One of the key pieces to the puzzle is certainly going to be freshman linebacker Dominique Alexander. Despite the valuable experience he has learned, there's no question the Crimson Tide are going to target Alexander and see if he's up to the challenge.
The goal for Alexander, who wasn't even on the team at this point last year and was still trying to figure out if OU was home for him, wasn't to start this year. All he wanted was an opportunity.
"I just knew that I was going to come here and work for it," Alexander said. "Whatever happened happened, but it wasn't going to be because I didn't work hard."
It's possible Alexander won't be ready for the moment, but it's tough to discount the Tulsa native. Alexander wasn't coddled at all as his first start was in the Red River Rivalry against Texas.
The result didn't go OU's way on that day, but Alexander showed glimpses of why OU fans are excited about his future with 19 tackles.
Alexander hasn't had to battle this alone, either, as senior linebacker Corey Nelson has been vital to his progress. Alexander replaced Nelson after Nelson tore his pectoral muscle in early October.
Combine Alexander's experience with Nelson's guidance, and OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops believes that's a recipe for success.
"He's an experienced player now," Stoops said. "The sky's the limit for him as a player. He has all the movements. He has the vision. He has the awareness. He has the skill set.
"He can go down as one of the great players of Oklahoma. But it's a long career, and he's off to a fabulous start. His demeanor gives him that opportunity. Above all, his temperament, his willingness to learn, to be a great player, ultimately that's what makes players great."
Alexander and the rest of the linebackers will have to be great to stop the Tide and their potent running attack. Led by T.J. Yeldon, Alabama is averaging 212 yards per game and has rushed for 26 touchdowns. Yeldon has rushed for 1,163 yards and 13 of those scores.
Alexander has approached things the same way each game. It's ready to do that one more time Thursday.
"I'm very excited to play against Alabama," Alexander said. "They're one of the best teams in the country, and we get to show what we're all about as a program."