It’s OU Sucks Week around these parts and that means it’s time to catch up with our friends from Crimson And Cream Machine.
We did just that with Jack Shields, the managing editor over at Crimson And Cream Machine, who went in depth-on this season’s Sooners, the loss to Iowa State, how worries Oklahoma fans should be about an improving Texas team, and more.
BON: Texas needs this win for a variety of reasons and Oklahoma certainly doesn’t want to lose to its bitter rival one week after arguably the worst lost in school history. Who needs this win more?
CCM: I would say that Oklahoma needs this one more, and that has a lot to do with the expectations for this particular season. Both of the new coaches inherited a good amount of talent from the previous regimes, but Lincoln Riley had a bona fide Heisman contender to work with at the quarterback position. Additionally, the nature of OU’s coaching transition created the expectation that Oklahoma wouldn’t miss a beat. At Texas, on the other hand, a completely new staff was put into place, so most people anticipated some growing pains. I know the standards are high at Texas, but I feel like the Texas fan base would be a bit less irate over a loss considering the circumstances. After what happened last weekend, Oklahoma fans will come unhinged if the Sooners don’t come out on top.
BON: Injuries played a role, but what weaknesses did Iowa State exploit that Texas can look to take advantage of on Saturday?
CCM: Well, Oklahoma was supposed to start utilizing a 4-3 this season. Instead, OU’s been going with the old 3-4 on pretty much every defensive snap. It’s actually worked fairly well against the run this season, but it left them vulnerable against the spread attacks of Baylor and Iowa State. Iowa State used a lot of motion to get their playmakers out in space, forcing Oklahoma’s linebackers and DBs to make open-field tackles. Of course, they didn’t make said tackles, which led to a lot of big gains on screens.
Oklahoma has also been unable to fluster relatively inexperienced quarterbacks in consecutive games, which definitely bodes well for Sam Ehlinger (if he indeed gets the start).
BON: Speaking of injuries, what's the latest on guys like CeeDee Lamb, Steven Parker and Abdul Adams? They're all obvious difference-makers if they suit up on Saturday.
CCM: The statuses of Lamb, Parker and Adams are officially undecided, but there are some encouraging signs. Parker practiced for the Sooners on Tuesday, and Lamb basically spilled the beans that he would be good to go. Adams is still a bit of an unknown. Trey Sermon has done a very nice job, but Abdul’s absence would definitely be felt by the OU offense.
BON: Knowing the weaknesses Oklahoma has, what positional or player matchups are you worried about Texas having its way with?
CCM: I’m always going to be worried about Jordan Thomas at cornerback. His potential is sky-high, but the guy just hasn’t been reliable whatsoever since the beginning of last season. When he sticks with his receiver, the guy can do some great things. However, he takes way too many risks, and Big 12 offenses have been taking advantage of that. Both of these scenarios were on full display in last season’s matchup, as you may recall.
BON: Considering OU snuck by Baylor and then lost to Iowa State, how concerned are you with this Texas team that’s trending in the right direction?
CCM: I’m definitely concerned, especially because Ehlinger brings a dimension that they didn’t have to deal with when facing Zach Smith or Kyle Kempt. The dude can beat people with his legs, and I can picture Mike Stoops throwing multiple temper tantrums up in the box if those legs end up being a major factor. I think OU will be able to do its thing offensively despite what we’ve seen from Texas in recent weeks, but they’ll be in for another battle if Texas is able to keep Baker off the field for extended periods of time (as ISU was able to do).
BON: OU leads the Big 12 in yards per play (8.89) and ranks No. 2 in points per drive (3.33). That potent offense will see a Texas defense that leads the Big 12 in yards per play allowed (5.16) and points per drive allowed (1.46). Do the Sooners force Texas to keep up or will the 'Horns defense have its way and hold yet another offense well below its season average?
CCM: This sort of goes back to the response to the last question, as I think it’s all about keeping Mayfield off the field for Texas. Additionally, Texas’ defense could have some success if Mayfield keeps trying to make the big play too often. I do think OU will be able to find success in the run game, which I think will keep Mayfield from trying to do too much. Will OU be held below its season averages? Probably by a little, but that’s not exactly a death sentence.
BON: As an Oklahoma guy, who would you prefer Texas goes with at quarterback and why?
CCM: To be perfectly frank, I’ve never been a huge fan of Shane Buechele. He throws one of the most beautiful deep balls I’ve ever seen, but I think the rest of his game leaves a bit to be desired. I think the offense definitely becomes much harder to stop when Ehlinger is out there.
BON: I know Sooners hate the 'Horns, but if Texas pulled off the upset on Saturday to win four of its last five games, would you say this program has finally turned the corner under Tom Herman?
CCM: Yeah, I’d say so. This is also an enormous game for the future of recruiting between these two schools. Not that Texas really needs a ton of help with the 2018 class, but this result could really have a big impact on the 2019 classes. Oklahoma appears to be back to recruiting the state of Texas at a very high level (something it has to do in order to be successful), and that doesn’t look to be slowing down. However, if a loss in this game were to snowball into a rough season for Oklahoma and a strong season for Texas, it could definitely hinder that momentum a bit, which would in turn help Texas.
BON: The ‘Horns and Sooners have exchanged wins during each of the last four meetings. Who comes out on top this weekend?
CCM: Despite its obvious flaws (whether it pertains to personnel or coaching), one of Oklahoma’s biggest problems on defense over the past few weeks has been it’s lack of fire and intensity. I think they come out a bit more motivated, make some big plays and potentially have a solid performance (relatively speaking). As I mentioned earlier, I think Oklahoma will be able to establish the run, which will open things up for the rest of the offense and allow Mayfield to play a bit more conservatively. I predict OU wins by a score of 38-28, with OU pulling away in the fourth quarter.