After satisfying ourselves that no, exchanging a few questions before the game did not mean that we somehow didn't hate each other this week, BON and the fine bloggers from the Machine went ahead and talked a little football in the lead up to Saturday's big game. Our answers to their questions will be up at CCM, and below you can get the OU perspective on our questions about the game.
BON: Kevin Wilson is gone to Indiana, but Stoops preserved continuity by hiring from within, promoting Josh Heupel to offensive coordinator. How is this Heupel-directed offense like a Kevin Wilson offense? What is distinctive about the offense under Heupel?
Crimson and Cream Machine: Heupel is actually sharing the OC responsibilities with Jay Norvell. Individually Norvell coaches the receivers and Heupel the quarterbacks. Collectively they put together an offensive game plan with Heupel being the game day play-caller. Naturally you would think that a receivers coach and a quarterbacks coach would combine to run a pass happy offense and with Landry Jones averaging 362 yards per game through that perception is certainly there. However, the reality is that Oklahoma is pretty balanced with 45 passing attempts and 40 rushing attempts per game.
Heupel has continued the fast-paced no huddle offense that Wilson started but other than that the similarities come to an end. That is unless you include the tendancy to call it tight and conservative inside the ten. For some reason that is a trend that is continuing and fans couldn't be more frustrated. I think Heuple is still trying to find his niche that will eventually establish his identity as a play-caller. For now I would say that he's unpredictable, picks at a defensive weakness once he finds one, stretches the field more often than Wilson did and calls a lot less bubble screens.
BON: Oklahoma has struggled to rush the ball the last several years, despite fielding some pretty explosive offenses. In part, the struggles to rush the ball seemed to reflect limitations in capabilities, but a big part of it also seemed to be tied to indifference and/or impatience on the part of Kevin Wilson. How does the OU running game look to you so far this year? OU has rushed it well against Tulsa and Ball State, but not particularly well against Florida State and Mizzou. Do you think this team is capable of running the ball on Texas? And just as importantly, will it be a priority for Heupel to do so?
Crimson and Cream Machine: Oklahoma is averaging 4.4 yards per carry on the season which isn't bad until you consider that only two other conference teams have a worse average. The surprise in Oklahoma's rushing attack this season has been the rise of Dominique Whaley from walk-on to starter. He leads the team in rushing yards (356), yards per carry (5.1) and rushing touchdowns (7).
I would say that the Sooners have to rush the ball against Texas to find offensive success. My understanding is that the secondary is the strength of the Longhorn defense as exemplified by they top ranking in the conference when it comes to pass defense. My thought is that Oklahoma would like to attack the safeties and linebackers with the slots and tight ends. However, for that to truely be a priority there has to be a consistent rushing attack. So yes, in my opinion it should be a priority to Josh Heupel.
BON: Turning to the defense, the defensive ends (Alexander and Lewis) are both playing great football, but the interior of the line seems to be more of a question mark. Who are the Sooners playing inside on the line, and what are their strengths/weaknesses?
Crimson and Cream Machine: Juniors Casey Walker and Jamarkus McFarland are the starters but Oklahoma runs a rotation of guys along the defensive line (including the DE's) so Stacy McGee and Torrea Peterson will see plenty of action as well. I would say that their strength is tying up blockers and not allowing offensive linemen to get to the second level of the defense and body up on linebackers during running plays. Unfortunately their weakness the last few seasons is that they tend to get pushed out of the way a bit.
BON: We know the linebackers are fantastic, as always, but let's talk about the secondary. The Sooners have a pair of good corners who are getting better all the time, but the safeties appear to be more of a weakness. Where is this group vulnerable, and how can the Longhorns find success against?
Crimson and Cream Machine: Both of Oklahoma's safeties are first year starters and have gone through some growing pains. Strong safety Aaron Colvin has been solid but suffered a concussion against Missouri and didn't play last Saturday against Ball State. Its expected that he'll play this week and many Sooner fans (including myself) believe that he's a star in the making. I've often stated throughout this season that I have a love/hate relationship with free safety Javon Harris. He is a hard hitter who has a knack for the ball and making a big play (third on the team with 24 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery) but he's also learning the position and is a bit of a gambler which has led to big plays going the other way as well. In the season opener, against Tulsa, he got lost in coverage three times which led to three huge plays for the Golden Hurricane. Against Florida State he gambled and played the ball instead of the receiver which led to the Seminoles only touchdown of the evening.
I would say that the best way to find success against Oklahoma's safeties is to go right at them. Stretch the field by running a back/receiver in motion (you guys never do that, right?) and use the play-action pass.
BON: Finally, knowing the Sooners as well as you do, what are the two or three things that you'll be watching most closely for on Saturday, both in terms of signs that this game is going well for Oklahoma, as well as worrisome indications that could spell trouble?
Crimson and Cream Machine: Well...we just talked about the safeties. I'll be keeping a close eye on them because I'm scared to death of a breakdown in coverage. Texas has turned to two very young quarterbacks to lead the offense. I'll be looking to see if the Sooners can put pressure on them and make plays in the backfield. If there is no pressure then it doesn't bode well for OU. I'll be watching Oklahoma's rushing attack. The Sooners have to be able to run the ball to bring the Texas safeties up and make the vertical passing game work. If Oklahoma is moving the chains on the ground then its definitely a good day. Finally, I'll be watching the special teams. We've been around this series enough to know how quickly the game can change on just one special teams play.
BON: Finally, give us, if you dare, a score prediction. As well as a promise you'll keep if Texas wins the game...
Crimson and Cream Machine: Alright, here we go. Let me start by saying that I think the 2012 Red River Rivalry game has the potential to be epic. There is tons of speculation that Landry Jones will be around for a senior season and the Texas offense will have advanced light years by then. As for this year, I'm a big believer in the Texas defense but I'll have to ask for your forgiveness on my skepticism regarding the Longhorn offense. With so many youngsters I just don't think they're ready to keep pace. My prediction is a 31-13 Sooner victory.
Of course I've been wrong before and while I pray that isn't the case here's what I promise to do if the the Longhorns win. I sign off each of our SoonerNation podcasts with a simple Boomer Sooner as the final two words of the show. Should the Sooners lose on Saturday then I'll promise to sign off by saying "Hook'em Horns!"