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Blogging about college football by an Oklahoma Sooners fan.

Oklahoma Sooners-Colorado Buffaloes: What to Watch

Dan Hawkins

Date: October 30
Time: 9 pm EST
Venue: Owen Field
Vegas Line: OU -23

The Sooners had been living on the edge all season long, and it finally caught up with them last week.

OU is giving up 5.5 yards per play (66th nationally) and gaining 5.3 (73rd). Factor in the strength of OU's schedule and it's not as bad as it looks, but it's still not good when you're getting outgained. The Sooners' saving grace this year has been its ability to take care of the ball on offense and create turnovers on defense (+8 turnover margin, 7th nationally). OU had one more turnover than Mizzou, and we saw what happened.

Those stats will improve this week against a decimated bunch of Buffaloes whose coach is already thumbing through the want ads. (Maybe a job in intramurals is available?) That statistical lipo won't change the weaknesses that have shown up for the Sooners, though.

OU still has plenty of work left to do to win the Big 12 South. With that in mind, against Colorado keep an eye on...

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1. Throwing Downfield

Remember back when OU threw deeper than 12 yards? It feels like Landry Jones hasn't even looked that far downfield since he tossed an ill-advised hail mary that snapped the Sooners' neck in Lincoln last year.

Offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson either doesn't buy Jones' ability to make good decisions - or just make a decision - or he has no faith in the offensive line to keep the quarterback upright. Whatever the reason may be, the Sooners have way too much talent at the skill positions to have so few explosive plays this season.

Colorado's woes at defensive back should give Jones a good opportunity to warm up the gun.

2. Ryan Broyles' Reps

Broyles gutted it out last week against Missouri, but he just wasn't quite himself.

No. 85 represents the Sooners' best offensive weapon, so head coach Bob Stoops has to take the long view here. A hobbled Colorado team isn't the opponent for OU to push it's star receiver.

If Broyles is heavily involved in Saturdays action, take that as a good sign for the future. If not, it could mean his ankle troubles will dog him the rest of the year.

3. OU's Pass Rush

So far this year, the sooners have struggled to put heat on the passer without bringing plenty of blitzers. Last week, all those dog calls didn't even make that much of a difference, as Blaine Gabbert had an eternity to throw.

Did Brent Venables see anything new this week breaking down the tape? Will OU switch anything up? I doubt it, but this is an opportunity to see if the D-line is progressing. One area where Colorado does have some talent is the offensive line.

4. Big special teams plays

We've established a pretty consistent pattern with the Sooners special teams the past couple years:

  • Punting = great
  • Punt coverage = outstanding
  • Kickoffs = horrible
  • Kickoff coverage = hit or miss (literally)
  • Placekicking = putrid
  • Return game = strong

OU has come up with some huge plays in punt coverage. However, when it comes to returning punts, we aren't seeing much of the explosiveness we've come to expect out of OU's return men. Maybe CU will give Ryan Broyles a chance to show off his wheels?

5. Corey Nelson

Nelson has proved himself to be more than just a special teams demon as a freshman. Venables showed a lot of confidence in Nelson last week by working him into the rotation at linebacker. Nelson came through with some huge hits and stops.

Assuming Travis Lewis leaves for the NFL after the season, Nelson looks ready to step in as the weakside linebacker in 2011. For now, though, watch how often Venables has the freshman on the field and whether he works him into any situational packages.