After a debacle of a performance two weeks ago versus the Texas Longhorns, OU head coach Lincoln Riley made the call to remove Mike Stoops as defensive coordinator. He has tasked defensive line coach Ruffin McNeill with rectifying the D. McNeill isn’t saying much about how he plans to do so.
The Horned Frogs have some rectifying of their own to do following an ugly loss to the Texas Tech Red Raiders last week. TCU head coach Gary Patterson can’t be happy with the state of his offense, which hasn’t produced more than 17 points in any of its last three contests. OU’s beleaguered D could help TCU’s rejuvenation process.
Oklahoma at TCU
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 20 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Oklahoma -8
Three Things to Watch
1. Oklahoma’s tackling
The Sooners’ inability to master the basics on defense might have ultimately sunk Mike Stoops. Blown tackles plagued OU in the loss to Texas, enabling the Longhorns to turn short gains into long ones. TCU has some dangerous skill players such as junior running back Darius Anderson and speedy senior receiver KaVontae Turpin who will make OU’s defense pay if they’re not taken to the ground on contact.
We’ll soon find out if Ruffin McNeill’s promotion motivated OU’s defenders to knuckle down.
2. Robinson’s shoulder
Despite suffering a shoulder injury in TCU’s previous game against Iowa State, quarterback Shawn Robinson took all the snaps last week. He managed to gain a combined 332 yards of total offense versus the Red Raiders, but he definitely wasn’t playing at full strength.
McNeill is probably making it a priority to find ways to get physical with the sophomore signal-caller on Saturday.
3. Harassing Kyler Murray
Similarly, you can just see Gary Patterson scheming for days about how to make Murray’s life hell, can’t you? No team has managed to hit Murray often enough to affect his play behind center yet this season. That won’t stop Patterson from trying to be the first.
In light of the changes that have taken place for Oklahoma’s defense, it’s impossible to know what kind of effort to expect from the Sooners on Saturday. If Lincoln Riley is correct in his assessment that the players really need to hear a new voice on that side of the ball, it could give them a spark. If not, the only flying sparks will be coming from OU’s D as it burns to the ground.
Still, a subpar defense doesn’t change the fact that the Sooners have the most electric offensive attack in the country. Last week’s open date could mean OU will spend its first few drives knocking off some rust. You can’t keep an O like that down for long, however.
TCU’s hopes for an upset rest on quarterback Shawn Robinson avoiding the turnovers that he has given away far too often recently. Fortunately for the Horned Frogs, the Sooners and forcing takeaways don’t really hang out much anymore. (Put that up there with improving tackling on interim defensive coordinator Ruffin McNeill’s list of priorities.)
In the end, the Sooners probably have too much firepower for TCU to keep pace for 60 minutes. A reinvigorated defense will help OU extend the final margin in the fourth quarter to cover the eight-point spread.
Prediction: Oklahoma 34, TCU 24
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.