Coaches, players and observers have yet to see Harvey Unga take a full set of reps during any given practice session this fall, which leads to some questions marks regarding just how healthy his hamstring is. He announced as late as Wednesday that he was fine and ready to get going, and in his mind I'm sure that's the case, but it's difficult to say someone will be fine without seeing him perform through the duration of fall camp.
Even if he's fine, the Cougars will be starting four new offensive linemen against what looks to be one of the more dominating defensive fronts in the country. Gerald McCoy is considered by many to be the top defensive tackle in the nation this year and will subsequently be the primary run-stuffer for the Sooner front.
Along with McCoy, who has started in each of the past two seasons, Oklahoma starts three others along their four-man front with similar experience. Adrian Taylor will start alongside McCoy in the middle, with Jeremy Beal and Auston English on the outside. They'll be backed up on the line by returning starter Ryan Reynolds at middle linebacker, who will be flanked by returning starters Travis Lewis and Keenan Clayton.
The Sooners gave up 116 rushing yards per game last year and certainly look to improve upon that stat this season with every player along their front seven returning with a wealth of experience. The key will be handling McCoy and letting him go where they want him to, which is an almost impossible task for anyone.
Given all the factors it would be difficult to predict that BYU will have much success running the ball consistently. Fans can expect a lot of passes this Saturday from Max Hall as a result.
BYU pass offense vs. Oklahoma
Max Hall has looked exactly like one would expect a senior quarterback with two years of starting experience to look like this past fall camp. He has total command of the offense and will put up big numbers this year.
The strength of the Cougar passing attack should prove to be their tight ends where Dennis Pitta and Andrew George will be seeing a lot of reps together in two-tight end formations. On the outside the team lacks some experience, but has a wealth of talent in players such as McKay Jacobson and O'Neill Chambers.
The Cougars will be facing an Oklahoma defense that gave up a lot of yards through the air a season ago, but that was against some of the top offenses in the country. Against other teams they were able to shut down their passing attack, giving up 251 passing yards per game last season.
They'll return both of their starting cornerbacks from a year ago in Dominique Franks and Brian Jackson. Both players have had two years starting experience and will be joined by safeties Sam Proctor and Quinton Carter.
While the Sooners certainly field capable corners and safeties, their real strength may come from their pass rush and primarily from the likes of Beal and English. Matt Reynolds should be fine on one end, but with Nick Alletto pegged to shut down the other end rush in his first game as a starter, it could lead to some problems.
The key for this game is in the pass rush and the ability of the offensive front to givw Hall time to work through his progressions. Should the offensive line give adequate protection, then look for the passing attack to be prolific. If not, then it could get very ugly and it's really that simple.
BYU run defense vs. Oklahoma
BYU mirrors Oklahoma in the experience it returns along their front seven. BYU's strength is in its defensive ends, who have a wealth of experience. With the nose tackle position looking strong and a lot of experience at linebacker, the Cougars should prove to be effective in stopping the run against most teams they face.
The Sooners will present two of the better running backs in the country for BYU to handle. DeMarco Murray will likely be their top back again after missing last year's national championship game due to injury.
Alongside Murray will be senior running back Chris Brown. Both Murray and Brown are speedsters with decent size who prefer to keep it between the tackles. Both should give the Cougar front all it can handle, as the Sooner offense gained an average of 198 yards per game last season.
The Cougar equalizer in stopping the Sooner ground game may come from the relative inexperience along their offensive front. Oklahoma will be starting four new offensive linemen to join with Outland Trophy candidate Trent Williams, who will be at left tackle. Although none of the other four have started, most have seen good experience in backup roles.
Look for the Cougars to limit the Sooners below last season's average output on the ground. I like BYU's prospects in stopping the run, although Oklahoma should give them their sternest test here with their promising run attack.
BYU pass defense vs. Oklahoma
The Cougars gave up too many yards through the air last season and will certainly have their work cut out for them against what was arguably the best passing offense in the country last season. That said, the defense did show much better during this year's fall camp as opposed to last year's.
The Sooners return Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford but not many of their top wide receivers from last season. The big news here is with their top tight end Jermaine Gresham not being active for Saturday's games. This severely limits what Oklahoma can do through the air potentially, although they still have plenty of weapons.
The primary weapons include speedster Ryan Broyles, who will be their main deep threat, and physical possession-type receivers Adron Tennell and Brandon Caleb. While inexperienced as a whole, all three have seen game experience and are obviously talented.
This is where it could get real ugly for the Cougars, although the Sooners missing Gresham is a lot like the Cougars playing without Dennis Pitta. This could hamper the timing and the fast tempo that the Sooners thrive with, as Bradford will be working with a relatively new set of passing options.
BYU's secondary should be much improved, although there remains questions at the field corner position. Look for the Sooners to attack the flats, where teams thrived against BYU last season. The pass rush could work in BYU's favor, especially if defensive coordinator Jaime Hill mixes up his rushes with a variety of blitzes and stunts to keep the inexperienced Sooner front off guard.
Given the locale, and the fact that Oklahoma will be coming in with a bit of a chip on its shoulder, this one could get ugly. On the flipside, I do like what I saw from BYU's team on both sides of the ball in August, and with a lot of senior leadership the Cougars should be able to exceed expectations here.
I believe that both offenses will be limited more than most think, given the various circumstances, while both defenses should show better than expected. Look for BYU to keep it close in the beginning with the Sooners pulling away at the end.
Final Score: Oklahoma 41, BYU 24