After 11 games, you know what you’re getting from the Oklahoma Sooners this season.
For all the deserved jabs about defenses in the Big 12, OU has a legitimate claim to the best offense in the country. Even in losses, the Sooners proved that they can move the ball against quality defenses this season. On Saturday night, they put up 56 points against West Virginia, carving more than six yards per play out of the Mountaineer defense, a fairly solid unit.
We also know what OU’s defense is all about. The Sooners don’t handle spread-to-run schemes with mobile quarterbacks all that well. The secondary is susceptible to the deep ball. The tackling is borderline atrocious. Not exactly a great combination for surviving in the Big 12.
Yet, a four-touchdown victory over WVU left the clearly flawed squad one game away from an undefeated season in conference play.
Chalk that win up in large measure to the ‘Eers playing on tilt from the opening kick. Maybe the pregame fireworks at midfield had something to do with that, or it’s possible that WVU’s players weren’t ready for the moment. The bad weather in the first half compounded a lot of mistakes born of aggression, leaving Dana Holgorsen’s team in a deep hole after two quarters.
Overall, though, the contest played out like many of OU’s other wins this year. The Sooners gave up plenty of yardage and points to the ‘Eers, but the gulf between WVU’s offense and OU’s attack ended up being too wide to overcome. (The 4-to-1 turnover disparity in favor of the visiting squad helped inflate the final margin.)
As a fan, watching this team can feel like a chore. The D plays like it actually prefers leaving the door cracked just enough for an opponent to squeeze through. At times, the O looks too willing to take its foot off the gas.
Even so, it does feel as though Bob Stoops and his staff have accepted what this team is – and, more importantly, isn’t. They’re not panicking and switching up schemes. They’re not crafting game plans around protecting a vulnerable defense.
Instead, since Big 12 play started, OU coaches have shown supreme confidence in the idea that opponents can’t keep pace with the array of weapons available to their high-powered offense.
So the same frustrations that have accompanied OU all year were on display versus WVU. So were the strengths that have put the Sooners on the precipice of 9-0 for the season in the Big 12.
*Skyler Howard holds WVU’s offense back. I’d need to see who returns next season, but adding Will Grier to the mix at quarterback could make that team a really tough out in 2017.
*Good night overall for the offensive line after some uneven play in the last couple weeks. OU bullied the Mountaineers’ front six as the Sooners rolled up more than 300 yards rushing.
*One noticeable difference between this season and last year for OU: the lack of hits on Baker Mayfield. You can attribute that to better protection and the QB getting the ball out quicker. Furthermore, Lincoln Riley is calling his number far less often in the running game.
So far this season, Mayfield is averaging about 6.5 attempts per game, down from almost 11 in his first season as a starter. Given Mayfield’s past concussion issues, you have to imagine Riley had limiting the QB’s exposure to big hits among the top items on this season’s to-do list.
*Keeping Caleb Kelly on the field at SAM linebacker really can’t be that much worse than OU’s nickel package, can it?
*Geno Lewis has a knack for finding just enough space in the secondary on third down.
*OSU looked salty against TCU. It seems like we’ve said this fairly often in the last 10 years, but this could be the biggest Bedlam game in the history of the rivalry. Says a lot about how good Bob Stoops and Mike Gundy have been.