Thank the stars, Oklahoma fans – your 2014 Sugar Bowl MVP will be back at the helm of the offense come bowl time.
It’s the blessing they’ve been waiting for. No more watching the Colleyville, Texas – bred true freshman in Cody Thomas fling the ball to mostly everywhere but the arms of the receivers he’s aiming for, but unable to hit. Trevor Knight will make his return against Clemson on December 29, 2014 for the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando.
In OU’s home loss to the Baylor Bears on November 8, Knight was injured while scrambling out of the pocket and was diagnosed with a form of temporary paralysis known as transient quadriplegia. He was carted off the field, yet walked around the locker room on his own power before going to a local hospital. Transient quadriplegia has the potential to bring a football career to a screeching halt, so it is a miracle that Knight only missed three full games due to his injury. He was cleared to play on December 15.
Oklahoma’s fan base has been in agonizing pain watching Thomas throw for only 292 yards in his three starts for the Sooners this season, a number which Knight has broken in one game, 4 times this season. Thomas has been completely irrelevant for the team; in Samaje Perine’s record breaking performance of 427 rush yards against Kansas, he threw only 13 passes for 39 yards. In Thomas’ wake, the Sooners became one of the most one-dimensional football teams in the FBS for that three game stretch.
Now Knight is back, and the fans can reconcile in their Sugar Bowl hero. Fans were not overly impressed with his play for the majority of this season, either, but now that they have seen what the other options are for the team aside from him, he is beloved once again. As a whole, from this season to last, he has much improved, as his adjusted QBR increased 6.9 points and has garnered a 9.3-point higher quarterback rating. But even with Knight’s return, points could be very scarce for the Sooners on December 29.
Offensively, the Russell Athletic Bowl could very well be as difficult as the 2014 Sugar Bowl against the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Clemson Tigers boast the number one defense in the FBS heading into bowl season. They give up an average of only 17.6 points per game, which ranks seventh in the nation. The Crimson Tide of last season gave up only 13.9 points per game, fourth best in the nation. Clemson also only gives up 259.6 yards per game this season, 97.7 of them on the ground and 161.9 in the air. The Tigers have also sacked the quarterback 44 times this season, fifth most in football.
The Tigers also have one of the best defensive ends in college football on their side in senior Vic Beasley. In his first mock draft for 2015, ESPN’s Todd McShay projects Beasley going number 8 overall to the New York Giants. Beasley has recorded 11 sacks in his 12 games this season with 28 total tackles on the season. The guy is a beast, and the Sooners will likely try and run the ball to the opposite side of him.
Knight’s return undoubtedly makes for a much more interesting football game than with Cody Thomas at the helm, and although the Sooners may still not have junior wide receiver Sterling Shepard, their potency increases dramatically with their quarterback being able to suit up.