Scouting The Sooners
Tulsa's defense has been impressive through the first two matchups of the season, especially last Saturday against Colorado State. TU held the Rams to 275 total yards and nine first downs in the 30-27 victory, but Saturday's tilt in Norman will be the ultimate litmus test for this young unit.
OU enters Saturday's intrastate showdown rushing for 310.5 yards per game, good for No. 12 in the country. Yes, the season is young, but what makes that number more impressive is the caliber opponents of which OU has slashed. Louisiana-Monroe and West Virginia are much better programs than most BCS-conference schools have scheduled in their first two weeks, yet the Sooners have shown no mercy.
The multiple-back system is what makes OU's run game so difficult to stop. Damien Williams and Brennan Clay combine to form one of the most dynamic duos in the country, while fullback Trey Millard plows the way at an elite level. Millard will also tote the ball or snag a dump-down pass on occasion, and is extremely hard to tackle on such occasions.
Bill Blankenship addressed the difficulty of stopping the Sooners' ground attack at his weekly pressconference.
"I think they have three really good running backs," Blankenship said. "I think the key to everything is 33 (Millard). He can do a little bit of everything. Great blocker. He can catch the ball. Every formation - when they're really serious about running the football - they're going to kind of work their way to him. I think they've done a really good job (with) what we'd call a 30 package - a three-back package. Being creative with it. Not being predictable. They've done a very good job in the first two games of being able to dominate at the line of scrimmage."
The final part to OU's rushing equation is the quarterback. The elusive and nimble Trevor Knight is out and the freight-train-esque Blake Bell takes over. Bell is built like a more-slender Ben Roethlisberger but has better wheels. The questions surrounding Bell involve his passing capabilities, or lack thereof. He's never been asked to pass in his OU career; primarily entering the game for his patented goal-line "Belldozer" package.
The biggest surprise in Norman so far this season is the stellar play of the Sooners' defense. OU has allowed just seven points in two games and held LA Monroe to just 166 total yards and nine first downs. The Sooners also forced West Virginia into four turnovers and held the Mountaineers to 3-13 on third down.
Tulsa's head ball coach knows attacking the Sooners' D will be a tall task.
"Defensively, they're really fast," Blankenship said. "They've certainly changed their scheme in the sense of putting speed on the field with the odd-man front defense. There seems to be a premium on speed. They've done a better job in the first two games of tackling and surrounding the ball. You don't see a whole lot of flaws."
How Tulsa Can Win
For TU to leave Norman with a win, it's going to take a near-perfect performance. Limit the mistakes; turnovers, dropped passes, missed tackles – those things could lead to a landslide.
Offensively, TU has to find gold in the passing game. Tulsa likely won't find much success running between the tackles, so look for Cody Green to utilize Trey Watts and Ja'Terian Douglas more in the short passing game. The Golden Hurricane will be without top receiver Keyarris Garrett after last week's season-ending injury, so Green will need Jordan James and Derek Patterson to step up on the outside.
Defensively, TU has to find a way to slow the run game. If the Hurricane can force OU into third-and-longs, it will force Bell to beat them with his arm. Tulsa's best chance is keeping this a low-scoring game into the fourth quarter and then looking for their opportunity.
OU is 35-2 against nonconference opponents at home under Bob Stoops. If Bell struggles and the Hurricane can capitalize on a few OU mistakes, TU will have a shot, but if Bell throws the ball well and the Sooners take care of the ball, I don't see much chance for Tulsa.
Oklahoma wins, 34-10.