Oklahoma redshirt freshman left tackle Orlando Brown has been in the spotlight for the last two weeks – for good or for bad. He’s helped shut down some of the top pass rushers in the nation, including Baylor’s Shawn Oakman and TCU’s Josh Carraway.
He’s also been the victim of himself, committing multiple after-the-play penalties that cost the Sooners points at times.
Brown has his toughest matchup of the season in Bedlam though. He’ll face Oklahoma State’s Emmanuel Ogbah, arguably the best defensive end in the nation. For now, Oklahoma will take the good – the natural ability to play left tackle at an elite level – with whatever come with it.
“He’s young, but the thing is, he’s aggressive,” Oklahoma offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said. “I’d sure rather have to pull the reins on him than have to spur him. We don’t have to spur him. He’s aggressive. He brings an attitude to it.
“Does he have to learn to control it at times? Yes. Can he not make the same mistakes that made over and over, as far as that? Yes. But he’ll grow into that. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s played very well for a freshman at the toughest position in football. We expect he’ll continue to do that.”
But this week’s match-up can’t afford any bad decisions. Brown wouldn’t go so far as to say Ogbah was the most complete defensive end that he’s faced, but Brown did say that Ogbah has a style all his own.
“He’s definitely one of the best that we’re going to see or we’ve seen up to this point already,” Brown said. “Definitely a great speed guy. Strong, strong player. I think his numbers speak for themselves.”
This season, Ogbah has at least half a sack in all but one game. He has a sack in 16 of Oklahoma State’s past 19 games. He has 12 sacks this season – 2.5 more than any other player in the Big 12 – and is third in the nation.
Brown expects to be one-on-one against Ogbah on just about every play. Part of that is because of Oklahoma State’s overall pass rush, which is ranked second in the Big 12. The other part is the natural nature of the position. As a left tackle, he’s usually left on an island.
Brown doesn’t mind the reputation that he’s gaining, but he knows that he has to keep his emotions in check.
“I just have to control it,” Brown said. “I don’t mind being known as an aggressive player. I just don’t want to be known as a stupid player.”
That is the main battle this weekend. Here’s a quick look at a few other key spots:
When Oklahoma has the ball. . .
Baker Mayfield vs. Oklahoma State’s secondary
First, Mayfield has to beat his concussion that lingers. He’s cleared every test, but there can still be setbacks. Oklahoma needs him to play. If he plays, Mayfield has the chance for a big day against a pass defense that ranks in the bottom half of the Big 12 Conference.
Against the three teams with a better statistical passing offense than Oklahoma, the Cowboys have allowed an average of 439 yards and three touchdowns per game. Mayfield’s only better performance than that was against Tulsa. That type of game would be a Heisman statement.
Oklahoma’s fumbling woes haven’t gone away, but the Sooners are forcing more turnovers now than they did through the early part of the season. Oklahoma State has never stopped creating turnovers. It has a conference-leading +1.36 turnover margin per game.
It’s always important to keep control of the ball, but what makes it vital in this game is the penchant of both teams to create big plays. A big turnover and a big play can create a tidal wave of emotion, especially in Boone Pickens Stadium. The Cowboys have 73 plays of at least 20 yards, averaging almost seven per game. They have 18 passing plays of more than 40 yards.
Oklahoma State has won 24 of its last 25 games when it didn’t commit a turnover. The Sooners can’t give it away either.
When Oklahoma State has the ball. . .
Oklahoma substitution packages vs. Oklahoma State’s two-quarterback system
The move of defensive coordinator Mike Stoops up into the press box wasn’t for this game specifically, but the most important strategic substitutions will take place in Bedlam. Miss one swap of J.W. Walsh and Mason Rudolph and the defensive packages that go with them and it’ll cost a defensive timeout at the very least. It could cost a touchdown.
Rudolph and Walsh are so different, and somehow Oklahoma State has made the two-quarterback system work. If the right defensive players aren’t out there, Walsh could run by them or Rudolph could hit a big play.
There’s a way to shut down both, and that falls first on Stoops.
Oklahoma State isn’t afraid to test the opposing secondary. The Cowboys have completed 61 passes of greater than 20 yards.
The offense starts with James Washington deep and David Glidden underneath. Marcell Ateman has stepped up to average more than 17 yards per catch. 10 players averaged at least 11 yards per reception. Thomas with shutdown ability and Sanchez with big interceptions: Oklahoma’s cornerbacks have shown the ability to shutdown receivers.
There will be a chance to do both and make a major statement Saturday.