Five things to watch in the Oklahoma-Tennessee game.
1. Zack attack?
Cover man Zack Sanchez’s health has been one of the big stories heading into this game. Bob and Mike Stoops have downplayed the severity of their star cornerback’s shoulder injury, maintaining he'll be at 100 percent for the contest. I never buy what the coaching staff has to say when it comes to injuries, so I’m in believe-it-to-see-it mode.
If Sanchez is out on the field from the jump, the Volunteers would be wise to test him right away.
2. Size matters
The Vols’ youthful front four on defense needs more time in the weight room, weighing in at 253, 284, 286 and 267 pounds. They’re begging to get pushed around by an Oklahoma offensive line that tips the scales at an average of nearly 320 pounds. OU will also use fullbacks Aaron Ripkowski and Dmitri Flowers as lead blockers for the Sooners’ bruising running backs, adding to their size advantage.
It's also key for OU's o-line to keep Trevor Knight clean to help him avoid the possibility of getting dinged up.
3. Tennessee picking up the blitz
Our buddy Michael Felder detailed what a problem OU’s rush schemes on defense will pose for UT’s patchwork offensive line:
Keep in mind that Mike Stoops likely hasn’t tipped his hand much so far this year.
4. Checking down
The Trevor Knight who started last year as QB1 was pressing so hard you’d think he was trying to bring Billyball back to Norman. He settled down as the season went on. This year, he looks far more poised, making more prudent decisions with his scrambling and his throws.
Once of the most promising developments has been Knight’s ability to go through progressions and take easier throws when given. UT’s secondary matches up fairly well with the OU wideouts, which means Knight may need to work down to his third and fourth options pretty frequently.
(Corollary: Tight ends Blake Bell and Taylor McNamara need to give Knight reliable safety valves.)
5. Crowded house
OU’s fan base has come under a little fire lately for not blowing the roof off the joint. I don’t know if that’s warranted, but a raucous atmosphere at Owen Field for this particular game wouldn’t hurt.
This being Tennessee’ first road game of the year, I’d expect the young Vols to struggle in hostile territory. Not to mention, the Sooners have brought in an impressive crop of recruits for visits this weekend.