Here is everything you need to know about the Sooners’ upcoming game in our Oklahoma vs. UCLA Preview.
12 p.m. Central Time, Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, Memorial Stadium, Norman, Oklahoma
TV: FOX (Gus Johnson, Joel Klatt, Jenny Taft)
Radio: KOMA 1520AM and KRXO 107.7 FM; Sirius/XM 83
Fun Fact: Saturday’s game will mark the fifth meeting between Oklahoma and UCLA, with the Sooners leading the series 3-1 (2-0 in Norman). It’s the first game of a two-year home-and-home series, with the Bruins scheduled to host OU at the Rose Bowl on Sept. 14, 2019.
QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson
Thompson-Robinson took over for grad transfer Wilton Speight, who is dealing with an undisclosed injury and is questionable for Sunday’s game. If so, that means the true freshman and former four-star recruit Thompson-Robinson will be in charge of the offense. He is a dual-threat option, which of course Speight is not as we saw during his time with Michigan, and finished 15/25 for 117 passing yards in his college debut. He didn’t have any rushing yards, but did flash great pocket mobility. Thompson-Robinson did have some rookie errors as well, as he fumbled while trying to run upfield at the nine-minute mark of the fourth quarter, resulting in the safety that put Cincinnati ahead.
S Adarius Pickett
UCLA’s secondary is coached by none other than the former Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads. Pickett is one of two stars of his unit and has a chance to be an All-Pac 12 selection. Pickett led the Bruins with 15 tackles, 9 solo, in the loss to Cincinnati last weekend. Last season, he finished as the second leading tackler on an otherwise underwhelming defense. For a unit in transition, Pickett is a senior who is asked to provide leadership on and off the field.
RB Rodney Anderson
Anderson wasn’t needed much last week against FAU. He had only five carries, but he made those carries well worth his time with 100 rushing yards and two touchdowns. It was a great way to begin his second healthy season as he tries to top last year’s 1,161-yard campaign. Anderson and the rest of his backfield gets to go up against a run defense that gave up nearly 200 yards to Cincinnati last week.
NB Brendan Radley-Hiles
This true freshman looks like he’s ready for the NFL. From build to on-field maturity, it’s beyond impressive the confidence that the former five-star recruit had on Saturday against FAU. He finished with five tackles and a pass defended, while looking completely comfortable. Now, as he prepares for a Chip Kelly offense, Radley-Hiles needs to be aware of the quick tempo Kelly will bring and the dual-threat ability of Thompson-Robinson. I’m very interested to see how he handles his second game at the college level.
Can the Bruins stop the Sooners on the ground? Seriously, I don’t know if they can. In addition to giving up nearly 200 rushing yards last week to Cinci, UCLA gave up 287 rushing yards per game last season. That is not a joke. Now, they go up against an OU team that most people don’t realize ran the ball more than passed last season and is like to only increase that ratio this year with Kyler Murray at quarterback and ridiculous depth at running back with Rodney Anderson, Trey Sermon, Kennedy Brooks, Marcelias Sutton and T.J. Pledger. UCLA has to somehow slow down the running game of OU to even have a chance in this game. Force Kyler Murray to beat you with his arm. UCLA’s strength is in the secondary, so if they get make Murray uncomfortable early on, that’s their best bet to try and pull off the upset.
The Sooners defense was swarming last week against FAU, a program under Lane Kiffin that was one of the most efficient offense’s in the country. Sure, they were working in a new QB, but a lot of the same pieces around Chris Robison are holdovers from last season. OU held FAU scoreless in the first half last week. Mike Stoops might be finally building this defense back up. Of the team’s 10 leading tacklers last week, just one was a senior (LB Curtis Bolton) and two were juniors (LB Caleb Kelly and CB Parnell Motley). UCLA is dealing with an injury issue with Speight at QB, which might mean the true freshman Thompson-Robinson gets the nod again. OU has to show the same tenacity on defense they had last week when they locked down the FAU passing game and held the Owls to 3.1 yards per carry. It’s something that’s frankly been missing from this program for the better part of a decade.
Prediction: OU 52, UCLA 21. Chip Kelly will, as the kids say, “Make UCLA Great Again.” But it’s not going to be this year. It’s a program in a massive transition period and won’t be very good this season. In this game, OU’s greatest strength, it’s running game, plays into UCLA’s biggest weakness, it’s run defense. I’m not sure who in the country can stop the OU offensive attack, but I know it won’t be UCLA this weekend. Combine this with the Bruins still learning Kelly’s system, only two starters back on the offensive line, and losing the top two wide outs from last season, OU will roll to victory.
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