Five keys to Oklahoma's showdown with Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl today:
For an OU team that started the season with dreams of the playoff, an Orlando bowl game on Dec. 29 has to feel like a letdown. The Sooners have been known to give a half-hearted performance or two in these spots. The season ended on such a down note in Norman with a collapse against Oklahoma State that it’s easy to wonder about the mood around OU.
The Sooners aren’t nearly good enough to sleepwalk through this game.
See Knight run?
Sooner fans undoubtedly remember the struggles of Brent Venables’ defenses versus mobile quarterbacks. Trevor Knight has shown an ability in the past to do some damage with his legs. Sounds like a plan, right?
Only problem is that Knight is coming off an injury that had some around Norman whispering he might have to retire. A game plan that calls for a heavy dose of the QB running game doesn’t seem like the most prudent course of action, especially against what might be the best D in the nation.
There are two Clemsons. The one with Deshaun Watson at quarterback can play with any team in the country. When Cole Stoudt is behind center, the Tigers can find themselves struggling with a Syracuse or a Wake Forest.
OU is getting the latter on Monday afternoon. Stoudt has some weapons at wideout, but I have a hard time seeing him getting the ball to them consistently under duress. If Mike Stoops doesn’t come hard at Clemson's quarterback with rushers, I may have to change my vote of confidence for the Sooners’ defensive coordinator.
Clemson’s kickoff coverage leaves something to be desired. The Tigers are allowing 20.6 yards per return, good for 58th nationally. They’ve generated touchbacks on 43 percent of their kickoffs.
Alex Ross is one of the most dangerous returners in the country, averaging 32 yards per return with 2 touchdowns on the season. He could get a couple shots to bring the ball out in this game.
Continuing with the theme of cheap points, Knight committed backbreaking errors this season in losses to TCU, Kansas State and Baylor by throwing the ball to the wrong team. He has a tendency to telegraph his passes by staring down receivers, and well-coached defenses have capitalized by jumping routes.
Knight will have to get the ball out quickly against Clemson’s ferocious pass rush. The Tigers could have some opportunities to pick him off in compromising positions if he keeps showing his hand.