Here is everything you need to know about the Sooners opener in our Oklahoma vs. UTEP Preview.
Kickoff: Saturday, September, 2nd, 2:30 p.m. CT, Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium
TV: FOX (Joe Davis, Brady Quinn, Bruce Feldman)
Radio: Flagships KOMA 1520 AM KRXO 107.7 FM; Sirius/XM 83/83
QB Baker Mayfield
Mayfield is in charge of an offense working in many new position players. From running backs like Rodney Anderson and Abdul Adams to wide receivers such as Jeff Badet and Jeffery Mead, it’s Mayfield’s job, as the leader, to make this a smooth transition for all involved. The outstanding offensive line should help ease the transition in a game that Oklahoma should have completed by halftime. But with Ohio State on deck, getting everyone on the same page is imperative.
LB Kenneth Murray
He’s the newcomer for the Sooners at middle linebacker. Oh, and he’s a freshman. The 6-foot-2, 242-pounder from Missouri City, Texas was an early enrollee who made the most of his decision to skip the second half of his senior year of high school. Emmanuel Beal and Caleb Kelly will bookend Murray and help the youngster, but he’s getting thrown into the fire and has to soak in as much as he can before going to Columbus, Ohio.
LB Alvin Jones
The senior is the leader of the defense and one of two preseason Conference USA picks on the Miners. UTEP has an experienced secondary, but a very young defensive line. The line is going to struggle to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, which will put more pressure on Jones and the other linebackers to help up front, why trying to not get burnt on the back end. It’s a tricky balance and it will be up to Jones to figure out.
QB Ryan Metz
The veteran signal caller can no longer rely on Aaron Jones, who rushed for over 1,700 yards last season. The good news is he has talent at wide receiver in veterans such as Tyler Batson, Terry Juniel and Warren Redix. Also, the offensive line is experienced, led by All-American Will Hernandez. So Metz can’t complain that the pieces aren’t around him to succeed this season.
Can the Oklahoma front 7 get to work?
As mentioned, the offensive line is one of the strengths of this UTEP team. Meanwhile, Oklahoma’s front 7 has switched from a 3-4 to a 4-3 in hopes of generating more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. If they struggle with that against UTEP, what will it say about their odds against Ohio State?
Gelling on offense
The Sooners are going to be getting in several news faces at the skill positions on offense. Building up some early confidence before going to the Horseshoe is going to be incredibly important for OU. Unlike the NFL, or even high school, there are no preseason games or scrimmages against other opponents for college teams. So, Saturday is it. Don’t be surprised to see Lincoln Riley ride his starters longer than normal, even after the game is out of reach. These guys need game experience to get familiar with each other.
Is UTEP’s secondary actually a match?
That is the strength of this defense, led by Kalon Beverly and Devin Cockrell. Meantime, Baker Mayfield is working in new wide receivers, as was noted above. So considering the level of competition, this should be a decent enough test for the Sooners in Week 1. Not ideal, but should have some idea where they are in the passing game after this one wraps up.
Oklahoma 44, UTEP 14
It’s still Oklahoma and it’s still UTEP. But OU is not looking to show much of their playbook ahead of playing at Ohio State in Week 2. So while I think Riley might leave in the starters longer than normal, I don’t think this thing gets as ugly as it could.
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