The Texas Longhorns head into the Red River Rivalry with the lowest chance of beating the Oklahoma Sooners in years. Mack Brown‘s squad has played with little confidence this season and a 3-2 record with a near-loss against the Iowa State Cyclones last Thursday does not bode well for the future.
Oklahoma will be the biggest test of the season for the Longhorns and why not? It’s one of the fiercest rivalries in college football and the Sooners are unbeaten through five games and are starting to come together as a complete team. The Sooners might be the favorites to win the wide open Big 12 this season.
Junior quarterback and starter David Ash suffered a concussion two weeks ago and missed the team’s week six game against Iowa State. Case McCoy filled in nicely and got the win with a solid 244-yard and one touchdown performance. McCoy will start against Oklahoma as well and will need some help from wide out Mike Davis who leads the team in touchdowns receiving with four. Johnathan Gray has been great rushing the ball, accumulating 439 yards and four touchdowns in five games.
Oklahoma is now led by quarterback Blake Bell who lost the starting job prior to the season to freshman QB Trevor Knight. After a Knight injury, the junior quarterback has filled in nicely, passing for 835 yards and six touchdowns while running for another 165 yards. It’s not just the passing attack that has carried this team, it’s the strong run game led by Brennan Clay that is excelling. Clay has 450 yards and three touchdowns this season while boasting a 6.6 yards per carry average.
Defensively, the Sooners are allowing just 281 yards per game and 13 points per game. Both of which are top-10 marks nationally. Texas’ defense has received a lot of criticism this season for being soft, allowing the 16th most yards per game in the nation and ranking 77th in points allowed per game with 28.4 on average every week.
Oklahoma and Texas will square off at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas, at 12 p.m. EST on Saturday, Oct. 12. The game will be broadcasted on ABC.
PREDICTION: Oklahoma 34, Texas 27
The Oklahoma Sooners moved to 5-0 on the season with a win over the TCU Horned Frogs — without throwing a touchdown pass. Oklahoma scored two rushing touchdowns and two field goals in the 20-17 win, the first game since December 2011 that the Sooners haven’t had a passing touchdown.
Emphasizing the run, which helps take some pressure off a brand new starting quarterback, is even more effective with mobile quarterbacks like Trevor Knight and Blake Bell. Knight, who started the season at quarterback for OU, rushed for more than 100 yards in his first outing. Bell, who took over in week three, is currently the team’s third-leading rusher.
The game against TCU was a defensive struggle for both teams, but Oklahoma’s ground game helped make the difference. Fullback Trey Millard had an eight yard touchdown, and senior Brennan Clay broke off on a career-long 76-yard touchdown run to extend the Sooners’ lead in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma finished with 203 yards and two touchdowns on the ground and just 152 passing yards.
The rushing offense has been the story for the Sooners throughout the first part of the season. In their first two games, OU had more than twice as many rushing yards as passing, a huge departure from the pass-first offense the Sooners employed when they had the quarterbacks to run it. Bell showed flashes of arm strength in his first start against Tulsa, when he threw for 413 yards and four touchdowns, but that game has proven to be the exception rather than the norm for the 2013 Sooners.
Through five games, Oklahoma has 1,230 rushing yards and 1,046 passing yards, and the team is averaging 246 rushing yards per game compared with 209.2 passing. The Sooners haven’t finished with fewer than 300 pass yards per game since 2009, Jones’ first season in relief of the injured Bradford, when they averaged 289 per game. Since then, OU has finished each season with more than twice as many passing yards as rushing yards.
In 2009 and 2010, Sooner running backs didn’t crack 2,000 yards rushing in the entire season. This year’s group won’t even need to average 100 yards in each remaining game to surpass that mark in 2013, but if they continue to gain nearly 250 yards per game, Oklahoma’s run game this season will be its most prolific in years.
Over the last few seasons, OU sometimes relied too heavily on the passing game while struggling to find balance with a consistent rushing attack. Without an established, veteran quarterback, this year’s running backs have stepped up to carry the offense through a major transition.
Bell, who was often used as a short yardage back during the last two seasons, is doing a good job of distributing the ball in his new role. He’s completing 70 percent of his passes, and of the six receivers he targeted in the win over TCU, five of them caught passes of more than 11 yards.
He may eventually develop into a top quarterback like his predecessors, but even if he does, maintaining some of the new balance on offense might be a smart move for the Sooners.
For two years, the Oklahoma Sooners turned to quarterback Blake Bell, also known as “The Belldozer,” in short yardage and goal line situations. Bell is the team’s starting quarterback now, but in the Sooners’ win over TCU, he proved he still has what it takes to make key plays with his legs.
Bell spent the offseason trying to prove to the coaching staff that he had the arm to be Oklahoma’s next great passer and could do more than just score rushing touchdowns. When he finally got his chance in the Sooners’ third game of 2013, he put on a show, throwing for more than 400 yards and four touchdowns.
Through three games, Bell is completing just shy of 70 percent of his passes for 835 passing yards and six touchdowns. And after two years of success running Bell on short yardage downs, offensive coordinator Josh Heupel has flipped the script on his new passer.
On the Sooners’ first touchdown drive, Bell passed for first downs instead of rushing, once on third-and-three and, later in the drive, on fourth-and-three. A six-yard pass to Brennan Clay on third-and-two on the Sooners’ next possession ultimately led to the field goal that put Oklahoma up, 13-0, before halftime.
Bell is proving he can make plays with his arm as well as his leg, but sometimes his instinct is just to take off running, as he did to help the Sooners secure the win against the Horned Frogs. He kept OU’s first scoring drive going with a four-yard rush on fourth-and-two, and throughout the game he made plays out of sticky situations, scrambling three times for 24 combined yards.
The team’s third-leading rusher this season, Bell showed he’s still a powerful, effective rusher. He finished with 14 carries for 61 yards against TCU, perhaps none more important than his two first downs on the Sooners’ final possession.
Attempting to run out the clock and preserve a 20-17 win over the Horned Frogs, Bell bowled over his defenders to convert a second-and-11 into a first down with a 13-yard carry. Two plays later, he had his longest run of the year when he sealed the Sooners’ win with a 17-yard carry on second-and-ten.
Bell is working hard to push past his “Belldozer” reputation, and the play calls are attempting to set him up for success as a passing quarterback, but sometimes the Belldozer is still at his best when he goes back to his roots as a bruising, powerful rusher.
After stealing a win from Notre Dame in week five, the Oklahoma Sooners have begun to shape into a serious national title contender thanks to the strong play at quarterback from Blake Bell. Finally finding a quarterback to lead this team was priority No. 1 heading into the season and it’s been seemingly solved.
On the other side of the field, the TCU Horned Frogs are a disappointing 2-2 to begin the 2013 season in which they were predicted to do big things in the Big 12. TCU has been somewhat disappointing, but they are still one of the best teams in the conference, potential-wise.
Oklahoma, like I said earlier, has finally found a starting quarterback to guide this team better than Trevor Knight did through the first couple of weeks before getting injured. Bell has filled in more than nicely, passing for 645 yards and six touchdowns in his two starts this season. He also has the coveted ability to scramble that every coach loves in a quarterback with over 100 yards rushing on the year.
The Horned Frogs have an average offense this season at best. They ranked in the midd-of-the-pack nationally in points while ranking near the bottom of all teams in college football in yards per game. Losing senior quarterback Casey Pachall has hurt this team through four games, but Trevone Boykin‘s 625 passing yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions isn’t too bad, either.
Defensively, the Horned Frogs allow just over 353 yards per game as well as 22.8 points per game — tough as always. Oklahoma’s defense has been even better, allowing just 299 yards per game with only 12 points allowed per game.
The Horned Frogs will travel to Oklahoma to take on the Sooners at 7 p.m. EST on Saturday, Oct. 5. The game will be broadcasted on FOX.
PREDICTION: TCU 21, Oklahoma 31
The Oklahoma Sooners have been an up-and-down team so far in 2013. The Sooners are becoming one of the more well-rounded teams in the Big 12 as the season progresses, but there is still a lot of work to be done and many questions left unanswered.
On the other side of the field, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have been led by Tommy Rees through four weeks, resulting in a 3-1 record. Notre Dame is not the same championship-caliber squad that it was a season ago and the defense has been missing a leader like Manti Te’o.
The Sooners had been playing the first couple of games with Trevor Knight at quarterback and then an injury set him out for the third game and Blake Bell took over with overwhelmingly solid play. Bell passed for 413 yards and four scores while completing 27 of 27 passes against Tulsa, seemingly taking back the starting job that was once seemingly his prior to the 2013 season. Brennan Clay is the key to the rushing attack against the Irish as he has 262 yards and two scores while averaging 5.8 yards per carry for the 16th best rushing offense in the nation.
As I said earlier, Rees leads the offense at quarterback, but many would argue he is doing a mediocre job — at best. The senior quarterback hasn’t been very accurate through four games, completing just 56 percent of his passes, including just 14 of 34 against Michigan State last week in an ugly win. The offense has not been something to be proud of if you’re Brian Kelly and could be in for another long week against a solid Oklahoma defense.
Oklahoma’s defense is one of the best squads in the country, allowing just nine points per game while not allowing any single team to accumulate over 400 total yards. Notre Dame was once one of the top defenses in the nation, but after a few poor performances, the Fighting Irish are looking for answers. They have been out-gained, yardage-wise, twice this season already.
Oklahoma will travel to Notre Dame to take on the Fighting Irish at 3:30 p.m. EST on Saturday, Sept. 28. The game will be broadcasted on NBC.
PREDICTION: Oklahoma 28, Notre Dame 20