners symbolize the state of the Oklahoma-Texas blood feud.

Since Texas’ disastrous 2010 season, the Longhorns’ narrative has centered around Brown’s rebuilding project. He hired consultants to tell him what he was doing wrong, whacked longtime assistants and added flashy rainmakers to his coaching staff from around the country. In the meantime, UT started its own television network, backed by ESPN, and continued signing All-World recruits. After last year’s 8-5 campaign, the talk coming out of Austin was that Texas was on its way back up the college football hierarchy.

Supposedly, momentum was headed the opposite way at OU. A disappointing finish to 2011, a season in which OU started the year ranked No. 1, roster attrition and rumors of dissension within the program sparked some talk that Stoops had lost his edge. A frustrating loss to Kansas State earlier this year did little to quell the grumbling.

Yet again, though, the Sooners have hit their stride and exposed Bevo’s pride and joy as all hat, no cattle. Brown has made a coaching career trading on promise. Stoops has made his name by delivering on it – in the form of wins over the ‘Horns and titles from a league that is supposedly in Burnt Orange’s back pocket.

In the middle of the first half, a sobering thought occurred to me.

I wasn’t kidding.

Best Case, Worst Case: Red River Shootout

It's not often that this game can be considered an elimination game for both teams in regards to the Big 12 championship, but that is what we have this year. This is only the second meeting between Bob Stoops and Mack Brown when both teams had one conference loss coming into this game (2007). The loser of this game is assured to not win the conference championship this year. Two losses would be insurmountable. Mathematically, you could devise some weird tie-breaker scenario that the loser might be crowned Big 12 champion, but realistically it's more plausible figuring out electoral college outcomes than some scenario where the loser has a shot at the title.

So, even though there is not too much hype for this game, the 107th meeting between OU and Texas is HUGE. The winner has a chance at real national success. The loser has to plod through the season trying to create some goal. That sounds horrible. It will be the first time since maybe 1999, that a realistic chance at a conference title is gone for the Sooners before the midpoint of the season. I can't stomach that thought.

The Texas defense has been majorly whiffing on tackles lately. Apparently Longhorn defensive coordinator Manny Diaz just being present isn't enough to enable the Texas defense to be the best ever (doesn't it seem that Texas is always going to have their best defense ever every year?). The Longhorns hope that one week is enough time to tighten up against a Sooner offense that's capable of rolling over teams, even though evidence is mostly contrary to that.  So it's gut check time for both outfits. Can the OU offense permanently stay out of the mud it's been in since Ryan Broyles went down? Was last week's game against Tech a break out game? Who will live up to their potential? That, my friends, will decide the outcome of this game.

On the other side of the ball, the OU secondary is the best that Texas will face this year, however the Sooner ability to stop the run is suspect. Texas is more than capable of plowing through the Sooner interior and eating some serious clock. Stopping the run has always been the key to this game. Never has a team rushed for less yards than the other and won this game in the Stoops-Brown era.

Best Case

The bevy of Sooner receivers run crisp enough routes to take any heat Landry Jones may feel from the Texas rush. Solid performances by Damien Williams and Dominique Whaley help balance out the attack. Don't forget about Trey Millard please!!!! (That was a plea to Josh Heupel.) Sooner defensive coordinator Mike Stoops revisits his dominance over a Texas offense without a proven quarterback. Longhorn quarterback David Ash is not the legend that Texas fans are trying to conjur up.

The Sooners focus on stopping the run. Ash is exposed when trying to carry the Longhorn offense. He's not quite there. Landry Jones is proven when he's got help. His complementary pieces comes through. Sooners take it more comforably than we all hoped, 38-27.

Worst Case

If inconsistency is the name of this game for the Sooners, Texas will win. The receivers can't get open fast enough. There is just not enough time yet for Landry and the receivers to gel. Our running game is not utilized to compensate. Sooners ridiculously digress backward. Texas can't run away with it though. The defense holds its own, but like in the Kansas State game, they can't carry the load for the Sooner offense for four quarters. A low-scoring game favors the Longhorns, and they commit fewer mistakes. Texas wins 20-17.

Red River Shootout: What to Watch

That really old cliche about turnovers has never been more true.

Commit three turnovers versus Kansas State, lose by five. Force three turnovers versus Texas Tech, win by 21.

Last year, OU won the turnover battle, 5-1, with OU's lone giveaway occurring in scrub time late in the fourth quarter.

So there's that, but here are some other things to watch for.

1. The Third Receiver

Last year, Jaz Reynolds had a big game as the third OU wideout. UT tried to bracket Ryan Broyles on third down, and it worked to a degree, but Landry Jones found Kenny Stills and Reynolds over and over, especially on third down.

Now, Stills will get the Broyles treatment. Justin Brown has flashed big time promise so far, but OU does not have an established third WR yet. There are a lot of candidates. If Sterling Shepard or Trey Metoyer or or even Jalen Saunders make big plays, UT is in trouble.

2. Playing One-on-One

Can the vastly improved OU secondary survive in one-on-one coverage, allowing Mike Stoops to run blitz the 'Horns out of their run-first game plan?

OU is going to be the best defense by a wide margin that UT has faced, especially in the secondary. David Ash is in for a huge test. Ask Seth Doege if OU's D is improved. Doege torched OU for four bills and 41 points last year; he barely got to 200 yards and 13 points this year.

3. Kickoffs

A big weapon for UT this year has been the kickoff return game. It led to a TD in Stillwater and kept giving the Longhorns great field position versus WVU, with Marquise Goodwin having three huge returns.

OU so far has done a good job on covering kickoffs, limiting opponents to 20 yards a return while Patrick O'Hara is getting a touchback on every other kickoff. UT's returned kickoffs for TDs in this game recently.

On the flip side, UT's coverage squads are struggling. They allowed for running lanes on kickoff returns for both WVU and OSU.

Jalen Saunders perhaps makes an early  impact in the kicking game?

4. Placekicking

If it comes down to a field-goal contest, OU appears to be in much better shape with Michael Hunnicutt. Hunnicutt's only miss was the botched placement by Tress Way in the UTEP game. Meanwhile, UT has Penn State transfer Anthony Fera kicking for them, and he missed a critical kick last week.

5. Run D

Both teams have had issues on the defensive line with stopping the run. OU's defensive ends have struggled stopping the shotgun run game when teams spread OU out. UT's vaunted defensive end duo of Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat have been shredded for 200 yards by running backs in consecutive weeks. OU has a big time
weapon in Damien Williams, and UT has similar weapons in Jonathan Gray and Joe Bergeron. Whichever RB has the best game could easily determine your winning team.

Reality Rankings: Psalms 75:10 edition

Florida State-North Carolina State

The picture is slowly getting clearer throughout the nation. LSU fell, as expected. However, Florida State laying an egg in the second half wasn't in my line of (fore)sight. Win some, lose some. More separation games abound this weekend with Stanford-Notre Dame, LSU-South Carolina and, of course, our favorite hatefest, the Red River Rivalry.

Thankfully, OU had its best performance in the the post-Ryan Broyles era against Texas Tech last week. This gives Sooner fans a realistic hope that we can not only beat the Longhorns, but also be in the mix for the Big 12 title.

This is an Big 12 elimination game for both teams. No hype needed.  Just. Get. It. Done.

Enjoy this week's Reality Rankings as we prepare to cut off the horns of the wicked:

1. Alabama (1) - Tide shouldn't have any problem with Missouri. However, they'll get more of a challenge in the following weeks against Tennessee, Mississippi State and LSU.

2. Florida (4) - Gators make me look good by knocking off LSU. Now, they get a bit of a breather against Vanderbilt before their separation game with South Carolina.

3. Notre Dame (3) - Will get a solid test against Stanford this weekend. This game will go a long way in determining whether the Irish are pretenders or contenders.

4. Oregon (7) - Ducks keep looking more and more impressive. As such, they rise in the Reality Rankings. USC, Stanford and Oregon State await.

5. West Virginia (9) - Mountaineers are looking tough playing in tight games. They need to tighten up their defense some if they're to contend for the national title. However, this outfit is primed to win the Big 12 as long as Geno Smith and his offense keep clicking.

6. Kansas St (5) - Upset alert coming up against Iowa State. Looking ahead to West Virginia is not advised.

7. Ohio St. (-) - I'm not all that impressed with the Buckeyes, but their schedule is so weak that they could realistically be undefeated through the regular season. Fitting that they are ineligible for the Big 10 championship game.

8. South Carolina (-) - Gamecocks make their debut in the Reality Rankings. I'm not yet sold on these guys, unlike most people seem to be. We'll see soon with upcoming games against LSU and Florida.

9. Oregon State (8) - Beavers could have been more impressive against Washington State. They will need much better performances when Stanford and Oregon come calling.

10. Florida State (2) - Tough loss for the Seminoles, giving up the game in the second half against North Carolina State. They are still on track for the ACC title, but national title hopes are gone.

Dropped from rankings: Georgia (6), Texas (10)

Game Preview: Red River Shootout

Cotton Bowl

No. 10 Oklahoma (3-1) vs. No. 15 Texas (3-1)
Oct. 13, 11:00 a.m.
Cotton Bowl (Dallas)
TV: ABC
Line: OU -3

Series: 107th Meeting; UT leads 59-42-5

GAME OUTLOOK

Damien WilliamsThe Sooners showed a lot of character in last week’s win over Texas Tech and have confidence heading into Dallas this week.

Texas’ offense has improved this year since Mack Brown settled on one quarterback… David Ash has completed 77.5 percent of his passes this year for a passer rating of 180.1… Last year Ash completed 56.9 percent and finished with a 107.4 rating… His three top targets (Jaxon Shipley, Mike Davis and Marquise Goodwin) have combined for 56 receptions for 690 yards and 8 touchdowns… Most defensive strategies target stopping the run first, and this is no exception… The ’Horns have run the ball nearly 59 percent of the time this year… Their three top rushers (Joe Bergeron, Malcolm Brown and Jonathan Gray) average 5.1 yards per carry combined and have scored a total of 12 TDs.

UT’s defense was expected to be its strength this year… The D has dropped from 11th nationally in total yards (306.8) a year ago to 74th (404.2 yards per game) so far this year… The run defense has dipped from 6th (96.2 yards per game) in 2011 to 83rd (182.4 per game)… Plus, the team that has more rushing yards in the Red River Rivalry has won every game since 1998… So, the Sooners must feed their running backs if they want to win… Texas gave up an average 233.5 rushing yards per game (5.7 per carry) in its last two outings.

Alex OkaforThe Steers’ Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat will be one of the best defensive end combos the Sooners will face all year… The duo has combined for 15 stops behind the line of scrimmage, including 10 sacks, 18 quarterback hurries and 4 forced fumbles… Linebacker Steve Edmond and safety Kenny Vaccaro lead the team with 33 tackles each… The Horns have picked off seven passes and broken up or deflected 33 more.

Punter Alex King leads the special teams with an average of 45.7 yards per kick… Quandre Diggs has averaged 16 yards per punt return… Texas averages 26.5 yards per kickoff return, led by Marquise Goodwin’s 30-yard average… Placekicking has been a weakness… Nick Jordan has hit 21 of 22 PATs, but he and Penn State transfer Anthony Fera have combined to make only 4 of 9 field goals.

The Sooners MUST open the running lanes in addition to protecting Landry Jones to give him time to have success… OU’s front wall has been disciplined with only one false start and one holding call… It must be disciplined versus the Texas defensive front.

Jones and Kenny Stills have been stars for OU versus the Horns the past two years—Jones has completed 55 of 89 passes (61.8 percent) for 603 yards with 5 TDs and 0 INTs; Stills has caught 10 balls for 129 yards and 3 TDs… Look for Justin Brown, Sterling Shepard and Damien Williams to again step up and help the receiving corps this week… Jalen Saunders (a transfer from Fresno State) has been declared eligible and has been a standout in practices.

OU’s defense must be patient and not bust assignments… Frank Shannon and Aaron Franklin played tremendous football in relieving Tom Wort Corey Nelson at linebackers… Aaron Colvin is a beast at corner, and Javon Harris has really improved at strong safety... Still, it’ll come down to how well the front four performs…. Casey Walker was dominant last week against Tech and will be vital to help stop the Steers’ run game.

The Sooners’ offense must mix up the plays and keep the Texas defense guessing… Make some big plays to maintain momentum and convert third downs… Don’t turn over the ball and keep penalties to a minimum… Texas is No. 2 nationally in third-down conversions (58 percent), so OU’s D must make big stops on first and second downs, wrap up the big UT running backs and pressure Ash into errors… If they succeed, they will be taking home the Golden Hat Trophy for the third straight year.


Bob Stoops and Mack Brown

ETC.

*OU is the home team.

*This is the 67th straight sellout in the series.

*UT leads 47-38-4 in Dallas.

*46 of these match-ups have been decided by seven points or fewer.

*Since the AP poll began in 1936, at least one of these two teams has been ranked 63 times (including this year) prior to their meeting; the lower ranked team has won only 12 times.

*This is the AP poll’s 77th year of ranking teams. OU and Texas both have entered the rivalry ranked 38 times (including this year); 16 times both were in the top 10 and nine times both were ranked in the top five.

*OU is 27-18-2 when ranked higher; 8-1 under Stoops.

*Stoops and Brown have previously met 13 times in this rivalry; Stoops leads 8-5.

*Stoops and Brown have met five times with a morning kickoff in the series; Stoops leads 3-2.

*OU is 5-8-1 in games played on Oct. 13.

*UT is 15-3-1 in game played on Oct. 13, including three straight wins.

*Both teams have met nine times on Oct. 13; Texas leads 6-2-1.

*During the Bob Stoops era (1999-2011), the higher-ranked team has won 13 of 14 times; the lone exception was 2008, when No. 5 Texas beat No. 1 OU, 45-35.

*During the Stoops era, the betting favorite has won 10 of 14 times.

*Since 1998, the team that has rushed for more yards has won every year, except 2006 when both rushed for 124 yards.

*Texas leads 13-10-2 in games played during a presidential election year.

*Since 1956 both teams have alternated home jerseys and road whites. Since then, OU is 11-16-1 in white jerseys; 13-13-2 in red jerseys.

Dumpster Fires of the Week: Arkansas knocks Auburn into the top spot

Dumpster fire

Finally, Hog Nation's nightmare is over. We have a new No. 1 Dumpster Fire of the Week.

What did it take to remove Pork U from that hallowed spot? Let's take a look.

1. Auburn Football

Two years removed from a national title with arguably the best playmaker at QB in the last 10 years, Auburn football is ablaze in a container of garbage.

Auburn lost to Arkansas at home by 17. I'll let that sink in for a minute… Arkansas, which gave up 58 to Texas A&M, and Auburn scored seven points. Props to you, War Eagle, for taking pity on Arkansas' faceless fans behind their pig masks.

2. Manny Diaz, defensive genius

If I had a dollar for every time this preseason that the term "SEC-style Texas defense" was used, then I wouldn't even bother writing this list. Diaz is the architect of this allegedly dominant blitz scheme. I'm pretty sure allowing 89 points in two games while giving up 200 yards rushing and more than 200 yards passing isn't SEC defense. UT even gave up 31 points to a horrible Ole Miss team.

It may change over the year, but right now, Diaz's rep is a smoldering container of garbage.

3. Bo Pelini, defensive genius

There used to be a time when Bo Pelini was considered an elite defensive coordinator. However, when you give up 36 points to UCLA, 27 to a very bad Wisconsin team that bares no resemblance to the Badgers' offenses of recent history and finally 63 to the Ohio State. This was after a season where NU struggled on defense.

It's easy being a defensive genius when you have Ndamukong Suh manning the interior D or LSU's defensive talent. Right now, Pelini looks to be in real trouble, because he's not exactly a creative offensive mind.

4. Virginia Tech's descent

So far, Va Tech's biggest win is over Georgia Tech. That's the Tech that has given up a bazillion yards and fired its defensive coordinator, Al Groh.

Since that big win, the Hokies have had the wheels completely fall off the wagon. There are charred bits of turkey everywhere in this fire. With losses to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, Va Tech is a middle of the road Big East team right now.

Props to the Hokies for finding multiple ways to lose – offensive struggles versus Pitt, late-game defensive woes
against Cincinnati and, finally, a full-blown defensive meltdown against a bad North Carolina team.

5. MIssouri Football

Mizzou was an average team in the Big 12 with some recent high-level success under Chase Daniel. However, SEC play seems to be a little rougher than Tiger fans thought it would be. Losing to Vandy might be understandable in basketball, but this year in football Vandy is pretty awful.

Adding to the Tigers' woes, big-time recruit Dorial Green-Beckham just got pinched for marijuana possession. This dumpster fire has more of an herbal aroma.

Podcast: Picks Trying Not to Suck and Red River Shootout

The Red River Shootout is just days away. Homerism and The Skinny get together for a podcast to give their picks for the week, but once that little piece of business gets taken care of, it’s on to the big OU-Texas game.

Skin and I cover:

*OU’s addition of wide receiver Jalen Saunders.
*Who has the edge in confidence?
*Attacking Texas’ defense.
*Scheming to stop Texas’ offense.
*OU’s thin personnel on the lines.
*And more.

(Subscribe to Blatant Homerism's Podcast through iTunes. Please rate and review the show if you get the chance, too. Thanks.)

The NCAA works in mysterious ways

To this point, the idea of Fresno State transfer Jalen Saunders sporting the crimson and cream has remained a tantalizing hypothetical. Until today, that is, as the NCAA has cleared the slot receiver to participate this season.

Coming just days before Oklahoma's annual rivalry game against Texas, conspiracy theorists could have a field day with the timing of the news that the junior won't have to sit out the customary year required of transfers. (I have no clue what those conspiracies could possibly entail, but that's why such theorists exist.)

How can Saunders contribute, and how quickly? We'll get to that. First, however, take a moment to soak in his stats from the past two seasons.

Jalen Saunders, WR, Fresno State (2010-11)

Year Receptions Yards Yds/Rec TDs
2010 30 462 15.4 3
2011 50 1,065 21.3 12

Since OU lost ultra-productive receiver Ryan Broyles, the Sooners have tinkered with a number of alternatives in the slot with varying degrees of success. Kenny Stills' up-and-down contributions when placed there suggest he's better-suited to an outside position where he can stretch the field. Sterling Shepard has played well when called upon, but he's just a freshman. Roy Finch is... MIA.

In theory, Saunders solves the slot dilemma. His burst and ability to find holes in the defense fit the role naturally, and he has the speed and moves in the open field to pose a major threat to defenses on jet sweeps. Having the first-team All-WAC selection on the field enables Stills to do what he does best. Meanwhile, the offense won't have to rely so heavily on a rookie in Shepard.

Whether or not Saunders can get in gear fast enough to make a difference in the Cotton Bowl on Saturday is a complete mystery. Supposedly, he has participated on the scout team since the season started while in limbo with the Association. Preseason reports, however, had Saunders practicing as part of the receiver rotation, including reps with the first team.

Seeing as Emperor Stoops has forbidden the peasants from watching practice, Saunders could be the best thing to come out of Fresno since Dan Gladden. He could also be the equivalent of Trent Dilfer's combined shittiness as both a quarterback and a television analyst.

And maybe that fear of the unknown could work in OU's favor. Thanks to the NCAA's foot-dragging, Texas' coaching staff has two days to prepare for the possibility that Saunders could play Saturday afternoon. In a game where both sides are looking for an edge, such distractions never hurt.

Whatever the case may be this weekend, in the longer term, Saunders' presence should generate dividends for the Sooners in both this season and the next.

Red River Shootout: Recalling Commerce Street

Hotel Adolphus"Commerce Street." Those words can bring back some fond memories of the pregame revelry known as OU-Texas weekend in Dallas. Those two words probably stir up some bad memories for the Dallas locals.

For 63 years, Commerce Street was ground zero for the revelry held every Friday night before the annual showdown between Oklahoma and Texas. It began in 1929 when the two teams agreed to meet at the Cotton Bowl, about halfway between the two universities. Although the game is still played annually at the Cotton Bowl, the festivities on Commerce Street ended 20 years ago.

The intersection of Commerce Street and Akard was focal point of the pep rallies for the first 27 years. Sooner fans lodged at the Adolphus Hotel on the north side, and Texas fans stayed at the Baker Hotel on the south side. About 5,000 celebrants crammed the intersection, which was blocked off for the party.

The Statler Hilton, four blocks to the east, opened in 1956 and added 1,000 rooms to the downtown area and the festivities swelled to 30,000 celebrants beginning in the 1960s. A mix of Sooner and Longhorn fans lodged at the Hilton, a Y-shaped building that rose 20 stories to the heavens. The Baker was sold and closed in 1979, so the Adolphus and Hilton were the only hotels that housed the revelers for OU-Texas weekend.

Dallas' local government was fed up with how situations got out of control. They were displeased that partiers were tossing furniture and bottles out of hotel windows, and drunks smashing plate glass windows of the retail stores. Each year, several hundred arrests were made, mostly for public drunkenness. More than 600 were busted in 1968, and Dallas took action. A year later, the city council passed an ordinance requiring foot traffic to be one way (from west to east) on the sidewalks along Commerce for six blocks. This would keep the fans from colliding with each other, but the council did not ban them from carrying alcoholic beverages along the route.

Commerce is a one-way avenue running from west to east. Cars would begin streaming into downtown Dallas on Friday afternoons before the festivities began around dusk. Dallas city traffic employees would begin unloading orange sawhorse barricades along the sidewalks at mid-afternoon. By dusk, there were hundreds of police officers stationed along the sidewalks. Two police officers, dressed in riot gear, would be stationed every 20 feet along Commerce for five blocks. All law enforcement officers in the Dallas metroplex were not allowed a day off on the Friday before OU-Texas weekend. Yet, they were paid handsomely for it.

Those who were arrested were booked at a temporary command post nearby and then transferred to jail.

The Trek

The foot traffic would take about 20 to 30 minutes to walk 12 blocks round trip. From Commerce and Harwood adjacent to the Hilton to Commerce and Field about a block west of the Adolphus.

Cars and trucks – even some motorhomes – would pass by with horns blaring. Some fans could be seen in the back of pickup trucks sitting in lawn chairs and drinking. Fans from both sides traded insults. Chants of “Texas sucks!” or “OU sucks!” would reverberate in the night air. Texas fans would give the Hook ‘Em sign skyward. OU fans would give the inverted Hook ‘Em sign as in saying “go to hell, Longhorns” or they would just give the one-fingered salute. Choruses of “Boomer Sooner” or “The Eyes of Texas” would ring out.

The bars along the route were packed with little elbow room, so many hotel guests spent a lot of time in the hotels’ bars or replenished their thirst with booze or beer they brought with them. There were a lot of in-room parties.

Two police officers would be stationed inside the each hotel’s lobby. They were in regular uniform, and not riot gear. Guests of each hotel were required to display their room keys to gain access to their respective hotels.

Around 1 a.m., city water trucks drove by to dispense water onto the crowd. The spray reached two stories high as the water spewed onto the nearby buildings and revelers. Some would get the hint that the party’s over. Some would remain, yet risked being soaked or arrested.

In 1992, four shootings were reported, resulting in one man dying and two others being critically injured. Dallas police also reported two stabbings and two assaults in the area. It was the worst violence the police had seen in the 63 years of the Friday night festivities.

Sadly, the city council was forced to end the annual pep rally.

Red River Shootout: Confidence game

Red River Shootout

You could point to any number of reasons why the red river shootout has always held a place among the marquee rivalry games in college football. However, since Bob Stoops and Mack Brown arrived at Oklahoma and Texas in the late 1990s, the game has ascended from one the sport's best to arguably its premier annual grudge match. The secret ingredient added by the two coaches: success.

For going on 15 years, these two squads have been playing for way more than pride. OU and Texas have combined for nine conference titles, two national championships and six appearances in the BCS title game since 1999. The early October date has traditionally added to the intrigue, as it's just about the time of year that the national picture is taking shape. The occasions when at least one of the rivals haven't harbored legitimate national title hopes have been few and far between.

But this year, not so much.

Brown and Stoops are undoubtedly touting their chances to their teams to work their way back into the hunt. Only the most sunny of optimists sporting burnt orange or crimson and cream actually buy that. Having already dropped conference home games, just winning the Big 12 feels like a tall order for both.

So throw out the usual "clash of the titans" or "rival playing spoiler" narratives. A better theme for this year is confidence. Specifically, who has more of it?

OU slogged through the first two games of the season, and the sloppiness eventually caught up with it in a disappointing loss to Kansas State that left Sooner Nation stewing. Based on OU's play last weekend versus Texas Tech, the defeat seemingly sharpened the Sooners' focus. It demonstrated a level of resiliency that should give OU fans some comfort with the 'Horns on deck. Of course, Stoops will be back in the line of fire should his team lay an egg Saturday in the Cotton Bowl.

Now, it's the Longhorns who are dealing with the deflation of an emotional loss. Spirits were deservedly high around Austin heading into last weekend's match-up with West Virginia, as the 'Horns had just gone on the road for a quality win over a solid Oklahoma State team. The Mountaineers, however, took down Texas in a highly charged atmosphere at DKR – the kind of defeat that frequently comes with a hangover.

Forget schemes and shaking up the depth chart. For now, Brown's greatest challenge looks to be re-instilling the confidence in his team that it had before stumbling last weekend. In particular, his heralded D has been one of the biggest busts in college football this year and needs to get its groove back.

This game presents a number of compelling physical match-ups, from Texas trying to exploit a thin OU defensive line to the Sooners scheming to keep UT's talented pass rushers at bay. Those kinds of questions offer everyone involved a nice little illusion of control over the outcome of the 2012 Red River Shootout.

Unfortunately for the control freaks, the winner of Saturday's game probably won't hinge on a zone blitz or blocking scheme, though, but rather the confidence of the players doing the blitzing and blocking. Best of luck planning for that.

Red River Shootout: History lessons

Cotton Bowl
It's that time.

As the Oklahoma Sooners embark on their 107th edition of the Red River Shootout, one player has a chance to make history. Meanwhile, the Sooners hope that history can be repeated at the Cotton Bowl Saturday.

With a win Saturday, Landry Jones will break Steve Davis’ record as the all-time winningest quarterback in OU history with 33 wins.

Jones also has a chance to do what only two other Sooner starting quarterbacks have done—beat Texas three straight times in a complete game. He guided OU to a 28-20 victory in 2010 and a 55-17 win last year. The other two quarterbacks to accomplish such a feat were Jimmy Harris from 1954-56 and Davis from 1973-75. Jamelle Holieway started against the Longhorns from 1986 to 1988, but was injured in the first quarter of the ’88 contest and left the game not to return that day.

Heck, only one Texas player is in the exclusive club of winning four straight in the series. Peter Gardere beat the Sooners from 1989-92. No other Texas quarterback can claim three straight wins in the series.

A Sooner victory will give Bob Stoops his ninth win against the Longhorns, equaling the school record for most wins over Texas set by Bud Wilkinson and Barry Switzer.


As for the hopes of history repeating itself: The Sooners have defeated Texas seven straight times after blowing out the Longhorns (28 or more points) the year before. They also hold a 7-1 record (and seven straight) when blowing out Texas in the history of the rivalry. Will they follow last year’s blowout (55-17) with another victory?

*OU won 50-0 in 1908, but lost 30-0 in 1909.
*OU won 49-20 in 1952 and won 19-14 in 1953.
*OU won 45-0 in 1056 and won 21-7 in 1957.
*OU won 52-13 in 1073 and won 16-13 in 1974.
*OU won 47-12 in 1986 and won 44-9 in 1987.
*OU won 44-9 in 1987 and won 28-13 in 1988.
*OU won 63-14 in 2000 and won 14-3 in 2001.
*OU won 65-13 in 2003 and won 12-0 in 2004.

Class dismissed.

BlogPoll: Gators back on top

Notes:

*I've been jocking Florida since the spring, and the Gators are rewarding my faith in them. Don't care whom you think is the best team in the country. Beating LSU and road wins over Texas A&M and Tennessee constitutes the best body of work.

*As I've mentioned before, my ranking system is easily influenced by the performance of a team's opponents as much as its own play. Oregon State is a good example. Beating UCLA no longer looks that impressive.

*Conversely, teams can easily get passed when others around them strengthen their cases. Kansas State's win over Oklahoma now looks even better, but impressive wins by West Virginia and Oregon naturally push up their resumes. Miami getting thumped by Notre Dame didn't help KSU's argument, either.

*Iowa State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma presented a Big 12 brain-teaser. Texas Tech beat Iowa State in Ames. Oklahoma beat Texas Tech in Lubbock. ISU has the strongest schedule. In the end, I didn't rank any of them and went with Baylor at No. 25. Seeing as WVU just went to Austin and beat a good Texas team, Baylor's only loss this year now appears relatively strong.

Oklahoma 41, Texas Tech 20: The good, the bad, the ugly and the scary

Texas Tech might not be great team, but it would be wrong to downplay this big road win at a place where OU has struggled recently. It would not shock me if the Red Raiders go bowling and upset someone in Big 12 play down the line.

Even so, the biggest positives from this game came from OU's level of execution and adjustments.

The Good

Landry Jones

*Landry Jones' overall level of play, poise and command, in particular, were excellent. In this game, he was comfortable and confident. Jones has always had the ability to make every throw with his NFL arm. His sideline throw to Damien Williams was elite. In addition, he hit a number of WRs, and was close to hitting some big passing plays downfield. It's a work in progress, but that level of effort can beat most teams on OU's schedule (excluding West Virginia, where OU is going to need a great offensive effort).

*While the game was in doubt, Josh Heupel did a great job of mixing things up. He got Jones comfortable and Williams involved in the offense. OU threw some new wrinkles out there, and the pace of the play-calling was right. Things got kind of conservative after the Harris interception, but OU had the game in hand. I do wish Heupel had pushed to get Bell in sooner. The Belldozer would have been a better formation in the fourth quarter to close the game out.

*Running game stats were not great, but it was the effectiveness of the running game in the first half that set up the Sooner offense. The yards per carry dropped while trying to run out the clock in the second half, and Tech overplayed the run. Ignore that. The Sooner running game was a key part of this win.

Damien Williams

*Damien Williams' overall game at RB. He was close to breaking a number of big runs and his receiving skills are elite. He's the next Sooner NFL running back and the starting RB for this team.

*Trey Millard had his best offensive game. OU finally was able to integrate him into the game. It must continue. He's OU's best mismatch weapon, and a huge running play is out there for him. He was close Saturday.

*The offensive line is doing a good job of giving consistent running lanes and time for Jones. It's not a great OL, but it's an effective, competent unit that is getting better week after week.

*Franklin Shannon's breakout game could not have come at a better time. His speed and physicality at LB was a big plus. He made plays that this defense has been missing. He led OU in tackles and seems like a much better fit for this scheme than Tom Wort. In addition, Shannon's seemed to raise Corey Nelson's level of play as well.

Aaron Colvin
Baller.

*Aaron Colvin's level of play in coverage and playmaking was huge. His INT on his blitz was a great athletic play and his pass deflection set up Javon Harris' return that essentially ended the game. If OU has a true playmaker on defense, it's Colvin.

*Mike Stoops, who maybe played things too tight versus Kansas State, did an excellent job with adjustments and player changes to change the game. Shannon's stop on 4th-and-5 was the second biggest play of the game behind Colvin's first INT. OU got pressure on Doege while confusing him with excellent coverage. Mike will have OU's D back to the ranks of the elite if the talent upfront can be upgraded/replenished. Thirteen points in three quarters was a good defensive performance. So far, Mike's stopped the big-play trend that infected the Brent Venables defense of the last couple of seasons.

*I've been questioning Bob Stoops' level of passion for the game, wondering if 14 years at one place is about the max. But Bob showed an energy that reflected the importance of this game. OU needed this game to right things going into UT. A bad loss to Tech, and it's not hard to imagine the wheels falling off the wagon. Now, OU goes into Dallas with some confidence. Win in Dallas and OU should be 5-1 facing ND at home to end October.

The Bad

*First half run defense. When OU gets spread out, teams are having too much success running the ball out of the shotgun. OU is not getting any tackles for loss. It got better as the game wore on, so I'm hoping that the linebacker changes will have some impact here.

*Some very mysterious pass interference calls on Sooner defensive backs, and then a horrible offensive PI call on Durron Neal. In addition, there were any number of holding calls just ignored by the officials, especially on Casey Walker's interior pass rush.

The Ugly

*Jamarkus McFarland's fumble after the great play for an INT was demoralizing. It looked like that play was going to symbolize OU's season. I appreciate J-Mac's desire to get a TD, but take care of the football. That play could have started the snowball effect on Tech earlier. OU's not talented enough to give away a chance for seven free points.

The Scary

Nothing. On to Dallas...

Oklahoma 41, Texas Tech 20: Salty defense helps Sooners reverse course

Javon HarrisIf the loss to Kansas State two weeks ago represented a jarring break from the norm for Oklahoma football, the Sooners’ domination of Texas Tech on Saturday signified a promising correction.

OU did what it always seems to do under Bob Stoops: bounce back from defeat. The Sooners hadn’t lost back-to-back games since 2003 and rarely drop a game coming off an open date.

Of course, if any OU team was going to break with tradition, this looked like the one. Yet, Stoops’ team played as ruthlessly in blowing out the Red Raiders as it was sloppy two weeks ago in falling to the Wildcats. The discombobulated bunch that couldn’t keep from shooting themselves in the foot earlier this year took advantage of every opportunity that Texas Tech handed to them and made plenty more of their own. As the Sooners rolled to a 41-20 victory, they actually looked like a team that could contend for the conference title, rather than one destined for another pre-New Year’s Day bowl bid.

While the build-up to the game tended to focus on how the Sooners would kickstart their sputtering offense against a D that was leading the nation in total defense, OU’s own defensive unit made all the difference against Tech.

The Sooners did some bending, allowing the Red Raiders to string together a handful of sustained drives. They never truly broke, though, against an offensive attack that entered the game averaging 6.69 yards per play, ranking 15th nationally.

The D forced the Red Raiders to earn their yardage by keeping Tech’s wide receivers in front of them and bringing the wood to to the screen game. Tech’s four scoring drives went between nine and 13 plays. As the game wore on, OU’s pass rush finally started getting to Seth Doege, who tossed three interceptions and sustained plenty of punishment when dropping back. Ultimately, the Red Raiders were held to 4.9 yards per play, nearly two yards below their season average.

Yet, more importantly for the team’s psyche, the Sooners finally showed some glimpses of the offense that has lit up scoreboards for years. Offensive coordinator Josh Heupel made greater use of the run game, even though OU still leaned on the pass (29 rushes, 40 passes). OU also made use of the wide array of offensive weapons at its disposal. Six players combined to pound out 121 net yards rushing, while quarterback Landry Jones took his eyes off Kenny Stills (7 receptions, 43 yards, 1 TD) long enough to hook up with six players through the air.

Let’s be clear: This remains a team with its fair share of flaws. The Sooners are competing in a brutally tough conference that will offer few gimmes the rest of the way. An undefeated Notre Dame team also awaits for a non-conference contest later this month. The times when OU can simply show up and coast to an easy win won’t come often in the course of the next eight games.

Bringing that kind of effort for eight straight games rarely happens for any college football team, but the one that whipped Tech on Saturday can beat any other opponent left on its schedule.

Best Case, Worst Case: Texas Tech

Landry Jones

It's very telling about this season that we haven't even played the Red River Rivalry game yet and I'm calling this game against Texas Tech, for god's sake, a make or break for the Sooners.

This game really will determine whether this season can be salvaged and even lead to a BCS berth or go down as maybe one of the worst seasons in Bob Stoops' tenure. I realistically could see both scenarios playing out.

On the bright side, the Sooners still have top 10 talent, a great defense and even with piss-poor play still had a realistic chance to win a game against a very solid, disciplined Kansas State team. On the not-so-bright side, there is no sign that the Sooners can shake the funk that has been present since Ryan Broyles went down last year. Can you name one impressive game since Broyles went down against Texas A&M? I didn't think so.

Will having a bye week to think about it change things? Only optimistic homerism says yes, but like I said last week, it feels like the Sooners have made their bed.

The OU secondary hasn't faced a passing offense as good as Tech's, and the Tech passing game hasn't faced a secondary like OU. The game will be won here. The secondary play of OU is the only thing that the Sooners can hang their hats on so far.

This will be a good first challenge that I believe the OU secondary is up for, especially after getting handled by this group last year in Norman.The sting is still there from that loss, and I think the Sooners want to atone for it.

OU's interior has been getting gashed by the run, but despite gaudy numbers put up by Tech, the Red Raiders' running game is nothing special. Tech averaged 2.1 yards per carry against Iowa State last week, its only real test this year.

For offense, what can be said that hasn't already? We need to run more. We won't. Landry Jones needs to not screw up. He probably will. 

It's really that simple. No mistakes, we win. Simply.

Best Case

I'm just hoping OU doesn't screw the pooch. How's that for best case? No turning the ball over at any goal line. Works for me. Sooners win, 31-21.

Worst Case

I don't even want to spend energy writing about it. Let's just say Jones has thee picks. The offensive line gives up four sacks. Damien Williams gets fewer than 10 carries. Defense stays on the field. Tech fans go crazy. Sooners lose it, 27-22. Worst start since 2009, but it in reality it is much, much worse.

Oklahoma-Texas Tech: What to Watch

Bob Stoops

No. 14 Oklahoma (2-1) at No. 24 Texas Tech (4-0)
Oct. 6, 2:30 p.m. CT
Jones AT&T Stadium (Lubbock, Texas)
TV: ABC/ESPN2
Line: OU -5

Not to get all dramatic on you, but it's tough to overstate how important Saturday's game is for Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops and, perhaps more importantly, his coaching staff. The natives are restless in Norman and will soon demand some scalps if the Sooners don't start getting their act together.

Will they beat the heat, a least for a week? Watch:

*OU's run-to-pass ratio.

OU needs to use the running game to take the pressure off Landry Jones and not force him to throw 60 times to win the game.

*How does OU lean on the run while still getting Jones comfortable in the passing game?

It seems like former offensive coordinator Kevin Wison would use the quick easy passes to Ryan Broyles to get Jones comfortable early, then incrementally increase the complexity in the passing game.

OU needs to find a way to get the ball to running back Damien Williams and get the quarterback comfortable. An impossible task?

*Does the elimination of the QB threat in the running game allow Mike Stoops to turn the pass rush back on and send more blitzes?

Can OU sack Tech QB Seth Doege?

*How do these teams respond to the first legitimate tests for their pass defense?

Which defense does the better job avoiding the big pass play and getting third-and-long stops to get off the field?

*What happens when Tech brackets coverage towards the slot?

Jones needs to get the two outside wide receivers involved in the passing game.

*Signs of Josh Heupel's identity.

Oklahoma's offensive coordinator is still trying to find his pace and style calling plays. It has been a struggle all year long, and it's starting to become a concern that while a good QB coach, Heupel just isn't a play caller.

OU would really benefit from getting off to a hot start to grab a lead and put Tech in catch-up mode.

*Will OU use the BellDozer at all this weekend?

If so, what situations and how often?