Middle Tennessee rushing game vs. OU defensive front
The Blue Raiders averaged just three yards per carry before posting a season-best 178 yards rushing in their 44-0 win over Tennessee Tech. That game marked the first time that Middle Tennessee had used the power I offense after going with a one-back set in the first two games. Eugene Gross (5-9, 208 SR) is the tailback, averaging just over four yards per carry with three scores. His backup, DeMarco McNair (5-11, 192 JR) has also seen extensive work in the first three games and senior quarterback Clint Marks has good running ability as well.
Middle Tennessee comes in averaging only 123 yards per game on the ground, but defending the run has been a problem for the Sooners early in the season. Expect more experimentation from OU on the defensive line as they try to figure out how to stop teams from running right up the gut.
Middle Tennessee passing game vs. OU secondary
Marks came into the season as one of the most accurate active passers in the NCAA , but so far this season, he has struggled somewhat, hitting only 53 percent of his passes, with three interceptions and just two touchdowns. Middle Tennessee is averaging only 140 yards per game in the air.
His favorite receiver is sophomore Bobby Williams (6-3, 175) who is actually listed as a backup at the "X" position. Williams caught seven passes for 71 yards in the loss to Maryland. Other than Williams, Middle Tennessee's receivers are small and Marks primarily likes to use the short passing game. He's averaging less than 10 yards per completion so far.
Oklahoma will once again shuffle the secondary. Marcus Walker will become the third different player to start at the cornerback spot opposite Reggie Smith. The Sooners linebackers may play a key role in pass coverage this week, with Middle Tennessee often using four receivers along with the tight end.
OU running game vs. Middle Tennessee defensive front
Adrian Peterson is coming off a remarkable fourth-quarter performance against Oregon, but don't look for the Middle Tennessee defense to be pushovers.
The Blue Raiders have allowed just 80 yards on the ground per contest in their first three games. The most yards they've allowed so far was 135 to Maryland and teams are gaining less than three yards per carry against MTSU so far this year. So it will be Peterson against the Blue Raiders' strength. It will be interesting to see if Oklahoma's offensive line can start providing some holes for the Heisman Trophy candidate to run through.
Center Jon Cooper will be held out this week and true freshman Chase Beeler, who finished the game at Oregon, will get his first collegiate start. Coaches hope to get Allen Patrick some carries this week as well.
OU passing game vs. Middle Tennessee secondary
Paul Thompson appeared to be more accurate and more fluid throwing on the rollout last week against Oregon, so expect to see more and more of that in the Sooners passing game. Thompson did not throw an interception, but still needs to work on his accuracy.
Middle Tennessee has also been stout against the pass this season, giving up just 138 yards per game in the air. As usual, though, OU's receivers will have a distinct size advantage against the Blue Raiders secondary. Malcolm Kelly and Juaquin Iglesias will be keys to breaking this game open.
After shining in the opening game, tight end Joe Jon Finley has been a forgotten man the last two contests. Middle Tennessee's defensive strategy may determine if that trend continues this week.
Adrian Peterson will apparently continue to run back kickoffs, along with Reggie Smith, giving the Sooners two bona fide game breakers. Smith didn't get much of a shot at punt returns last week, but should have more opportunities against Middle Tennessee.
For the Blue Raiders, Colby Smith handles all the kicking chores. He's had one punt blocked, but is averaging over 41 yards per kick and opponents have only four yards in returns for the season. Smith is 2-3 in field goal attempts with a long of 42 yards.
Middle Tennessee has done a good job in kick coverage and their return game has not produced any big plays so far this year. Backup tailback McNair is their primary kickoff return man.
Garrett Hartley and Michael Cohen have been solid for the Sooners in the kicking game this season, and the OU kick coverage has been outstanding as well.
The Matchups: Oklahoma vs. Middle Tennessee
Sooners Illustrated Top Stories
OU back to the WR target boardJalen Reagor is out of SoonerSquad17. So who's in? Trying to figure out the answer.
Sooners IllustratedYesterday at 6:22 AM
SoonerSquad17 more than a class, it's familyOU's SoonerSquad17 is a lot more than a No. 1-ranked class... it's a family.
Sooners IllustratedYesterday at 6:20 AM
Setting the stage: OU at Texas TechSetting the stage one more time for OU at Texas Tech this weekend.
Sooners IllustratedYesterday at 6:15 AM
Five questions: Texas TechRaiderPower.com publisher Jarret Johnson stops by for five questions about Texas Tech.
Sooners IllustratedThursday at 9:50 AM
OU mid-season report: Special teamsSpecial teams at midway point for OU features some good and some, well, still waiting.
Sooners IllustratedThursday at 8:03 AM