Big 12 Leaders Collide in Norman with Everything on the Line

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Oklahoma takes the field before a college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and theTCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016. Oklahoma won 52-46. Photo by Bryan Terry, The Oklahoman

This is why we love College Football. Games in November are important as the season winds down. None may be more important as the top six matchup in Norman, Oklahoma on Saturday as the fifth-ranked Sooners face the sixth-ranked TCU Horned Frogs. Oklahoma pronounced their relevancy in the playoff race with a 62-52 victory over Oklahoma State inside Boone-Pickens Stadium. TCU continued their stifling defense with a 24-7 victory over the Texas Longhorns in Fort Worth. This marks the highest ranked conference game in November at home for the Sooners since 2008. Oklahoma went on to defeat second-ranked Texas Tech 65-21 in that contest.

Opposites Attract?

The method for both of these teams winning football games couldn’t be more different. Evident last week, the Sooners can score in a variety of different ways at any time and any position on the field. Defensively, Oklahoma looks to get just enough stops to put pressure back on the opposing defense. That pressure becomes very high as Oklahoma is in the top three in the country in just about every offensive category.

Comparatively, TCU likes to employ a ball-control offense to put their top 10 nationally ranked defense in good positions to be successful. Especially hot over the four weeks, the Horned Frogs has averaged giving up seven points per game in those contests. However, when you compare those statistics against teams that run a similar offense as Oklahoma it’s not quite as dominant. In games against SMU, Oklahoma State, and West Virginia the TCU defense gave up 30 points per game.

Now we got bad blood!

Believe it or not, these are two teams that just don’t care for each other. There have been two questionable hits on Oklahoma superstars over the last two years. In 2015, TCU linebacker Ty Summers knocked Baker Mayfield out of the game with this targeting hit in the first half. The Sooners would hold on to a 30-29 victory.

Last year, a similar play occurred in terms of a questionable hit.  For the second straight year, a TCU linebacker was ejected for a targeting penalty. As a result, Paul Whitmill was thrown out for this vicious hit on Joe Mixon. These two hits have drawn speculation around Sooner message boards around whom might be targeted this week. Don’t be surprised if we see a lot of trash talk and a few scuffles break out on Saturday.

Five Keys to the Game

Turnovers

It’s almost too cliche to mention this as a key to this game, but it bears mentioning. The winner of this game may largely be predicated on who wins the turnover battle. In TCU’s two wins against ranked opponents, they forced six turnovers while only turning the ball over once themselves. However, against Iowa State TCU had 3 turnovers in its only loss. Consequently, if the Sooners can get a couple of takeaways, they will win the game.

Winning the Line of Scrimmage

Most noteworthy, Oklahoma comes in with one of the best offensive lines in the country. The unit played poorly based on their standards in the second half last week against Oklahoma State. TCU is very strong in the middle of their defense, so giving Baker Mayfield time to throw and allowing the Sooner offense to be balanced will be something to watch.

Secondary Coverage and Tackling

Nobody is going to confuse Kenny Hill with Mason Rudolph. Even though Hill has played pretty well this season in completing 78% of his passes and throwing 15 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions. The Sooner defense won’t be challenged as heavily as the wide receiver talent is not as solid either. However, the scary thing to think about as a Sooner fan is that it’s likely they will be starting two or possibly three freshmen in the secondary on Saturday.

Tre Norwood will most likely get the nod at cornerback as Jordan Thomas is questionable with an injury. Robert Barnes will start at safety in the first half with Will Johnson sitting in the first half serving his targeting suspension. Finally, starter Parnell Motley was pulled late in the game in favor of Tre Brown who is a true freshman out of local high school power Tulsa Union. Whoever is in there will be counted on for much better coverage and tackling on Saturday.

Get TCU in Predictable Situations

For all the struggles on defense a week ago, Oklahoma held the Cowboys to only 14 second-half points. Much of that had to do with getting them in predictable passing situations. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo is the Sooners best pass rusher and it will be critical for Oklahoma to get TCU into second and third and long situations so that Obo can be cut loose.

Handling Emotions

There will be a lot of emotions going through these kids at about 7:00 PM on Saturday night. With the bad blood that seems to be there, plus being a playoff elimination game the pressure will be about as high as it has been all season long. Mayfield is the most emotional player in college football. How he leads this team early on and navigates through those early momentum shifts will be paramount in how this game unfolds.

Gameday Atmosphere: Mayfield calls out fans.

Finally, Sooners fans were challenged this week by the Heisman Trophy frontrunner. In 2008, the Sooners stormed out a second-quarter lead of 42-7 against Texas Tech. This has been known as the jump around game in Sooner lore. This was considered the loudest and most rowdy crowds in Oklahoma Memorial Stadium history. House of Pain’s Jump Around was played on the public address which sent the fans into a frenzy. Mayfield has challenged the fans to bring the intensity and create a new memory this weekend. In most Sooner fans minds, Mayfield is the best quarterback in the history of the program. Whether you are his teammate, friend, coach, or local media when he speaks most people listen. In conclusion, I get the feeling that the fans will do their part, it remains to be seen if the Sooner can do theirs.

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