It's the final week of the regular season for the Frogs, and this year it means a climactic visit from the Oklahoma Sooners, in a game that was originally going to be in the non-conference schedule before the fortuitous events that brought TCU into the Big 12. Both teams are coming off emotional wins over historic rivals, so it's the perfect week for a let down... but for which team? I got in touch with M. Hofeld of OU's SBNation blog Crimson and Cream Machine to learn a bit more about this year's Oklahoma team, and he didn't even answer every question with Boomer Sooner (making him entirely unlike the OU band. Come on guys, learn another song). My answers to M. Hofeld's questions will appear on Crimson and Cream Machine later today, and be sure to check over there tomorrow as I'll be their guest on their weekly podcast.
HawkeyedFrog: OU comes into the game at 9-2, but it hasn't been an easy ride since the home loss to Notre Dame. Baylor put a minor scare into OU before a heart attack inducing win against West Virginia and a come from behind win over the Cowboys in Bedlam. What's the mood like in the Oklahoma empire coming into this game?
M. Hofeld: I would say that Oklahoma fans are cautiously optimistic heading into this game. The offense has sparked a lot of confidence that they can score when needed, even in a shootout. Winning against the Mountaineers in Morgantown, as you guys can attest to, was a huge boost as well. The defense hasn't been anywhere near great over the last month but they've been just good enough.
The thing to keep in mind is that these are games that Oklahoma would have lost last season and yet this year they've found a way to win.
HawkeyedFrog: Early on in the year it looked like the excommunication of former DC Brent Vernables had paid significant dividends as a Stoops (I can't keep the non-Bob ones straight in my head) took over the OU defense. Then in the last three weeks the OU defense has allowed West Virginia its highest non-Baylor point total, 34 to Baylor and 45 (in regulation) to Okie State. What issues has the OU defense been dealing with and where can TCU find the most success?
M. Hofeld: First off, to be fair, the Sooners have faced some extremely high powered offenses over the last three weeks. However, there are significant issues on this defense, starting up front. There defensive line has struggled most of the season and the linebackers have been irrelevant. Safety Tony Jefferson leads the team in total tackles (105) but Oklahoma's top four tacklers are all defensive backs as well.
If I were TCU, I would run right at this defense. They could be susceptible to a zone read, as well as straight up getting gashed in the middle. (Ed. Run right at the defense? That's our playcalling specialty!)
HawkeyedFrog: The flip side of the coin is that the OU offense has come on since the Notre Dame game (and an early struggle against UTEP) and has more than made up for the defensive backslide. Has Landry Jones finally become the consistently great quarterback that OU has been expecting, or are you expecting a lower output against a TCU defense that has hit its stride.
M. Hofeld: The biggest thing that has happened to Landry Jones over the course of the season is that he's developed chemistry with his receivers. Coming into the season, Kenny Stills was the only player who had caught a pass in a Sooner uniform. It took a while but things seem to be humming right now.
I don't think you'll see Oklahoma have as much success against TCU because the Horned Frogs' defense is that good. They pressure has been on the OU defense over the last three weeks as they've played some pretty explosive offenses. Now the pressure will be on Oklahoma's offense as they play the best defense they've seen since hosting Kansas State back in September.
HawkeyedFrog: Let's talk Big 12, as OU can clinch at least a share of the conference with a win over TCU and possibly more if Texas craps in Kansas State's punchbowl. Do you like the ten team model, or would you like to see the 12 expand back to 12 (or more)? What if a split involved UT and OU in different divisions but with a protected rivalry to add more conference championship game revenue for a rematch (ala Michigan/Ohio State in the B1G). Any teams you'd particularly want?
M. Hofeld: I would like to see the Big 12 move back to a conference championship game. However, that would require further expansion and it appears as if that isn't going to happen. In my opinion the Big 12 missed out on a great opportunity when they let Louisville slip off to the ACC. The Cardinals would have boosted the conference in both football and basketball and the fact that the Big 12 didn't make a play for them pretty much shows that they're not interested in expansion.
HawkeyedFrog: TCU has seen a lot more of OU than we did of either Texas or A&M since the death of the SWC (Because y'all aren't cowards), and the programs have put together some good ones: The 1998 game still sticks in my throat, while the 2005 TCU shutdown of Peterson and company was one of our top games of the '00s. What's the OU opinion of TCU, and is there a rivalry possibility here, or is the OU rivalry docket already full?
M. Hofeld: TCU has certainly made it interesting for Oklahoma in recent years. Walking out of the stadium in 2005 is still one of the most frustrating moments of my life and the 2008 game was closer than what the final score indicated.
I was a big advocate of the Horned Frogs joining the Big 12. They immediately boosted the conference in football and in baseball. When you look at the overall resume it is an improvement over both Missouri and Texas A&M.
That said, Oklahoma's rivalry docket is pretty full. I think it would have to take some controversy or the two teams playing multiple times with the conference championship on the line to make it a rivalry.
HawkeyedFrog: Finally it's prediction time. Who do you like in this game, and what's the score in the end?
M. Hofeld: Obviously I'm going to pick Oklahoma to win but I'm calling it close, seeing has how that's been OU's thing recently. I'll take the Sooners 35-28.
HawkeyedFrog: A close loss to the Sooners would seem in character with what we've seen from the Frogs so far this season, but in an electric home environment on senior day I wouldn't be surprised with any outcome. Thanks to M. Hofeld for answering my questions and be sure to check out Crimson and Cream Machine for the OU side, as well as more content from me. Y'all know you can't get enough of the Hawkster.