Things were so promising in 2014, after the Frogs pulled off a major upset over a top five Sooners team on their way to a Big 12 title and berth in the Peach Bowl. Visions of these two teams duking it out for titles for years to come filled Frogs fans’ heads, as it seemed success was written in stone.
Well, one team has lived up to that dream, as Oklahoma has owned the conference in the years since, including taking the three titles since that game. The Frogs, meanwhile, have yet to earn their second win over the Sooners since joining the conference, falling twice last fall, including once in the championship game.
In 2018, things are, once again, different - TCU has fallen on hard times while the Sooners are coming off a bad loss to Texas. How will things go when these two teams meet Saturday morning? We asked Jack Shields of Crimson and Cream Machine to find out.
FOW: What did the Texas loss expose about the Sooners, or was it more the case of weird football things happening in the midst of a rivalry game?
JS: I don’t think it exposed anything so much as it highlighted the issues that have plagued this defense for years. Texas’ offense – although much better than it’s been in recent seasons – shouldn’t be scoring 48 points on many P5 defense, and the fact that it happened against a unit full of good athletes is pretty inexcusable. As simple as it sounds, the biggest issue has been the tackling, and it showed against UT.
FOW: I am pretty sure Kyler Murray hasn’t experienced a loss since his second grade spelling bee. How do you expect the quarterback to bounce back after thinking about his last game for two weeks?
JS: He publicly blamed himself for the defeat after the game, which probably indicates that he’s going to be particularly careful with his decisions this weekend. I don’t think there’s a rational person on Earth who would cite his two turnovers are anywhere close to the primary cause of the loss but that’s just the type of person he seems to be.
FOW: TCU’s offense is bad. OU’s defense has been bad. How much of an impact can Ruffin McNeil have immediately on the defense? Do you except the changes to be more scheme or player based with the midseason change?
JS: I think we might see a bit of a simplification in scheme moving forward, which could certainly benefit this group. However, personnel changes are also certainly on the table. The hope is that they’re going to make a concerted effort to keep the best athletes on the field more consistently, which would mean seeing more of cornerback Tre Brown, safety Robert Barnes and defensive end Ronnie Perkins.
FOW: Ever since 2014, OU seems to have had TCU’s number. After several close games though, the Sooners dominated the Frogs both times the teams met last year. Do you expect Saturday to be more of the same, or can a good TCU defense slow down an explosive OU O?
JS: Even with the issues TCU has faced offensively, I could see this one being something closer to the shootout we saw in 2016. TCU has turned it over 15 times this season, but Oklahoma has only forced five. Something has to give, and if it gives in TCU’s favor we could be in for a high-scoring affair – particularly when considering the athletes TCU has at the skill positions.
FOW: The loss of Rodney Anderson was clearly a big one, but the Sooners haven’t seemed to skip a beat in the running game. Is that due to Lincoln Riley’s scheme, Murray’s ability, or are the guys behind him just that good?
JS: They actually have skipped a beat to a degree, but it’s not all on account of his absence. OU certainly would be in better shape with Anderson, but the OU offensive line has suffered some run-blocking growing pains due to offseason shifts. There’s plenty of potential for improvement, but things haven’t always gone swimmingly in the running game.
Having said that, Kyler Murray’s ability to run has been quite helpful. Whether it’s a designed run or an act of improvisation, his speed is a threat that must be respected, and it makes the read-option game all the more lethal.
FOW: Which players on offense and defense do you expect to have big games at TCU? Anyone that people aren’t talking about that could be a surprise?
JS: Cornerback Tre Brown has been this team’s best cornerback in recent weeks, and I think he has a chance to be Oklahoma’s best defensive playmaker if he is allowed to play consistently. Another person to watch is five-star freshman nickel Bookie Radley-Hiles, who was expected to make impact plays coming into the season. Unfortunately, that hasn’t quite materialized, but perhaps the change will benefit him.
FOW: OU wins if...
JS: OU wins if the defense can tackle better than it has in recent weeks and force some turnovers. If OU allows to consistently convert on third down (which has been a lingering issue), this could be close. However, this could get out of hand if OU is able to get stops at least half the time.
FOW: TCU wins if...
JS: TCU wins if the offense takes care of the football, the defense holds OU to field goals and is able to turn the Sooners over on multiple occasions.
FOW: What’s your prediction for the game?
JS: I think TCU will have its share of big plays on offense, but Oklahoma’s defense will do just enough to avoid blowing it. I’m going with a 42-28 Oklahoma win.
FOW: BONUS: Lincoln Riley will coach Baker Mayfield again at some point. True or False.
JS: Unless Baker Mayfield is traded to the Cowboys at some point, I’m going to have to go with ‘false’.