The Oklahoma Sooner will finally get to see their new quarterback in his first marquee matchup of the year.
This Saturday, Bob Stoops’ Sooners, who some sports pundits have picked to come away with the 2015 Big 12 Championship, will get their first true test with new quarterback Baker Mayfield at the helm.
Mayfield, who was a former walk on quarterback at Texas Tech, brought about much-needed stability on the offensive side of the ball for Oklahoma.
In his debut against Akron on Saturday, Mayfield completed 23 of 33 attempts for 388 yards and 3 TDs in the Sooners’ 41-3 win over the Zips.
Granted, the win wasn’t over any of the quality competition Oklahoma will face this season, yet it showed his capabilities under new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley’s Air Raid offense.
“It’s pretty exciting for me, but I’ve got to move on,” he said. “It could have been better, when you think about the first five drives. We didn’t get any yards. We’ve just got to capitalize and get better.”
“He’s got a dynamic skill set, and there’s still a lot of things you can do with a guy like that,” Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said. “He, like everybody, I could even see it with him early, had a lot of nerves. It was just about getting these guys all settled in. Once he was able to do that, I think everybody was able to see the kind of talent he has.”
He will get to showcase just how good he can be against a top 25 opponent this weekend in Knoxville.
Since taking over the program in 2013, Vols’ coach Butch Jones has turned in quality recruiting class after quality recruiting class.
In 2015, the Big Orange Faithful are waiting to see those talented classes translate into success on the field.
Though Tennessee knocked off Bowling Green State on Saturday, at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, it wasn’t exactly a masterpiece.
The Fighting Falcons exposed some big weaknesses the Volunteers have on both sides of the ball.
Tennessee, however, eventually overwhelmed Bowling Green State and outscored the Falcons 24-10 in the second half to claim the 59-30 win.
Perhaps far more alarming than giving up 30 points to Bowling Green State in an essential home game for the Volunteers was the amount of offense allowed.
With the 2015 season less than a week old, both programs are looking for an early signature win to prove both respectively belong in the top ranked programs in the country.
Keys for an Oklahoma win:
Tennessee was exposed in the secondary, allowing 424 yards and a pair of TDs to quarterback Matt Jonson. He completed 27 of 49 attempts and targeted receiver Gehrig Dieter seven times for 133 yards and a score.
Baker Mayfield must get the pass game going early against the Volunteers in front of a sell-out crowd in Neyland Stadium.
If Mayfield and Riley are able to effectively get the passing game working against an exposed secondary, Tennessee could be in for a long afternoon.
Oklahoma needs to also address issues up front.
Against Akron, the run game was anemic at best, piling up only 100 yards on 33 attempts.
Samaje Perine, who dazzled for the Sooners a year ago, was limited to just 1 TD on 11 carries and had just 33 yards.
Perine became the primary feature back in 2014 after Joe Mixon served a season-long suspension from team activities last year.
If Oklahoma is able to get either Mixon or Perine going on the ground, the pass attack will open up and should allow Mayfield to have a big game.
Keys for a Tennessee win:
Tennessee is desperate for a win against a Top 25 team. The Volunteers’ last win against a ranked opponent came back in 2009 against No. 22 South Carolina 31-13 on October 31.
Since then, the Vols have woefully lost 26 consecutive games against the Top 25.
A win on Saturday not only ensures the Volunteers’ place among the top 25, but also puts the rest of the SEC East on alert that Tennessee is for real in 2015.
Questions remain all over the field for Tennessee, when is talent and experience going to translate into success?
One early indicator of success is sophomore running back Jalen Hurd.
Against the Falcons last week, Hurd ran for 123 yards, which in itself isn’t anything of high mark to acknowledge.
It was his 3 TDs that led a ground game that scored six total rushing TDs that should give Oklahoma reason for concern.
He averaged 4.7 yards per carry from a year ago and only scored five TDs, but is on track blow his TD total from 2014 out of the water.
Tennessee will also need to get the pass game of Josh Dobbs going.
Dobbs only threw for 205 yards and a pair of TDs, but completed 15 of 22 attempts, which was more than enough to secure Tennessee’s win.
If Tennessee is able to harness the energy from a sellout, 108,000 screaming orange and white checkered stadium, it may be enough to rattle Mayfield early on.
Tennessee has played some fairly close games against top-ranked teams in Neyland Stadium, most notably a 34-31 overtime loss against No. 6 Georgia in 2013.
The Volunteers are a much more seasoned team and have the talent to get a win—they’re just looking for a leader to carry them to paydirt.
Tennessee 31, Oklahoma, 28.
Note: The quotes come courtesy of the Associated Press.
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