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2023 TCU Football Opponent Preview: Oklahoma Sooners

TCU’s Week 12 opponent, the Oklahoma Sooners, should be improved from last season.

Oklahoma Athletics

Week 12. At this point of the season last year, it was all but confirmed that TCU would be playing in the College Football Playoff.

Knowing that anything can happen, and the Frogs could find themselves in the exact same scenario, this year’s Week 12 matchup may prove to be quite a test.

Preseason No. 20 Oklahoma could break a lot of Frogs fans’ hearts if that scenario holds. They’re much better than they were a year ago – and many are predicting them to finish second in the Big 12 this season.

Maybe, for just that second-to-last year in the Big 12, the rest of the conference caught up to Oklahoma.

TCU put together a historic run, Kansas State was fantastic, and Texas Tech, Kansas and Texas were all dangerous. Eight teams ended up going bowling, and the two that didn’t - West Virginia and Iowa State - were hardly the free space games of previous Big 12 bottom-dwellers.

The conference was really good from top to bottom. And, yes, Oklahoma was off.

There’s a ton of work that still needs to be done, but the 2023 Sooners will be a whole lot better, the schedule is a lot more manageable, and they should get a huge season from the…

Offense:

For all of the narratives about how things were different without Lincoln Riley, and without a Heisman-caliber quarterback running the attack, the offense wasn’t really that bad.

It led the Big 12 in total offense, was balanced, great on the ground, and it didn’t have a problem with turnovers. There was an issue scoring at a consistent level, but overall the offense came up with more yards - 6,162 to 5,851 - than the 2021 version.

Since 2015 the top Oklahoma quarterbacks were Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, Jalen Hurts, Spencer Rattler, Caleb Williams. Two Heisman winners, two No. 1 picks in the draft, an NFL MVP-caliber superstar, and a guy with the best arm out of all of them.

All that considered, former UCF transfer Dillon Gabriel did just fine, throwing for 3,168 yards and 25 touchdowns with just six picks. He’s a solid starting quarterback, but the future is coming with the new guy - 6-1, 206-pound Jackson Arnold - one of the nation’s top dual-threat quarterback recruits and the possible starter when SEC life begins next season.

While there’s no Marvin Mims to throw to, No. 2 WR Jalil Farooq is back along with Drake Stoops as a go-to inside guy. On the way is Andel Anthony, a big-time recruit for Michigan who should be a bigger factor at OU. Former Sooner-turned-South Carolina Gamecock-turned-Sooner Austin Stogner is back at tight end - he’ll catch at least 25 passes.

Eric Gray is gone after leading the way with 1,366 yards and 11 scores, but the ground game should still be explosive with Jovantae Barnes good enough to take on a bigger role. There are a few nice backs behind him, and Gabriel is likely to account for at least 300 yards.

They’re all working behind an improved line that was good for the ground game but struggled in pass protection. Transfers OT Walter Rouse (Stanford) and OG Caleb Shaffer (Miami University) are two instant fill-ins around all-star C Andrew Raym and a decent group returning.

The O has to keep pumping out the production, or the Sooners need a much better year from the...

Defense:

You don’t have a head coach with the defensive mind of Brent Venables and have the second-worst defense in the Big 12. There wasn’t anything happening consistently against the run, the pass D was dead last in the conference, and no team in America allowed more first downs per game.

However, the parts are there to do a whole lot more, and…

The Sooners lived in opposing backfields. There weren’t enough sacks, but the D cranked up a whopping 104 tackles for loss with plays coming from everywhere.

The line is set at tackle with veterans Jordan Kelley and Isaiah Coe in place, but transfers Jacob Lacey (Notre Dame) and Davon Sears (Texas State) will get plenty of time. The combination of Ethan Downs, Reggie Grimes, and Wake Forest transfer Rondell Bothroyd will keep the heat coming, but…

The stars this year should be in the linebacking corps. Danny Stutsman is a future NFL outside linebacker who did it all, leading the team with 124 stops with three sacks, 10.5 tackles for loss, and two picks. He’s outside, and so is Indiana transfer Dasan McCullough around Jaren Kanak, who’ll likely be taking over on the inside with second-leading tackler David Ugwoegbu leaving for Houston.

If the pass rush can be a wee bit stronger, the defensive backs should be far more of a factor this season. Top corner Jaden Davis left for Miami, but Woodi Washington is a good all-around veteran corner. The safety situation is better with Reggie Pearson (Houston) coming in and with Billy Bowman - one of the quicker strong safeties in the country - returning.

Game Preview:

Last season, TCU routed the Sooners in Fort Worth by 30 points. Oklahoma fans were upset QB Dillon Gabriel got injured, and blamed the loss on that, but the truth is Oklahoma just couldn’t hang.

Frogs’ receivers burned the OU secondary down the field, Max Duggan had a field day, and OU couldn’t stop the run.

This year, I think we could see a lot of the same, but TCU’s success will hinge on Chandler Morris and how consistent he is throughout the season. OU’s defense has improved, but the Frogs have similar weapons, and if Morris plays well this game should be TCU’s for the taking.

It’ll be a crucial final game of the season, especially if the Frogs find themselves in a similar position to where they were last year.