I've already addressed my concerns about the Sugar Bowl matchup between Oklahoma's offense and Auburn's fearsome D. Now, a few unsophisticated thoughts on what OU is facing when the Tigers have the ball.
*Auburn predicates its running game on stretching defenses horizontally to create running lanes in the middle of the field.
Many of their run plays, if not the majority, start with sending a receiver in motion to set up a potential jet sweep. If defenses commit to the edges to take away those sweeps, it can clear out the middle of the field for the Tigers. Quarterback Sean White can then put the ball in the gut of one of their running backs on a straight dive play.
*In general, AU builds off sending the flow of a play in one direction. The offense either tries to outflank the D to that side, or it sets up plays that go against the grain.
In the clip above, White (No. 13) fakes the toss left to the short side of the field. Ole Miss’ defenders bite hard on the fake, converging towards the running back in the backfield. Slot receiver Marcus Davis (No. 80) pantomimes a run block on crashing Ole Miss linebacker Taylor Polk (No. 24). Meanwhile, Ole Miss safety Zedrick Woods (No. 36) presumably keys off Davis’ feint and comes down towards the line of scrimmage to corral the ball carrier.
Instead of engaging Polk, Davis takes off on a seam route that is wide open for White. (Seam routes are a favorite of the Tigers.)
*You can see what the AU’s offense tends to function best under White’s guidance at quarterback. His greatest strength is his apparent command of the O. He makes good decisions within the confines of what the Tigers want to do.
On the other hand, his arm strength leaves a lot to be desired. No one will mistake him for Michael Vick when he takes off running, either.
*OU historically struggles to slow option teams with big, powerful runners in the backfield. Think Ohio State or Clemson.
While Auburn does have plenty of physicality at running back in Kamryn Pettway (6-0, 240), White lacks the capability and size of running QBs such as Deshaun Watson. In that sense, I'd want to force White to make plays to win this game.
*Safety Ahmad Thomas will probably be the player who swings the defense for OU on Monday night. If he’s tackling poorly, routinely busting assignments and allowing receivers to get behind him, it will open the door to all kinds of explosive plays for the Tigers.
*I go back and forth on how I’d approach scheming for this game if I were in Mike Stoops’ shoes.
Given OU’s struggles against downhill option teams, my first instinct would be to up the aggressiveness and overplay. The end game would be to offset Auburn’s size advantage and create some negative plays that put the Tigers in unfavorable situations regarding down and distance.
Admittedly, Auburn has incorporated plenty of countermeasures into its scheme to leverage that kind of defensive game plan against an opponent. If the Tigers successfully counter with their vertical passing game and cutback runs, more power to them. I’d still rather force them into that kind of game than one in which AU’s methodical ground attack leans on the defense for four quarters.
All of this feeds into my assessment that the Sooners would be well served by trying to make the tone of this matchup hella frenetic. For a team with OU’s caliber of offense, a shootout wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.