5 Questions: Oklahoma

Sooners Illustrated publisher Bob Przybylo stops by to answer five pressing questions regarding No. 14 Oklahoma.

1. Blake Bell was a popular topic at Brian Kelly's press conference today. Why was he unable to win the job in the off-season and was his fantastic day vs. Tulsa a product of his improvement as a passer, or great receivers vs. an overmatched defense?

Bob Przybylo: From all reports, Bell was too tentative during the preseason. He was almost (so) scared to lose the job that he forgot to win it. Redshirt freshman Trevor Knight was the opposite. He played with a carefree attitude and won the spot. The offense didn't click at all with Knight in control, and credit has to be given to Bell for sticking with it. It took him 24 hours to recover from the disappointment, and he went right back to work. Tulsa didn't present as much of a challenge on defense, but the offense was in the best rhythm it has been in the whole season. Bell also has the full support of the locker room.

2. Oklahoma was unable to run vs. the Irish in last year's matchup. Notre Dame's defense has yet to resemble their 2012 predecessors but it can still stop the run. Is the 2013 Sooners offense capable of winning this side of scrimmage?

BP: We're going to find out Saturday. Most believe it was the Notre Dame game that opened the eyes of the OU coaching staff and forced a change with the offensive line. Enter Bill Bedenbaugh from West Virginia to run the offensive line. He has put a special point of emphasis on being physical, and it showed in the first two games where OU rushed for more than 300 yards in each of them. The line is doing a better job of blocking and identifying defensive schemes making everything easier.

3. What's the biggest concern for most OU fans heading into Saturday?

BP: Question No. 2. No doubt at all it's question No. 2. All OU fans know the Sooners were dominated and bullied by the Irish last year in Norman. OU has made a lot of changes with both its offensive and defensive lines. Saturday is crucial. It either shows just how far OU has come in terms of being physical or shows just how much work still needs to be done if Notre Dame pushes it around once again.

4. How has the new scheme defensively (Kelly noted today it was a 3-3-5 base) impacted Oklahoma after three seasons of uncharacteristic Sooner defense?

BP: OU is back in attack mode. A change in gap assignments upfront and welcoming back the linebackers into the mix, and the OU defense looks legit once again. Instead of reacting to everything, OU is playing on instinct. The problem is OU doesn't have a lot of depth across the board. One or two major injuries can cripple the defense quickly. The biggest change has been the linebackers, though. They're relevant again and flying to the ball unlike last year where they were seldom seen or heard.

5. Irish fans know about Jalen Saunders, he of the 15-catch evening last October vs. Notre Dame. Which perimeter player might step forward this Saturday vs. what most expect to be a bend-but-don't-break scheme?

BP: Watch out for sophomore wide receiver Sterling Shepard. He had one catch in the game last year and had a pitiful three catches through two games this season. But against Tulsa he was moved from out wide to back in the slot, and he prospered again. He had eight catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns, all single-game career highs. Shepard and Saunders are deadly for OU in the slot, and Bell did a great job of getting him involved again.

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