So the verdict Sooner fans have been waiting for all week is in: redshirt freshman Landry Jones is starting at quarterback Saturday night when Oklahoma takes on Miami.
The Sooners' big advantages in this matchup haven't changed with reigning Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford sidelined, and Homerism strongly doubts the game plan has changed either.
Bear in mind that while Bradford has the obvious edge over his understudy Jones in experience and accomplishment, a quarterback with a bum shoulder is about as effective as an abstinence video at an orgy. Either way, the Sooner coaching staff will be forced to scale back the breadth of its offensive attack against "The U" this weekend. That was never in doubt.
Even with Bradford at quarterback, I'd expect the Sooners to come right out of the gate looking to give Miami a good dose of the run game. OU's experienced backfield tandem of Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray lead a ground attack that is averaging nearly five yards per carry this season. Miami, meanwhile, has had varying degrees of success stopping the run. Last week, for example, the Hurricanes allowed 272 rushing yards on an average of 4.9 per carry against Virginia Tech. On the other hand, Miami mashed up Georgia Tech's triple option, surrendering just 95 yards on 39 attempts.
OU offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson will force the 'Cane defense to prove it's the unit that stymied the Yellow Jackets and not the one that the Hokies ran all over. If Miami can't stop the OU run game, especially on first down, it won't matter who is under center for the Sooners.
On the other side of the line of scrimmage, look for Miami to implement the classic game plan against a young quarterback on the road: stack the box on run downs and blitz in passing situations.
That sounds an awful lot like the same kind of strategy a team would implement against a quarterback recovering from an ailing shoulder, doesn't it? Again, this should have minimal impact on what OU plans to do. Wilson likely will attempt to establish the run, setting up opportunistic play-action passing opportunities.
For OU, the biggest difference with Jones at the helm is simple, and it has nothing to do with strategy: the Sooner offense can't beat itself with penalties and sloppy ball protection. In the loss to BYU in week one, Jones played well enough after replacing Bradford in the second half to get OU the win. Time and again, however, mental errors killed the Sooners. For the game, OU was tagged with at least one penalty on all but three drives, and fumbles ended two of those. The penalties also seemed to come at the worst times, such as a false start on OU's final possession that essentially took the Sooners out of realistic range for a field goal.
It's asking a lot of a redshirt freshman to consistently convert first and 25 or third and 13. Avoiding those kinds of back-breaking mistakes should ease the burden on Jones and keep him in much more manageable situations.
Oklahoma's margin for error on Saturday night may be a little smaller now, but that's about it.