The last time Oklahoma opened up the college football season with a Top 5 ranking they won a squeaker at UTEP 24-7. That was in 2012 and the Sooners were #4 in the nation. Two games later they dropped a disappointing 24-19 home game to Kansas State, ending the nation's longest home winning streak.
Oklahoma has produced lackluster season opening performances in 2009, 2010, and in 2011, for 2014 to be any different they must have an effective game plan that includes the following...
Control the line of scrimmage. This is the duh statement of the day but it holds true regardless. Oklahoma has a starting offensive line that includes three seniors and two juniors. They are big and physical and, possibly most importantly, they all have starting experience. On the other side, junior defensive end Vontarrius Dora is the lone returning starter. While he may be alone as a returning starter, Dora will also be a handful who whichever tackle he lines up against. He has a quick first step, great size (6-4/243) but plays with his head down and therefore doesn't always have good vision.
If Oklahoma's offensive line can keep him tied up and then winning the line of scrimmage get's a little easier.
Find success in the running game. Let's be honest here. We thing that we know what Oklahoma has in the way of running backs but the truth is, we really don't know for sure. The Sooners must establish a rushing attack early on and there's no reason to believe that they shouldn't be able to do that.
In last year's opener, at NC State, the Bulldogs allowed an average of 4.2 yards per carry and 237 total rushing yards. For the entire season the allowed an average of 4.5 yards and 235 total in road games. Regardless of who the ball carrier is (Alex Ross, Keith Ford, Samaje Perine) there's no reason they can't find success. If the Sooners struggle to move the ball on the ground then it could be a serious warning sign.
Pick up the blitz and hit the hot route. Oklahoma fans will remember Louisiana Tech defensive coordinator Manny Diaz from his blitz happy days at the University of Texas. The Sooners owned Diaz's defenses by doing these two things and there's no reason why they can't do it again on Saturday night. One of the off-season/summer compliments of Trevor Knight is that he was making good decisions with the ball and reading progressions. To beat the blitz you have to know who your hot route is and consistently make the throw. The other aspect that Knight provides is to tuck and run.
Find a rhythm for the new guys. Familiarity is everything in college football. If you're taking a hand-off, catching a pass, or throwing one, you want to be comfortable with the personnel that you are participating with. With so many new faces it is important that each of them establish a familiar rhythm with Trevor Knight because he's the key factor in every offensive play.
With so many new components to the offense in 2014 the Sooners won't really have the luxury of being vanilla, but I would expect them to be simple. New guys have to adjust to game speed and basic tasks before complicating the game plan. What OU will have is the luxury of a deep and experienced offensive line that should provide them ample opportunity to be successful.
Louisiana Tech held opposing quarterbacks to under 59% completion percentage, and 202 yards per game on average, while on the road in 2013. They return five guys to their secondary who have starting experience this year so there's no real reason to expect a slip. While it would be fair to expect the Sooners to take some deep shots I would bank more on short to mid-range passes from Trevor Knight.
That's the offensive game plan that we see for Saturday night. Tell us what you see happening.
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