Tiger Opponent Preview: Oklahoma Sooners

While the future of the Big 12 may be unsettled still, the Missouri Tigers and Oklahoma Sooners will settle things on the field this coming Saturday in Norman, and ShowMeMizzou.com previews the Sooners.

On Saturday night (7:00 P.M., FX), the #1 Oklahoma Sooners (2-0) play host to the Missouri Tigers (2-1) in the conference opener for both teams.

The Sooners have won 37 straight games at home, and are 72-2 at home under Coach Bob Stoops. Oklahoma comes into this game off of a 23-13 victory last Saturday at Florida State. 

"Number one, I think they are a real good football team," replied Missouri Head Coach, Gary Pinkel, on Monday, when he was asked about Oklahoma's phenomenal home record under Coach Stoops. "Number two, it's a great place to play college football. It's a great atmosphere. And three, (Bob Stoops) is a good coach. He gets his players ready to play. I think it's a combination of all those things. That's also the challenge that anybody has going in and playing in Norman. That's also the exciting part about competing."

Last season, Oklahoma lost 36-27 at Missouri, which for the Sooners, adds a special flavor to this week's contest . On Monday, Coach Stoops talked about how his team will approach the game against Missouri.

"We got embarrassed with the way we played last year against Missouri," said Coach Stoops. "What works for us is the way you prepare, the way you work, and the way you play the game. We are very aware of who we are playing next week. It's our first conference game. They are an excellent team. We were number one in the country last year when we went up there, and they whipped us. Our players are more than aware of that, and anxious to play them. There is a lot of respect there. We understand what a big game this is going to be."

"I remember last year," said Oklahoma starting left tackle, Donald Stephenson, referring to OU's loss to Missouri last season. "It wasn't a good feeling and I definitely think we're a better team going against them this time. They won't see the same team this year like they did last year."

"Oklahoma is an outstanding football team," Coach Pinkel stated. "I don't think they have any weaknesses. They are very impressive on both sides of the football, and are playing very well. When you look at Landry Jones, you see the development over the last few years.  He's a really great player, and he has great players around him. When you talk about Oklahoma, I think it starts up front on their offensive and defensive lines. I think they are outstanding in both of those areas. It's a great place to play a college football game, we are excited about going, and we're at work preparing as I speak."

In looking at the Oklahoma depth chart, there are a good many familiar names, such as Stephenson; players who were also heavily recruited by Missouri. In looking at Oklahoma, their athleticism and team speed is evident. They're very physical. But perhaps what stands out the most to me about Oklahoma is how very efficiently they play. They commit very few penalties, and they execute pretty consistently on both sides of the football at a very high level.

On offense, Oklahoma plays up-tempo about 30% of the time. When they do, they're very good at it. They get up to the line of scrimmage and snap the football as quickly as anyone. It may look chaotic, but the Sooners run their up-tempo offense very efficiently.

The Sooners operate out of multiple sets. Through two games, junior QB Landry Jones has completed 72% of his pass attempts, for 10.8 yards/completion, and 7.8 yards/pass attempt. He's thrown 2 TDs, versus 2 INTs, and he has a passer efficiency rating of 140.29. He's mobile, but is not much of a threat to run with the football.

Oklahoma plays three running backs, although two of those, junior Dominique Whaley 5'10" 197 and sophomore Brennan Clay 5'11 194 , have three-fourths of the team's total carries. A pair of sophomores, FB Trey Millard 6'2" 249, and RB Roy Finch 5'7" 166, have carried the ball occasionally, although Millard is more likely to see the football as a receiver out of the backfield. Whaley is averaging 5.2 yards/carry, and 101 yards/game. He's dented the end zone 4 times already this season. Clay and Finch are each averaging about 4.5 yards/carry.

Jones' favorite target is the explosive senior, Ryan Broyles 5'10 188, who is one of the top receivers in the country. Broyles is averaging 10.5 receptions/game, and 10.1 yards/reception. He can score from anywhere on the field.

"I feel like he has been there forever, like since I've been in high school or something," said Missouri senior safety Kenji Jackson, speaking of Broyles. " But he's a good receiver, I believe an All-American last year. He poses some deep threats, and he is a real shifty guy. We are going to have our hands full with him. He's a great receiver and he has some guys to back him up. They've got a good receiving core, and a good quarterback to throw them the ball."

Another deep threat for Jones to throw the ball to is sophomore Kenny Stills 6'1" 189, who is averaging 17.9 yards/reception. Coach Stoops said earlier this week that Stills is "getting better and better". When Oklahoma operates out of the spread, they usually have a third WR on the field. As of Tuesday, Oklahoma's third-leading receiver, starter Trey Franks, was suspended indefinitely. Franks has also been Oklahoma's primary kick returner. Possible replacements in the starting line-up at WR include sophomore Jaz Reynolds 6'2" 198, senior DeJuan Miller 6'4" 217, who does have some experience, and the exciting freshman, Kameel Jackson 6'0" 195, who had 1 catch, for 17 yards, against Tulsa. RSF Justin McCay 6'2" 209 has been moved up from the scout team, as well.

Jones has a couple of dangerous TEs to throw it to, as well, in senior James Hanna 6'4" 243, and sophomore Austin Haywood 6'4" 247. Hanna's averaging 16.3 yards/reception.

Oklahoma has plenty of offensive weapons, and they do a lot of different things very well with that arsenal. They're balanced between run and pass. They like to run the football, and keep Jones clean, and off of the ground. Broyles and Stills are their home run hitters, but everyone is a threat on every play.

Coach Stoops likes his defensive personnel. Earlier this week, he was asked if this defense has a chance to be one of his better ones at Oklahoma?

"I definitely think they do," replied Coach Stoops. "If we can get everyone back at full speed and healthy, we have the chance to be one of the best defenses we've had. A big positive was Javon Harris' play since he didn't play much a year ago. I think he will continue to come on and Tom Wort was also a big question mark, but here he is, and the last two weeks he has been player of the game. We are getting there. The front four are really playing great; Casey Walker, Stacey McGee, Jamarkus McFarland and Ronnell Lewis."

Coach Stoops didn't mention senior DE Frank Alexander 6'4" 255, or junior DE David King 6'5" 273. Those two combine with the four juniors that Coach Stoops cited to give the Sooners a quality rotation up front. Walker 6'2" 308, McFarland 6'2" 296, and McGee 6'4" 299 play on the inside.

Oklahoma will line of with four down linemen, or with three down linemen. In either front, they'll walk LBs or DBs up to the line of scrimmage, and they'll have anywhere from three to eight defenders near the line of scrimmage at the snap of the football. They're not all coming, but just about anyone will blitz, or drop into coverage. Junior DE Ronnell Lewis 6'2" 244 is an especially versatile player for their defense. He leads the Sooners in tackles (15), and in tackles for loss (4). He is a converted OLB, who will line up almost anywhere, and will rush the QB, or drop into coverage. He's equally effective in either role, and is all over the field.

All over the field applies to numerous Oklahoma defenders, especially their inside LBs, sophomore Tom Wort 6'0" 229 and senior Travis Lewis 6'2" 227. Lewis finished with 8 tackles last week, in his first action this season. Wort has 13 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 QB hurries, and an interception so far this season.

Sophomore OLB Tony Jefferson 5'10" 199 is the Sooners' second-leading tackler through two games, with 13 tackles, 3 TFLs, 1 sack, 2 QB hurries, and a pass break-up. Sophomore OLB Corey Nelson 6'1" 219 is another playmaker for Oklahoma, and is another one who is all over the field. Jefferson and Nelson are often the ones who walk up to the line of scrimmage. Often, they appear to be stand-up DEs, where they'll rush the QB, or drop back into coverage.

The Sooners primarily utilize a three-man rotation at CB, where senior Jamell Fleming 5'11" 191, junior Demonte Hurst 5'10" 181, and sophomore Gabe Lynn 6'0" 195, take most of the snaps.

The Sooners' safeties, sophomore Aaron Colvin 6'0" 176, and junior Javon Harris 5'11" 207 are very, very active. Colvin has 10 tackles through two games, and will often blitz from out of the secondary. You'll sometimes see him on a delayed blitz. Harris is a ball-hawk, and a head-hunter. In addition to his 10 tackles, he also already has 2 INTs on the young season.

One common characteristic of Oklahoma's DBs is that they are constantly going for the big hit, trying to blow people up. They come in high, and they lead with their helmets. Sometimes, they miss the tackle, or give up a big play, because they appear to be more focused on going for the knockout, rather than the break up.

Another characteristic of the Oklahoma defense is that they're constantly trying to create an unblocked pass rusher, with a free run at the QB. They try to confuse the offense, with all of their shifting around, and blitzing from nearly every angle and position.

Sophomore LB Tony Jefferson talked about the pressure that the Sooners try to put on their opponent.

"We have a lot of fast guys coming off the edge, even our defensive ends," said Jefferson. "It just mixes up a lot of stuff. We blitz a lot of guys and still have guys back in coverage that can cover pretty well, and it is just going to confuse the offense. When you have good blitzers like we do, it is just going to be effective and cause the quarterback to throw pretty fast."

Finally, Jefferson shared his thoughts about playing Missouri.

"We have a lot to prove to them," said Oklahoma LB Tony Jefferson, speaking of playing Missouri this week. "They got after us last year, and there is nothing that we can say to defend that, but this week is definitely going to be a physical week for us………………………………… I think it will be a pretty good game for us. We just want to get out there and show them that we are a much better football team than we were last year."

Comparative Statistics

[NCAA Ranking in Brackets]

MISSOURI____________________ OKLAHOMA

512.00 [12th]___ Total Offense___ 486.50 [19th]

257.33 [10th]___Rushing Offense__ 178.50 [44th]

6____________TDs Rushing___________ 6

254.67 [42nd]___Passing Offense__ 308.00 [20th]

156.06 [33rd]__ Passing Efficiency__ 137.49 [57th]

7____________TDs Passing___________ 2

38.67 [24th]____Scoring Offense___35.00 [42nd]

268.67 [16th]___ Total Defense___ 323.00 [44th]

68.00 [11th]___ Rushing Defense___ 78.00 [20th]

2_________ TDs Allowed Rushing_________ 0

200.67 [54th]___Passing Defense__ 245.00 [87th]

131.90 [79th]__ Pass Effic. Defense_ 120.97 [54th]

4_________ TDs Allowed Passing_________ 3

14.33 [22nd]____Scoring Defense___ 13.50 [20th]

+0.33 [42nd]__ Turnover Margin__ +1.50 [11th]

3 / 2________ Fumbles/Lost________ 2 / 1

1_________ Interceptions Thrown_________ 2

2_________ Interceptions Gained_________ 4

19.25 [95th]___Kickoff Return Avg.__22.00 [62nd]

11.00 [31st]___ Punt Return Avg.___ 3.50 [103rd]

42.62 [7th]____ Net Punting Avg.____43.13 [5th]

2.67 [34th]_______Sacks By______ 4.50 [3rd]

1.67 [T-59th]___ Sacks Allowed_____0.50 [12th]

31:29 [38th]___ Avg. Time of Poss.___ 32:41 [21st]

30.2% [105th]___3rd Down Conv._ 48.4% [T-32nd]

57.1% [T-45th]__4th Down Conv.__100.0% [T-1st]

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