The TCU/OU rivalry has been a tightly contested one over the last several years, as multiple games have come down to the last possession. We sat down with Jack Shields of CCM to see just how the Sooner fans are doing with their team struggling with early season expectations against a tough out of conference schedule.
Oklahoma has been hung out to dry a bit for their 1-2 record, but they scheduled one of the most ambitious preseasons in the country (probably the most), and hung tough with two teams that seemed poised to be in the playoff hunt for most of the season. With Big 12 play finally on the horizon, do you think the two games against top-notch competition will finally pay off, or has their confidence taken too much of a hit to bounce back?
I think it could pay off, as far as conference play is concerned. If Oklahoma plays a weak schedule coming into league play, they may not be able to see all of the glaring weaknesses that are clearly present after losses to Houston and Ohio State. A 1-2 record forces the coaching staff to address the weaknesses (since their jobs depend on it), and it forces the players to be better in their preparation (since their jobs also depend on it). Whether it actually happens is another matter entirely.
On that note, how are fans handling the disappointing start to the season? Did the preseason ranking set too high of a bar or set people's expectations unfairly for the year?
People are definitely down in the dumps. People argue over who is to blame for the struggles. It can definitely be attributed to a combination of factors, but Mike Stoops has been the primary scapegoat (and rightfully so). As far as expectations are concerned, people would be upset about the start (albeit against good competition) if they were ranked 15th instead of 3rd in the preseason poll. People are more upset about the way in which OU has lost more than the losses themselves.
OU was picked to win the Big 12 by a wide margin in the preseason, and with the entire slate of conference games ahead of them, that's certainly in play. Having seen the Sooners in three games now, do you feel more or less confident that they will achieve that goal this season?
If I look solely at the Sooners and their performances thus far, I have a hard time seeing them as a conference championship-caliber team. However, when I look at the rest of the conference I don’t see a squad without glaring weaknesses. Based on what I’ve seen from the rest of the league, I’m almost as confident now about a conference championship as I was before. Do I see OU running the table? No, but I can see them potentially going 7-2 and taking home the trophy, since it looks like there will be a lot of parity this year.
Baker Mayfield was one of the most hyped players in college football last season and through the off-season, but has struggled a bit to start the year. There are a certainly several factors for that, but it seem, in part, that he is just trying to do too much. Is that a correct observation, or is there something else going on, too?
That’s definitely the primary factor, and I don’t know if there’s any way to fix it. People have compared his boom-or-bust style of play to that of Russell Westbrook, and I think it’s a decent comparison. He’s just wired to take a lot of chances and be the center of attention. He needs to do a better job of spreading the ball around to his playmakers. The are many times in which someone will be somewhat open and he’ll see them, but for some reason he feels more confident in his ability to scramble and find someone five seconds later. I believe his height may have something to do with that, but it probably has more to do with the fact that he wants to go for the big play.
Has anyone told Lincoln Riley yet that Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon are really good at football or nah? How much do you find yourself screaming at the TV or the sidelines to give them the ball more?
That’s been pretty frustrating. Once Lincoln Riley notices that OU is likely in for a shootout, he tends to panic and abandon the running game. Sticking with the run and giving the defense a chance to breathe would probably be a better idea, but like Mayfield, the man is wired a certain way. Bob knew what he was getting himself into when he hired an air-raid guy. Honestly, I really like Lincoln Riley. He’s a very inventive offensive mind, but I think he’s too smart for his own good sometimes. Hitting people in the mouth with two NFL-caliber backs is sometimes the best course of action, believe it or not.
There are a ton of new faces on the Oklahoma defense this fall, and they have produced mixed results through the non-conference portion of the season. Who are one or two players that you expect to hear from a lot Saturday afternoon?
With the injury to Matt Dimon on the defensive line, be prepared to hear a lot about Neville Gallimore. The Canadian is the most physically imposing presence that Oklahoma has on defense, and people have been clamoring to see the redshirt freshman for a long time. Another name that you will hear a lot is Michiah Quick. The former WR will be OU’s No. 2 corner on Saturday, and you may remember him from this play. Whether he finally gives OU a decent presence in the secondary or gets lit up, you’ll be hearing his name an awful lot on Saturday.
Looking at Saturday's game, OU wins if.... OU loses if.... and the final score will be_______?
OU wins if they are able to effectively rush Kenny Hill and get stops on third down. OU loses if they can’t do either of those things and decide to abandon the run game. I have OU doing at least an okay job in those areas, and I believe they’ll win a tight one by a score of 38-31.
Thanks to Jack!