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“This game tends to have the chippiness of a major rivalry game.” A Q&A with Crimson & Cream Machine

We talked QBs, elite running backs, and how much of a rivalry TCU-OU is in 2021. Also — shots at Texas!

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Texas Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Not many of us have a big problem with the Oklahoma fanbase; other than their utter and complete domination of the Horned Frogs for most of the last decade, it’s a tolerable program — Baker Mayfield notwithstanding.

But the folks at Crimson & Cream Machine are all great people, and that includes editor-in-chief Jack Shields, who was kind enough to answer some questions for us — DESPITE THE FACT THAT HE IS GETTING MARRIED NEXT WEEK (YAY JACK!!!).

Check them out and be sure to keep CCM open as we get ready for game day.

Frogs O’ War: Well, might as well address this first: Just a week after the program rallied around Spencer Rattler as Caleb Williams’ name was being chanted from the stands, Riley pulled the former Heisman contender for the true freshman to spark a huge comeback win over Texas. Is Williams the starter going forward, and how was he able to bring big plays back to the OU O?

Jack Shields: I don’t see how it can be anyone but Williams at this point. The threat he brings to the table athletically not only allows things to open up for the running backs in the running game, it opens things up for the offense a whole. Teams had been sitting back in a soft zone and playing two high safeties, which prevented Rattler and the receiver from taking the top off of defenses. With the renewed effectiveness of the running game, teams are no longer able to do that.

Frogs O’ War: Kennedy Brooks is quietly kind of dominating this season. Amongst the big names in the Big 12 at running back, he might be the most under-appreciated. What makes him so special, and where does he belong in the pantheon of Bijan Robinson/Breece Hall/Zach Evans?

Jack Shields: He’s not someone who necessarily jumps out athletically, but he’s the most patient and instinctive runner that has come through Norman in recent memory. He follows blockers. He takes perfect angles in the open field. He changes direction at the perfect time. Additionally, his straight-line speed appears to have improved a bit since we last saw him in 2019. And yes, he’s putting himself in the conversation with the best in the league.

Frogs O’ War: We know that Oklahoma has no shortage of talent at WR, but outside of Marvin Mims, it doesn’t seem like anyone has stood out this year. Is that due to the lack of explosive plays prior to last weekend or are we just not privy to how good these guys are… yet?

Jack Shields: Part of it has to do with teams scheming against big plays prior to the rise of Williams. OU was forced to be more methodical, and Rattler’s targets were primarily just moving the chains (and doing a decent job of it!). Guys like Mike Woods, Mario Williams and Jadon Haselwood should be involved in more chunk plays in the coming weeks, and probably in bunches.

Frogs O’ War: Let’s talk defense. Alex Grinch was supposed to be the savior, but there are still issues on that side of the ball. That being said, what the Sooners did in the second half against Texas — and specifically Bijan — was downright impressive. Is this the turning point for the OU D or are you concerned about that unit going forward.

Jack Shields: Prior to the Kansas State game and the first half of the Texas game, the defense had actually been playing pretty well. The talent is obviously there, and the newfound explosiveness appeared to give the defense a bit of a spark in the later stages against Texas. Deuce Vaughn and Bijan Robinson have a way of making any defense look a bit silly, for what it’s worth.

The corner spot opposite DJ Graham has been a major weak point, so that’s something that’ll have to be remedied.

Frogs O’ War: Gary Patterson is o-fer Lincoln Riley. Any chance that changes this weekend? These two seem to respect each other, but there’s been plenty of drama in this matchup over the years. Is this a rivalry, despite the fact the Frogs haven’t won one since 2014?

Jack Shields: There’s a chance. Few people can concoct a defensive game plan quite like Gary Patterson, and things are never easy for OU when these two play. This game tends to have the chippiness (is that a word?) of a major rivalry game, so I’ll allow it to be dubbed as such.

Frogs O’ War: Who is one player you think will have a big impact on the game that maybe isn’t being talked about much?

Jack Shields: I’ll go with freshman LB Danny Stutsman, who has played with his hair on fire when he’s been available. He’ll be a needed commodity against the monster of a backfield OU is about to face.

Frogs O’ War: For a while, it looked like this was as wide open as the Big 12 had been in years. But with their victory over Texas, and presumed heir apparent Iowa State struggling so far, has Oklahoma asserted themselves as the run away favorite to win the conference once again?

Jack Shields: I’d say so, but I’m not counting Iowa State out just yet. That Iowa loss isn’t looking so terrible in hindsight. They also out-gained Baylor by a substantial margin and probably should have won that game. With their experience, I’d say they’re the biggest threat.

Frogs O’ War: What’s you me prediction for Saturday’s score and how do we get there?

Jack Shields: I’ll go Oklahoma 44, TCU 28. I think the OU defense will generally play very well and apply ample pressure, but some big plays from the TCU offense will make the final score look a bit less impressive. On the surface, OU’s running game should dominate, but I have a feeling Gary’s scheme will prevent the Sooners from doing so. He’ll probably figure out a way to make Williams a bit uncomfortable, as well.

This one will be competitive, but is still have the Sooners covering.

Frogs O’ War BONUS QUESTION: In all of the realignment drama, it seems like Texas was the bad guy in potentially wrecking the Big 12, while Oklahoma was given a begrudging pass. Why do you think that is, and why are Texas fans just the worst in general?

Jack Shields: UT’s past behavior didn’t do it any favors from a PR perspective in this round or realignment. Whenever a seismic shift occurs in this sport, the world will always keep a close eye Austin. Because of this, Texas took most of the shrapnel for OU, but the two were basically doing the exact same thing for the exact same reasons.

Texas fans are the worst because there is literally nothing that can shake their arrogance. 11 years of ineptitude on the gridiron would humble and embarrass most fan bases, but not this one. They still carry this attitude of “We’re Texas”, as if that actually carries an ounce weight in 2021. Every college football fan has been making fun of them CONSTANTLY for an entire decade, and they still don’t seem to have an ounce of self-awareness.