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Oklahoma Football: Previewing The Sooners And TCU

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NORMAN, Oklahoma -

So far in 2013, the Oklahoma Sooners have given us glimpses of excellence and done all they can to convince the country of their legitimacy. The Sooners are 4-0 with an impressive road win against Notre Dame, but their other three opponents—Louisiana-Monroe, West Virginia and Tulsa—have all proven to be much worse this year than many thought at the beginning of the season.

Ultimately, all the Sooners can do is win every game on their schedule, regardless of opponent and regardless of how pretty the win looks to the outsider. However, the Sooners can help themselves greatly by winning impressively against all the big-name opponents on their schedule.

Notre Dame was a great win, and an impressive win against TCU would be a nice follow-up for the Sooners. The Horned Frogs haven't looked much like the Big 12 title contender many thought they would be at the beginning of the season, but they're still a dangerous team with a great defense and loads of talent on both sides of the ball.

Style points normally don't matter for a team like Oklahoma, but with a down Big 12 and non-conference opponents falling flat early in the season, the Sooners may need to start thinking about that if they really want to be considered in the national championship picture this season.

Three questions for Oklahoma:

1. How will the team respond after the big Notre Dame win?

The Sooners have a lot of momentum after defeating the Fighting Irish on the road last week; easily the program's biggest win in two years. OU coach Bob Stoops said he hoped that win would translate into momentum for the Sooners going forward, and this week will be the time to prove that. It also comes before Texas, always a circled game on the calendar, so the Sooners have to come out focused on Saturday. TCU hasn't been great this season, especially on offense, but they have the talent and ability to beat anyone at any time, so the Sooners will have to play well to come out with the win.

Related Story: Sooners Aware Of Danger In Overlooking Horned Frogs

2. Will Blake Bell's excellence continue against a great secondary?

Bell has been terrific in two starts against Tulsa and Notre Dame, throwing for 645 yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions. However, neither the Golden Hurricane nor the Golden Domers have as fierce a secondary as TCU. The Horned Frogs have already picked off nine passes this season and are also tied for fifth in the nation in sacks, a product of good coverage down the field. There have been a couple of throws Bell has gotten away with a couple of throws that probably should have been picked off in the past two games, but he won't be able to do that against the Horned Frogs. TCU is loaded in the secondary with Chris Hackett, Sam Carter, Jason Verrett, Kevin White, and Elisha Olabode. Statistically, they're 76th in passing defense, but they're more than capable of making you pay for your mistakes. This will be the biggest test of Bell's arm so far this year.

3. Can OU continue to run the ball effectively?

If the Sooners have another productive day on the ground Saturday, this will be the last time you'll see this question this season. Through four games, the Sooners are averaging 256.8 yards per game, including 212 yards last week against a Notre Dame defense that held OU to 15 yards last season. So far the Sooners' offensive line has done a great job of opening up holes for the OU running backs. In TCU, the Sooners will face the most complete defense they've faced yet this season. TCU has talent at every level of the defense, and the Horned Frogs will be looking to shut down the run game and force Bell to beat a terrific secondary on his own.

Three key players for TCU:

1. Trevone Boykin, QB- 625 pass yards, 4 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 158 rush yards

Boykin wasn't going to be the starting quarterback this year, but once Casey Pachall struggled against LSU—and then broke his arm against SE Louisiana—Boykin became the man once again. Boykin was called upon to save the day last season and was a solid quarterback by the end of the season. He hasn't been great so far this year, but he is beginning to hit his stride a bit, throwing for 228 yards and two scores against SMU last week. Boykin has good running ability, so the Sooners will have to do a good job of containing him. The OU secondary is too good to allow Boykin to beat them strictly from the pocket with his arm, so keeping him there will be the key for the Sooners.

2. B.J. Catalon, running back- 214 rushing yards, four touchdowns, 29.9 kickoff return average

Catalon does a bit of everything for the Horned Frogs. He's the leading rusher on the team, and his 100-yard kickoff return against LSU in the opening game of the season showcased his terrific speed. The Frogs haven't done a great job of running the ball this season, currently sitting 81st in the country with just 149.2 yards per game. TCU obviously wants to run the ball better and they'll try to do that with Catalon against the Sooners. Oklahoma has done a great job of stopping the run this season and they'll need to continue that on Saturday to make TCU one-dimensional and force Boykin to try to beat OU with his arm.

3. Chris Hackett, safety- 24 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 interceptions

Hackett is only a sophomore, but appears to be the next great secondary player in Gary Patterson's long line of excellent defensive player. Hackett leads the team in tackles so far this season in addition to his two sacks and three interceptions. He has great size at 6-foot-2, 195 pounds and great speed as well. Hackett definitely benefits from having other great secondary players alongside him, such as safety Sam Carter and cornerback Jason Verrett. Bell will have to be aware of Hackett at all times on Saturday and make the correct reads in order to prevent making the big mistake.

Biggest matchup: Oklahoma wide receivers vs. TCU secondary

You could say it's more important for Bell to deal with the TCU secondary, but ultimately, his receivers have to give him a chance to make the throws Oklahoma needs him to make. If the OU receivers can't get open, it could give the TCU defensive line time to put pressure on Bell and make some big plays up front. TCU's secondary is good, but they're still giving up 238 yards per game through the air, so it's not impossible to beat them. It will take a strong effort from the OU receivers, but they're definitely capable of giving Bell the passing lanes he needs.

Prediction: Oklahoma 31, TCU 14

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