2. KEYS TO THE SEASON
Biggest Key To The Oklahoma Offense
Nitpicking time … maybe do a little more to control the clock.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s not how the OU O rolls, and hitting home runs off of big plays in the fast-paced attack is how the program got to two straight College Football Playoffs, but considering the defense still isn’t going to be a brick wall – even if it’s improved – going on long marches from time to time will help the overall cause.
Maybe use a little more of the ground game by leaning more on the deep backfield loaded with talent and experience. Maybe let Jalen Hurts be Jalen Hurts and simply keep the chains moving, and maybe …
Just keep hitting the lightning fast receivers in stride, keep blowing through Big 12 defenses with big play after big play, and keep daring opposing offenses to try keeping up the pace. But to do all of that, everyone needs time to work.
The real key is getting the offensive line going in a hurry. The skill talent is more than there to assure at least a top ten overall finish in total O – even if it’s not quite the same ridiculous machine of the last few seasons – but there can’t be a slew of injuries to the starting five.
Biggest Key To The Oklahoma Defense
Pick off more passes, come up with a third down stop, don’t have the nation’s worst pass defense, come up with a fourth down stop, don’t be last in the nation in first downs allowed, and come up with a stop in the red zone.
Good luck, defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. Have fun with this.
Considering the Oklahoma offense put up a bazillion points a game, the Oklahoma defense’s job was to not allow a bazillion and one – and it often succeeded.
With the new changes, the renewed emphasis on stopping someone, and with tackling no longer optional, this should be a better D. It all starts with improving the play of the secondary.
Yeah, Big 12 teams bombed away, and yeah, the Sooners had to deal with Alabama, but they also had Army’s no-throw offense in the equation and still allowed more passing yards per game than anyone.
How bad was the pass defense? Oklahoma was hit for 294 yards per game. The second-worst pass D was Texas Tech’s and it allowed 288 yards per outing.
Okay, but offenses had to throw to try to stay in games. Yeah, but even though only four defenses had more passes attempted against them than OU dealt with, the Sooner D still only managed to come up with six picks.
Key Player To A Successful Season
QB Jalen Hurts, Sr.
It’s actually redshirt freshman kicker Gabe Brkic and/or sophomore punter Reeves Mundschau, because all they have to do is replace Austin Seibert, who averaged 41 yards per punt and nailed 17-of-19 field goals. Obviously, though, for a program that’s looking to take that next step forward and play for the national title, it’s the former Alabama star who has to lead them.
Is Hurts another Baker Mayfield or Kyler Murray? Maybe not as a big-time NFL bomber, but he’s a better passer than you think.
In his three seasons with the Crimson Tide, he completed 63% of his throws, averaged eight yards per pass, and threw 48 touchdown passes with just 12 picks.
Famously, he couldn’t get much of anything going in the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship Game against Georgia, but 1) he was the starting quarterback in a CFP national championship, 2) twice, and 3) was one Clemson pick play/epic Deshaun Watson drive away from being forever known for a national title-winning touchdown run to pull Bama’s butt out of the fire.
Now, all he has to do is connect with his open receivers in stride – he can do that.
He can keep the chains moving, he can be the cool leader with the credibility to say, “been there, done that,” and he was Nick Saban’s starting quarterback as a true freshman.
The pressure of being the next in line after two Heisman-winning No. 1 overall draft picks won’t faze him.
Key Game To The Oklahoma Season
at Oklahoma State, Nov. 30
Obviously the October 12th game against Texas is the big one on the slate, but like last season, it might not mean a whole lot – okay, it did, because OU would’ve been left out of the CFP if Georgia hadn’t tried that fake punt and/or Jalen Hurts didn’t go off in the SEC Championship – considering the Sooners ended up getting into the College Football Playoff.
The Big 12 overall isn’t bad, but considering the toughest true road games until the regular season finale are at Baylor and Kansas State, Oklahoma should be no worse than 10-1 before going up the road 80 miles to deal with the Bedlam game.
Oklahoma State will be good enough to pull this off. Last year, it took everything in the bag for the Sooners to get by 48-47, and the 62-52 shootout in 2017 was epic. 2014 was the last time the Cowboys won, but this time around, a loss will probably be the difference between OU going 11-1 with the CFP still on the table, and – assuming there’s a hiccup somewhere – 10-2 and out of the fun.
– Oklahoma Schedule Breakdown & Analysis
2018 Oklahoma Fun Stats
– Average Yards Per Catch: Oklahoma 16.5 – Opponents 13.1
– Fumbles: Oklahoma 9 (lost 6) – Opponents 9 (lost 5)
– Rushing TDs: Oklahoma 42 – Opponents 22