As their date with the Iowa Hawkeyes approaches, the Oklahoma Sooners have started arriving in Phoenix for the Insight Bowl. Here are five key story lines to follow leading up to Friday night's game.
1. Does OU Care?
As Vegas Runner discussed in our recent podcast, motivation is everything when it comes to the bowl games. The Sooners didn't plan on playing in the Insight Bowl, the equivalent of the Fiesta Bowl JV game, back before the season started.
Occasionally a team will come out with something to prove in such a situation. More often than not, though, the letdown leads to some sloppy football.
2. Depth at Running Back
Freshman Brandon Williams' departure leaves the Sooners with just two available halfbacks, Roy Finch and Brennan Clay. Clay has been struggling to come back from a neck injury, so expect his time to be limited. If worse comes to worst, fullback Trey Millard can carry the water, but that's not a sceanrio anyone wants to contemplate.
3. Iowa's Physicality
The Hawkeyes' style of play befits their home state – tough, physical and no flash. Offensively, this is a classic Big Ten team that seeks to pound it out on the ground and physically imposes its will on opposing Ds.
The Sooners have to hope their front seven is up to the challenge. Pay particular attention to how well the defensive linemen stand their ground.
4. Pressuring the Passer
The Sooners' ability to get to the quarterback took a major blow with the loss of DE/OLB Ronnell Lewis. Frank Alexander was playing with a bum wing late in the year, so who's to say if he'll be full speed Friday night.
Bob Stoops and Brent Venables may have to get creative when it comes to finding ways to generate a pass rush.
5. Landry Jones' Demeanor
A huge question left to be answered in the next month or so is whether or not OU's quarterback will declare for the NFL draft. Matt Barkley's decision to return for his senior year at USC definitely bumps the 'Stache up a spot in this class' QB pecking order, but will that be enough to push him to go pro.
Stoops seems to think he's staying, but keep an eye on Jones this week and during the game for any clues as to Jones' future.