As we look forward to the Sooners coming to town this weekend, I sent some questions to M. Hofeld who writes about the Sooners at SB Nation's OU site, Crimson and Cream Machine. about the state of the Oklahoma football program. Lets get to know the opponent a bit better.
1) Following last weekend's loss to Texas, how is the mood of the OU fanbase about the state of the program?
To say that the fanbase is frustrated would be a massive understatement. Not only did Oklahoma lose to a hated rival, they did it in a baffling way. The offensive game plan made no sense and the first person who should take the blame for the loss is offensive coordinator Josh Heupel.
I don't think that any realistic Oklahoma fan expected the team to run the table this season but we sure didn't expect to see the effort that we got from the team at the Cotton Bowl last Saturday. Not only was it pathetic and embarrassing but it also raised a lot of questions about the future of this program.
2) From watching the Sooners at times this year, I've been impressed with the receivers and their athleticism. However, outside of the game against Tulsa, they haven't been real productive. Is that mostly a function of the quarterback play this year or have I overrated the ability of the receivers?
The receiving corps is deep and talented but they haven't been as productive as in seasons past for a couple of reasons. First, Oklahoma isn't slinging the ball around 50-60 times per game like they had been with Sam Bradford and Landry Jones. Until last week, the Sooners had run more times than they passed in every game.
The second reason is that the OU quarterbacks have been downright awful at times this season. I mean bad like they couldn't hit water if they fell out of a boat bad.
3) The Kansas defense has struggled against zone read option plays this year. Are we going to see Blake Bell and Brennan Clay run all over the field Saturday?
That would actually make too much sense. Texas is dead last in the Big XII against the run and yet the Sooners chose to pass more times than the run the football against the Longhorns last weekend. While we never really know what the details are of the game plan, one thing that we're learning is to take common sense and throw it out the window.
4) Speaking of Bell, looking at his stats leaves me fairly unimpressed. He's a monster of a person but his highest rushing output this year has been 61 yards on 14 carries against TCU. If you just listened to the talking heads, you'd expect 80-100 yards a game on the ground from him. Is he a good enough runner to compensate for his passing ability?
The important thing to keep in mind about Bell is that it's not how much he runs but when he runs. He's been able to get the Sooners out of some difficult situations with his legs. He's been able to dodge the rush, run a draw and pick up yards on the zone read with regularity. With the stable of running backs that Oklahoma has, they don't need a quarterback to gain a hundred yards on the ground. They just need him to do what he's done to this point of the season. Unless they're playing Texas in which they seem to forget what their quarterback can and cannot do effectively.
5) The Jayhawk offense has been terrible this year. If you were to help Charlie Weis gameplan this week, what would you tell him about the Sooner defense?
I'd take a page out of the Texas playbook and run James Sims right up the gut and then hit play-action passes across the middle of the field. With the absence of defensive tackle Jordan Phillips in the middle of Oklahoma's defensive line the Sooners struggled severely in stopping the run. This allowed Texas to do what they wanted pretty much all day against the Sooners. It all starts with being successful on the ground though.
5) Looking at F/+ from Football Outsiders, I noticed the Sooners dropped 21 spots to #30 this week in their rankings. Sagarin has the Sooners at 18 in Predictor. Where do you think the team ranks in terms of the conference and nationally? And predict a final record for me if you will.
I said at the beginning of the season that I thought the Sooners would go 10-2 and, while 9-3 is still a realistic possibility, I'm going to stick to it. I would say at this point they are probably fourth in the Big XII and I would rank the 20th nationally.