Date: September 25
Time: 6 pm EST
Venue: Paul Brown Stadium (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Vegas Line: OU -14
With Texas on deck, who knows where the Sooners’ heads are for this one?
I have a feeling that OU may be treating this one more like a dress rehearsal for Texas, in which case the Sooners won’t show much that they haven’t already put out for the world to see.
However, given OU’s recent struggles in away games, Bob Stoops’ squad definitely could use a blowout win to chase away the road jitters. While the atmosphere at Paul Brown Stadium won’t be anything like what OU will face next weekend in the Cotton Bowl, just getting out of Norman should provide a decent stress test.
Cincinnati has had plenty of problems so far this year, which makes it tough to tell what OU has to worry about this week alone. So, keeping next week in mind, pay attention to:
1. OU’s Yards Per Rushing Attempt
In the aggregate, the Sooners’ running game looks like it’s back on track after a pitiful 2009 season.
As promised before the season, DeMarco Murray is carrying the load. He ranks second in the country in attempts with more than 25 per game. In turn, Murray’s gaining 126 yards per game on the ground, 12th nationally.
However, all isn’t exactly right for OU on the ground. The Sooners are advancing just 3.43 yards per attempt, 93rd in the country. That’s actually worse than ’09.
Even more frightening, the Sooners are generating 3.23 yards per carry on first down, making it tougher on the offense to move the chains consistently. OU failed to move the ball with any success last year on early downs, and we all saw how that turned out.
Bottom line: The O has plenty of room for improvement in the running game.
2. Personnel Groupings When OU is Running the Hurry-Up
I’m still trying to scout the best ways to attack the Texas D – frankly, I’m not sure if there are any. I suspect we’ll see a healthy dose of the Sooners’ faster-paced O, so it would be wise to keep an eye on who’s in the game when coordinator Kevin Wilson decides to push the tempo. It could give some hints as to what we’ll see in Dallas.
3. How the Defensive Tackles React if Cincy Runs the Option
Brian Kelly’s spread offense never really relied on much option, but who knows what kinds of tricks Butch Jones has up his sleeves? After seeing the success Utah State and Air Force had against the Sooners, I’d have to imagine the Bearcats could be looking for ways to incorporate some veer option into the game plan.
Zach Collaros has the kind of athleticism that has caused problems for OU in the past. If OU allows him to scramble around in the backfield and buy time, it could be in for a longer day than anticipated.
4. How Many Snaps Ronnell Lewis Plays
The subject of Lewis’ playing time has given the media plenty of gossip fodder this week and sparked a controversy that just strikes me as ridiculous for a team that has started the year 3-0.
Is The Hammer a linebacker? Is he a defensive end? Maybe he should go ahead and move into the booth?
While there’s no doubt Lewis has the skills to be a grenade for an opposing offense’s game plan, it just doesn’t sound like the “read-and-react” mindset has set in yet for him. Flying blind is a good way to get murdered by a team like Air Force.
Cincy’s pass protection completely sucks, so look for defensive coordinator Brent Venables to turn Lewis loose tonight.
5. Distribution of Targets in the Passing Game
Through three games, OU’s standout receiver Ryan Broyles has caught 31 of the 75 passes completed by the Sooners.