Thursday comes and, as we're not playing SMU, there are fans of the opposing team out there who are willing to exchange information about their teams. This week we have the honor of an exchange with Matt Hofeld, owner of the Oklahoma Sooner blog Crimson and Cream Machine which, like Frogs O' War, is one of the few blogs out there that will give you in depth coverage of all three of the big men's sports. My answers to Matt's questions will be up on CCM tomorrow, but if you can't wait that long to hear the Hawkeyed perspective on tomorrow's game you can check out the Crimson and Cream Machine Podcast, which had me on as a special guest last night.
HawkeyedFrog: Blake Bell has looked sensational for the first two weeks of his tenure, including a mistake free performance against a solid Notre Dame defense. Why wasn't he the starter coming into the year and how do you expect him to do against TCU's excellent secondary?
Matt H: This will be a good test for Bell. Tulsa has one of the worst defenses in the nation and the Notre Dame secondary was a bit suspect. TCU, however, leads the Big XII in interceptions and has a fast and aggressive secondary. That said, the answer to your question may be in how much pressure the Horned Frogs can get on Bell. He has yet to be rattled which is saying a lot seeing as how is second ever start came on the road at Notre Dame.
It's unrealistic to expect Bell to remain as spectacular as he has been through his last two starts. At some point he's going to make a mistake and then the question becomes, how will he rebound from that? It's likely that it could happen against TCU this weekend, because the Frogs have a bunch of ball hawks on defense, but if they can't apply pressure to Bell he's already shown that he can make sound decisions with the ball and then tuck and run if nothing is there.
HawkeyedFrog: The OU defensive line lost a ton of talent last year, and they haven't really faced a team that has an effective running game. To me, they are completely mirrored by a TCU line that is big and talented while being inexperienced and underperforming. Who wins this key matchup in your eyes, and why?
Matt H: The best rushing attack that the Sooners have faced this year is West Virginia who is ranked 79th nationally. In that game the Mountaineers ran for 169 yards on 24 carries. That's not an average that you'd like to have on your side as a defensive coordinator.
There's no question that the Oklahoma rush defense could be a tad overrated. However, that said, this defense seems to be taking the bend but don't break mentality and much of that is due to the play of the line. Despite their performance on the ground, West Virginia only scored once against the Sooners and Oklahoma is currently 6th nationally in scoring defense.
As far as the line-on-line match-up goes I like the speed that the Sooners will be able to bring from the edge. That should be able to funnel the TCU rushing attack back up the middle for the linebackers to have a shot at cleaning up. Don't overlook Jordan Phillips in the middle though. He's a big and powerful defensive tackle who eats up blockers and allows the linebackers to have clean shots.
BTW - TCU currently has the nation's 82nd ranked rushing attack, which makes them very comparable to West Virginia. (ed. Comparable except for the fact that they actually stick to the run game when it's working. . . . I made myself sad.)
HawkeyedFrog: Oklahoma has run the ball well so far this season, averaging over 250 yards per game (including 212 against the massive Notre Dame 3-4), but the transition to running on a big team like Notre Dame to a fast team like TCU can be tricky. How do you think the Sooners will attack TCU on the ground?
Matt H: One of the pleasant surprises this year has been the revitalization of the Oklahoma rushing attack. Brennan Clay is on pace for a 1,000 yard season and Damien Williams isn't too far behind him. When attacking speed you have to go right at them and run with power. That's exactly what the Sooners have been able to do this year. Teams that have focused on stopping the run were completely worn down by the Sooners because they have so many backs that they can come at you with.
The other thing to consider is the addition of the quarterback running game. I'm not sure that TCU has faced a team yet this season that has the multi-threat rushing attack like Oklahoma's. I'm not saying that it'll come easy but my bet is that if OU is going to try to run on TCU on Saturday they'll do it just by pounding away at them.
That said, Oklahoma has shown a knack for attacking what the defense gives them this season. The Sooners may very well decide to attack the Frogs through the air and challenge the secondary. Either way, the Sooner offense has its work cut out for it on Saturday.
HawkeyedFrog: There's been significant turnover in the OU coaching staff over the past few years, as Stoops has brought in his brother as DC, Josh Heupel as play caller, new offensive and defensive line coaches. What are your thoughts on the overall OU coaching staff, and is this the group that gets Bob back his "Big Game" moniker?
Matt H: The idea that Bob Stoops forgot to coach in big games is a bit of a misnomer. Name another coach in the Big XII that's been to as many big games as Stoops and Oklahoma has. How many "big" regular season games did he have to win in order to get there? Take last year for example; West Virginia, Oklahoma State and TCU were all pretty big games. OU had to win each of them just to have a chance to tie for the conference crown. The second Saturday in October is a big game every year when Oklahoma plays Texas in the Cotton Bowl and Stoops has owned Texas since 2000.
The Sooners schedule big and the go big in the post season. How about Florida State in 2010 and 2011? Miami in 2008 and 2009? Yes, they've fallen short at times in the post season (the Cotton Bowl against A&M was horrible) but many forget that Stoops has a national title and has won three of the four BCS bowls (Orange, Rose and Fiesta) and has taken teams to all four. You can't win them all, and you have to take the bad with the good. There are a lot of programs in the nation that wish their coach had the track record of Bob Stoops.
Now that my rant is over...It did seem as if things had become a bit complacent in Norman and the coaching moves that Stoops made over the last two off-seasons has totally changed the mentality of this team. Attitude starts up front and both the offensive and defensive lines are playing with chips on their shoulders and the toughness is bleeding through to the rest of the team. Up until last Saturday I would have still described Oklahoma as a finesse team. Then I saw this team be more physical than a Notre Dame team that was bigger and stronger than they were. That's the attitude that the new coaches have brought.
HawkeyedFrog: As fun as the almost BCS buster seasons of 2000 and 2003 were, to me the day that heralded TCU's arrival as a team to be reckoned with every year was the 2005 win in Norman, where Patterson's boys held Adrian Peterson to under 100 yards rushing. What was a huge deal then (as OU hadn't lost at home since '98 or something equally ridiculous) seems to be happening more regularly as Oklahoma has lost in Norman three times in the past two years. Is there anything in common that Tech, Kansas State and Notre Dame did to win in Norman that TCU should try to emulate?
Matt H: Dang! You just had to bring that game up didn't ya? (Ed. Was there ever any doubt?) To this day, that is still one of the most frustrating moments I've ever experienced when walking out of the stadium. That entire 2005 season was one big frustration and it started with that opener against TCU.
Texas Tech attacked a confused and outmanned Sooner defense in 2011 which ultimately led to the return of Mike Stoops. I remember seeing him on the sidelines that night as a "guest" and said at that time that it wouldn't be long before he was back as the defensive coordinator. He returned the next season and has gone a long way in revamping the defense over the last two years.
The main thing that those three losses have in common are Sooner turnovers. Oklahoma committed a combined six turnovers in those games and Texas Tech, Kansas State and Notre Dame were able to make the Sooners pay for their mistakes. That's the first place I'd look to emulate if I were TCU.
HawkeyedFrog: TCU and Oklahoma have had a short but eventful series over the years, but the common theme has been that a great OU team beats TCU, while an average OU team generally loses (The frustrating thing is Oklahoma has had a lot of great teams to play TCU). How do you see the season playing out for the Sooners, and what's your pick for Saturday's score?
Matt H: I still think it's too early to determine the quality of this Oklahoma team. They have the Big Twelve's best non-conference win but the jury is still out as to the actual quality of that win. While I would say that this Sooner team is above average, I'm not ready to say that they're great.
I do think that they're a touchdown better than TCU though. I'm picking the Sooners to win 28-21.
HawkeyedFrog: Our thanks to Matt and all the good folks at Crimson and Cream Machine. Be sure to check out their previews of the Frogs and check in tomorrow for my answers to Matt's questions.