It felt pretty icky just over a week ago when Sooner fans were chanting for QB2 in their home stadium in a tough win over WVU.
It felt even grosser when various Texas fan sites were calling for Williams as the Longhorns jumped out to a big lead in the Red River Rivalry.
Well, Sooner and Texas fans got what they wanted about halfway through one of the game’s biggest rivalries, and it worked out pretty well for one of them.
Now, it’s TCU’s turn to wait and see which QB Lincoln Riley rolls out in Norman Saturday night: will it be Spencer Rattler, the one-time Heisman hopeful who has looked decidedly average in 2021? Or will it be the wunderkind true freshman Williams, who wasn’t super sharp Saturday but injected life and excitement into an Oklahoma offense that wasn’t used to not having that in spades over the better part of the last ten years.
While so much has been made, and rightfully so, of the Oklahoma passing game over the years — a run of back to back Heisman winners, back to back number one draft picks, and then just a national championship winning QB will do that — the Sooners’ O really moves on the ground in 2021. Sure, the talent is still there at the skill positions: Marvin Mims is ELITE, and combined with Michael Woods, Mario Williams, and Jadon Hasellwood, the wide receiving corp is a PROBLEM for opponents, especially when your secondary has been mistaken for a nice wheel of swiss cheese for most of the season (looking at you, TCU). And I would be remiss to not mention Drake Stoops, who seems to be an afterthought until the Sooners need a big third down conversion and it’s ALWAYS him that makes it. Or springs a running back for a big block. Or finds some other way to rip your heart out. But a running attack that averages over five yards per carry and nearly 200 yards per game is what makes things tick.
While Williams got the pub, it was Kennedy Brooks making big play after big play for the Sooners last Saturday, racking up yards on his way to a 25 carry, 217 yard, and two touchdown day. That brought his season total to 535 yards and six scores, and he’s picking up yardage at an impressive 6.8 per clip. If it weren’t for the exploits of Bijan Robinson and Zach Evans, he would be talked about much more, and you can be sure he will look to make a statement against a super soph for the second straight week Saturday night.
Both Rattler and Williams can run a little, but expect the latter to use his legs more if its his show. Young QBs tend to bail out of their progressions faster, and while Rattler hasn’t looked super comfortable in the pocket or particularly adept at going through his reads, he’s far more experienced than his former backup and would see the holes in the TCU defense more clearly. I think. Should Williams get the ball, it will be crucial for the Frogs to keep him in the pocket while applying a steady dose of pressure, something that they haven’t exactly excelled at this season to this point. Hopefully Khari Coleman, who looks better by the week since returning against Texas, is close to 100% and can be fully released on a Sooner offensive line that is good but not the impenetrable units of years past.
Speaking of impenetrable... the Sooner defense is anything but.
Good lord, what Texas did to them in the first half Saturday should have been saved for pay cable, it was not suitable for a Saturday morning. But give Alex Grinch credit for his halftime adjustments:
Here's a good framing for your Texas-Oklahoma rewatch: What did Alex Grinch do on early downs to stop Texas?— parker (@statsowar) October 11, 2021
First half: 0.641 EPA/play, 51.9% success rate on 1st&2nd down
Second Half: 0.164 EPA/play, 33.3% success rate on 1st&2nd down
If Oklahoma can get you in third and long, and keep you behind the chains, they can wreak havoc. If you can hit big plays early, there is success to be had. What does that mean for a TCU offense that seems to take time to warm up? Better hit them hard and hit them early with a heavy dose of Evans/Miller and hope that Max Duggan can finally find some touch over the top to keep the Sooners from stacking the box.
This is a defense allowing nearly 24 points per game but has held opponents to less than 100 yards per game on the ground — and kept the aforementioned Robinson to just 39 yards on eight attempts in the second half (Sark, what were you doing?!) last time out. The secondary is vulnerable to the big play, but the front seven can set the tone and keep the Frogs from doing what they want to do on offense. This might have to be the Duggan game: OU allows 265 yards per game through the air and almost 7.5 yards per passing attempt. Their weakness lines up with TCU’s weakness, so something has to give there, right?
Players to watch include leading tackler Brian Asamoah, a hard-hitting linebacker who has come on really strong the last few weeks, and his linemate, Nik Bonitto — who is somehow just a RS junior. Bonitto has seven TFLs and four sacks already, and is living in opposing backfields. The Sooners as a whole have just three picks this season and six PBUs, so the windows should be there for Duggan to find.
If I had seen this passing offense get hot just once this season, I would think maybe the Frogs had a shot of pulling off an upset on the road. And there was a time when Gary Patterson matching wits with a true freshman QB would be a recipe for disaster for the opposing offense, but now just feels like pick-’em. The Sooners have new life under Williams, and it’s not like they were bad before. Add in a defense that has been really good at stopping the run, a night game in Norman, and the general inefficiency of the TCU defense and I don’t feel great about our prospects of starting a win streak.
Oklahoma 41, TCU 24