Date: September 18
Time: 3:30 pm EST
Venue: Owen Field (Norman, Okla.)
Vegas Line: OU -17
Know what should scare a top-tier college football squad? A scrappy team that is actually excited to have a shot at beating it.
And what if said underdog runs a funky offense that you'll see once every nine years? And what if said underdog runs a defense that blew up your 2009 season? And what if said underdog's roster consists of warriors – not in the metaphorical sense, but actual warriors?
I'm not talking about Air Force or anything.
While you're taking in Saturday's intriguing matchup between the Cadets and Sooners, it might help to watch...
1. OU's Passing Plays
I debriefed with film guru Bud Elliott of Tomahawk Nation earlier this week for his take on OU's performance against Florida State. He raised a very good point about offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson's mix of play calls on Saturday. Four or five rollouts, four or five wide receiver screens, lots of play action – add it all up, and it doesn't seem like Wilson trusts his offensive line in pass protection.
Is OU still gun-shy after last season's debacle? Has the offensive line really made that much progress? Still plenty of questions.
2. The Sooners' Ability to Pick Up Inside Blitzes
Continuing the blocking theme...
Air Force doesn't have much athleticism on defense, but the Cadets know how to generate pressure with deceptive blitzes out of their 3-4 base sets. In fact, the Falcons' defense mirrors the same scheme run by BYU last year, when the Cougars blitzed Sam Bradford's season to smithereens.
With Texas on horizon, OU needs to prove it can keep Will Muschamp's exotic blitzes at bay.
3. What OU Does in the Last Five Minutes of the First Half
The Sooners' struggles in the second and third quarters were noted last week. This week, let's zero in on a more precise time span: the last five minutes of the first half.
OU's modus operandi lately has been to let up right before the break. Against Florida State, OU commited its only turnover of the game right before halftime. A week earlier, OU allowed 10 points to Utah State in the first half's final four minutes. Going back to '09, the Sooners surrendered scores under the five minute mark in three of five losses.
Maybe they're all just coincidences, but it seems like Oklahoma just loses focus going into the half.
4. How Oklahoma's Secondary Reacts to the Option Pass
If any strategy has been proven to give Bob Stoops' defense fits, it's when teams can use the aggressiveness of the Sooners against them. Air Force's triple option is a prime example of an offense that could do just that with misdirection and against the grain cutbacks.
Also, coach Troy Calhoun could use the option pass to suck in OU's defensive backs, enabling underrated quarterback Tim Jefferson to beat the D over the top.
5. What Kenny Stills Does in the First Quarter
Stills garnered plenty of hoopla in spring and fall workouts. However, the freshman is trying to find his way in actual game action. Look for Wilson to try and get stills going early this week with some screens and quick hitters, working him into the flow of the game early.
Cameron Kenney's development has been one of the season's brightest spots so far. Yet, at the end of the day, his potential can't match Stills'. For OU's offense to really flourish, the offensive staff needs to figure out a way to put Stills on the fast track.