Saturday night was one of the most exciting Oklahoma Sooners football games we have seen in a few seasons. The grit, the fight, and the passion the Sooners put on full display in their 17 point come from behind victory on the road against the Volunteers was awfully impressive. But, that being said the Sooners have plenty to be concerned abou and things to be fixed before the West Virginia Mountaineers come calling on October 3rd. The Sooners did not fall behind 17 points by sheer chance, they were placed there by a talented Tennessee team, and more so by themselves. Penalties have been a huge problem for Oklahoma in both games this season and the lack of consistency running the football has been concerning. Despite having arguably the most talented backfield in all of college football, neither Samaje Perine nor Joe Mixon have ran for 100 yards in a game individually yet. If the Sooners are to win the Big XII or accomplish even loftier dreams, they will need to find consistency on their offensive line.
Of course it wasn’t all negative! There were tons of positives as well, starting with the Sooner defense that was dominant for 2 ½ quarters, which kept OU in the game until the offense woke up in the 4th quarter.
The Sooners need to focus on a few specific areas to give them a chance to win the Big XII.
- Start fast. Tennessee nearly made the Sooners pay for starting slow. In college football even the best defenses don’t have the ability completely shut down the spread up tempo, meaning the Sooners defense can only hold up for so long without help.
- Stop shooting themselves in the foot. Penalties and drops have been too frequent for a team interested in being a champion. False starts and holds have been the biggest killers for the Sooners (young offensive line).
- Takeaways. OU has a -2 turnover margin on the year. While the Sooner defense has been very stout early on, they have to do a better job of creating opportunities to take the ball away. OU had great opportunities, but they were unable to get any turnovers until the very last play of the game, the only one on the year.
- Balance on offense. The Sooners have struggled to run the ball early on which has a lot to do with the youth on the offensive line, those young guys need to grow up quickly … hopefully before the start of Big XII play.
- Consistency at wide receiver. Besides Sterling Shephard, the Sooners have shown flashes of brilliance at this position but no one has emerged as a consistent threat. Mark Andrews could be a guy to look at.
Oklahoma is still my pick to be the 2015 Big XII champions. But, if there is not improvements in these areas that prediction will bomb. While there are plenty of concerns, there is also plenty to smile about if you are a Sooner fan.
- Baker Mayfield is a true leader, and a rare talent. Sooner fans have been spoiled for years with great players at quarterback, i.e. Jason White, Sam Bradford, Landry Jones and more, and it seems the red shirt sophomore may be following in their foot steps early. This was the single biggest question mark for the Sooners last season and the fact they have their answer is huge!
- OU has arguably the best front 7 in all of college football, led by All American Eric Striker. As long as their strong play continues, OU will win plenty of games. Also, Devante Bond has played outstanding thus far, as well as many others. Their speed looks to be more than up to par for Big XII play.
- Adjustments. The last several seasons it seemed like if the Sooners faced a great game plan, they would lose. This season both Lincoln Riley and Mike Stoops have shown they can make great adjustments mid-game to turn the tide of battle in favor of the Sooners. You could see this in how the offense played against Akron in week 1, and how the Vols went 2 ½ quarters with no points after going up 17-0.
- Special teams. Austin Siebert has been everything and more for the Sooners as both a place kicker and punter. The Sooners kick off specialist also seems to have a tendency to send the ball through the back of the end zone. Alex Ross hasn’t had any opportunities yet, but the 1st team All-American is sure to break a few returns this year.
With this is mind, the Sooners take on Tulsa in Norman this weekend, it will be interesting to see if OU has better discipline, commits less penalties and cleans up the turnover issues. Habits die hard, so hopefully the Sooners start finding better habits, and do so in a hurry. They will need more than determination and ‘Sooner Magic’ to claim a Big XII championship, and a spot in the College Football Playoff!
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