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Oklahoma Conversation: Q&A with Ian Boyd

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We sat down with SBNation's Ian Boyd to talk about the big game this weekend.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Could this be TCU's breakout game? The national conversation this week has been an interesting one. Few are doubting that the Frogs are getting back to the level that earned them a Big 12 invite in the first place. They've also been touted by a few as the "Auburn for 2014". But while many are high on TCU, the consensus seems to be that next week at Baylor, a game circled disdainfully on Gary Patterson's calender, will be the breakout game. Score predictions for this week are generally within one score in favor of the Sooner with no one playing contrarian for the Frogs.

Will it be another boxing match in Oklahoma's favor? Or are the Sooners in their best shape in years and will dominate? We know that TCU's offense is improved from last year, but it's still relatively untested. Is it good enough to upend the Sooners? We sat down with SBNation's Ian Boyd to talk about the big game this weekend.

Marshall Weber:

Thanks for doing this. What are your initial thoughts on the game?

Ian Boyd:

Initial thought, is that it will kind of look like it did last year. Just because everyone knows TCU’s defense is good and they’re good at the right things to handle Oklahoma. And, Oklahoma’s defense is also especially good. That could be a nightmare for TCU.

MW:


Unfortunately, yeah. So talking about OU’s 3-4 defense and for people who don’t know, you’re a bit of an expert on the subject. We’ll link your piece, but maybe give us an outline of how it works, what to look for....

IB:


Their defense is a lot like Alabama’s except that when Bama plays against the spread, they’ll run a 4-2 nickel or even a 4-1 dime. Oklahoma will actually stay in the 3-4, because Eric Striker is versatile and athletic enough to play the fieldside linebacker and drop back on a slot receiver and blitz off the edge.

They’ll also put Quentin Hayes, their safety, behind him. He’s not the most physical guy in the world, but he is good at coverage. They’ll blitz Striker off the edge half the time, a third of time, and then have Hayes just play the slot. They’ll give you small gains on the ground, that’s not really hard against Oklahoma. They’ll keep you in such a tight, restricted space, that you’ll unlikely get any more than that. That’s their MO this year.

MW: I know you watched the Minnesota game, not sure how much of the SMU game you watched. But maybe go into some detail of how Sonny Cumbie and Doug Meacham’s Air Raid is going to matchup against the Sooner defense.

IB:


It’s problematic because there are four guys that are above average pass rushers at their position. You have Geneo Grissom at outside linebacker, Striker is obviously a nightmare, Tapper is actually really good--he plays like a 3-4 defensive end now, which isn’t the ideal situation to be a pass rusher in, but he’s really fast. And their nosetackle Jordan Phillips is pretty hard to handle for a big nose tackle.


So the problem going 4 or 5-wide against them is that they will, in that event, sub out to the nickel of Grissom, Tapper, Phillips...just a really athletic front. They’ll bring a 4-man pass rush. It’s pretty elite. Spreading them out will be really challenging because you’re putting a lot of pressure on your offensive line.

MW:

What do you think will be the most important matchup in the game? Is it TCU’s offense versus Oklahoma’s defense, is it Oklahoma’s offense versus TCU’s defense?

IB:


I’ll say Boykin versus Mike Stoops.

MW:
That’s a good one.

Oklahoma’s the favorite. The spread’s a small margin, and looking at it at this point, it’ll be the smallest spread they’ll have all year. They’ve covered in every game, but disregarding how tight the spread is, they’re the favorite, what are they [TCU] going to have to do to win the game?

IB:


They can’t give up big plays. That’s what killed them last year, right? An 80-yard play?

MW:


Yeah.

IB:


Right, they had one or two plays like that that were all difference. It’s pretty tough because Oklahoma’s pretty great this year at isolating and pounding at the running game. One thing they’re doing this year is that they’re running a whole lot of pop plays where they’ll pair a smash mouth run with a deep fade to Sterling Shepard. And then what happens is that Shepard will end up running one-on-one matchups and deep vertical routes multiple times a game. If you look at his stats, he’ll have [games] where he’s got 5 receptions for 120 yards. He’s a good player, but a lot of that is because the offense is giving him a lot of awesome opportunities. TCU’s probably better off there than most teams, because they’ve got good quarter play---and you’ll [TCU] will probably give up a couple big plays, but you’ll have to keep that as minimal as possible.

So containing Shepard and containing the run game is the best bet.

MW:

You and I have talked before about the killshots to Josh Doctson and Kolby Listenbee. Especially with Listenbee, who’s the fastest dude at TCU, how important is getting that play down? The Sooners are vulnerable to big plays, and that could be a real advantage for TCU--getting out ahead early and then suffocating them the next half on defense.

IB:

Yeah, it’d be a great week to get the timing down to those shots to Listenbee. Zack Sanchez is a really good corner, but he doesn't have elite speed.

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MW:

I think it’s a given there’s still a lot we haven’t seen from the Cumbie and Meacham playbook. What can we expect from the Air Raid as TCU moves into conference play?

IB:

I think they’re going to try to throw the ball a lot. You’ll probably see a lot of 3-step, 5-step passing game stuff, in hopes Boykin can avoid the pass rush and keep his eyes down field and make some plays there.

MW:

Score prediction?

IB:

I think they’ll hold them to under 30. So I’ll say 30-13, Oklahoma, with Oklahoma not pulling away until deep into the second half.

MW:

They usually play each other tight. Is Oklahoma just that good this year?

IB:

This is the best offensive line they’ve had since 2008--when they were killing people. And this is the best defensive line they’ve had since, I don’t even know. It’s *really* good. I bet they had one more year of eligibility for Aaron Colvin.

MW:

Yeah, he’s great.

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IB:

Two quick things on OU. I’d say their weaknesses are that they’re not amazing in deep coverage. But take advantage of that, you have to block their pressure, which is really hard. Trevor Knight can be inaccurate, especially if you make him hold onto the ball. Also, if someone can stop their run game. That’s what you’re going to have to do to get to them. It’s a very tall order.

One other interesting thing is that Oklahoma didn’t put as much into the Texas game as they usually do. In part, because they had Notre Dame scheduled pretty close.

MW:

So you think there’s an advantage this year for Oklahoma playing Texas next week--despite the state Texas is in?

IB:

I think so. I feel like Stoops is going to want to send a message in the Texas game. Even though they’re thinking "It’d take a lot to blow this". But since we [Texas] beat them last year, I feel like they’re gonna want to go all in on this one. So there’s surely some advantage.

MW:

Well, no matter what, it should be a fun game. I know you’re a Texas guy, so let’s get back together before that matchup and do this again.

IB:
Sounds good.