Sooners Illustrated examines the key match-ups between Oklahoma and TCU.

Oklahoma has to find a way to stop TCU's passing game, first and foremost

NORMAN – Until the Oklahoma Sooners find an answer, the most pivotal matchup in any game will be t who starts opposite cornerback Jordan Thomas. There will should be obvious and unrelenting pressure.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops tried to remain coy to who would be starting this Saturday against TCU, but the fact that Parrish Cobb jumped Dakota Austin on the depth chart this week might be a bit more telling.

Antoine Stephens, who was the talk of spring camp, and P.J. Mbanasor, who filled in last year without Zack Sanchez, seem to be completely out of the running. Michiah Quick joins Cobb and Austin, who is a minor contender at best, as the top candidates, although the entire coaching staff stayed very hushed on the issue.

The players are in the same camp.

“It was way more competitive,” Oklahoma safety Ahmad Thomas said. “That spot is still open. It’s kinda frustrating that we’re still dealing with it at this point in the season. They’re stepping up now. They should’ve done it before, but they’re stepping up now.”

Houston and Ohio State have both severely victimized the No. 2 cornerback on Oklahoma’s defense, and TCU isn’t likely to buck that trend. Quarterback Kenny Hill loves to throw the ball, and the Horned Frogs already have four receivers with at least 195 yards – although top-four receiver KaVonte Turpin won’t play Saturday because of a leg injury.

TCU will attack Oklahoma’s biggest weakness – and one that is kind of masking sub-par linebacker play as well. Oklahoma freshman Jordan Parker is healthy now and getting back up to speed. But for now, it’s not any single player’s job.

“It will be by committee again, I’m sure,” Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “Nobody has really established themselves yet. We’ll see what happens. Hopefully one of them will get hot and see what happens and play a good game. That’s our hope.”

That is the main battle this weekend. Here’s a quick look at a few other key spots:

When Oklahoma has the ball. . .

Keeping the running game going

Over the course of four games, TCU is averaging right around 130 yards allowed on the ground. That won’t cut it for Oklahoma, which also hasn’t gotten into a rhythm throwing the football and worked extensively on that during the bye week.

With the running backs Oklahoma has in its arsenal, the Sooners should be one of the top teams in the nation running the football. But scroll through the list. Top 20? Nope. Top 30? Nope. Top 50? Nope.

Oklahoma is 65th in the nation in rushing offense, and Joe Mixon would be one of the top yards-per-carry backs in the nation if he had a qualifying number of carries.

Sooners’ receivers against TCU press coverage

There isn’t a cornerback on TCU’s roster that it shorter than 5-10 and none weigh less that 160 pounds. The Horned Frogs pass defenders are built or physicality, which presents yet another challenge to an Oklahoma receiving group that has been underwhelming.

Just getting off the line could be an issue against TCU’s tight man-to-man pass defense. Oklahoma’s receivers haven’t gotten much separation over the course of a route, but they’ll have to work extra hard just to get a few steps into every route on Saturday. It’s a battle Oklahoma has to win, or TCU’s defense will look a lot better than it has the first four games of the season.

When TCU has the ball. . .

Turnover margin

It’s about time that Oklahoma intercepted a pass. There’s bad luck and there’s bad skill. Oklahoma has still been very unlucky in terms of turnovers – only one of its two fumble recoveries has come with any kind of importance. But Oklahoma isn’t creating any opportunities for itself to force a turnover.

Then again both Ohio State and Houston rank in the top 41 in the nation in turnovers lost, so it’s not like two teams ranked in the top five are exactly giving away the football. But even Louisiana-Monroe has a better turnover margin that the Sooners.

It’s time to start forcing them.

Defending Kenny Hill

Trevone Boykin could present a handful of problems to any defense, but he seemed to have the biggest negative affect on the Sooners, who have continual trouble with a mobile quarterback – J.T. Barrett converting big first downs and Greg Ward extending pass plays with his legs.

Hill isn’t exactly that type of quarterback, but he’s a true gunslinger who can put the ball anywhere on the field. With holes in the secondary, that isn’t necessarily a welcome sight for defensive coordinator Mike Stoops.

Hill ranks fourth in the nation in passing yards and is fifth in total offense, averaging 413.3 yards per game.


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