A bold prediction about the Sooners’ offense entering week 2

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After what should have been Spencer Rattlers’ third interception against the Green Wave, Oklahoma tried to calm its quarterback down with back-to-back run calls with five minutes remaining in the game.

At this moment in time, ground production could have sealed the Sooners’ win. Positive runs on first and second down would continue to drain the clock, place Tulane’s physical defense on its heels, and significantly improve Oklahoma’s chances of delivering the kill shot.

Instead, Tulane neutralized Eric Gray on first down, and Kennedy Brooks ran into an iron curtain for a three-yard loss on the proceeding play. The Green Wave would then knock away Rattlers’ pass intended for Mike Woods before forcing the Sooners into a missed field goal attempt from the Tulane 14.

Brooks still muscled his way into 87 yards and a touchdown in his first game back after opting out of the 2020 season. However, outside of the second quarter, Tulane dictated most of OU’s ground production. Lincoln Riley and OL coach Bill Bedenbaugh can’t be happy with the offensive line’s inability to establish the run in crucial moments.

That’s why the ground game is the focus of this week’s bold prediction. I believe the Sooners will take a vested interest in establishing the run against Western Carolina and that Eric Gray will pass the century mark.

Everyone will benefit if OU emphasizes its rushing attack tomorrow. It would allow Spencer Rattler to ease into the game and alleviate his desire to sling passes into double coverage. Additionally, it would give the coaches a better look at Eric Gray. The Sooners have high hopes for the Tennesse transfer, but an inconsistent effort from the offensive line didn’t allow Gray to pop on the game tape. Gray had a pedestrian performance against Tulane as he rushed nine times for just 28 yards.

I expect Gray to be a prominent feature in tomorrow’s game plan. Not just to amend last week’s shortcomings but also because a strong running game is a promising avenue to success against WCU.

The Catamounts did an admirable job against the run versus Eastern Kentucky. They surrendered just 81 yards on 22 attempts to EKU’s Da’Jou Hewitt. But the Eastern Kentucky Colonels are not on the same level as the Oklahoma Sooners. The Crimson and Cream outweigh WCU by an average of 56 pounds in the trenches. So if OU can’t establish the run when necessary against the Catamounts, it will be unlikely to do so all season.

The biggest obstacle standing in the way of my bold prediction coming true is the fact that there is only one football. Lincoln Riley reinforced to the media this week that walk-on running backs Todd Hudson and Jaden Knowles still have a place within the offense. Their inclusion in tomorrow’s game plan alongside Kennedy Brooks could reduce Gray’s touches and his ability to rush for 100+ yards.

Brooks will continue to get his reps. As he should, he deserves every one of them. But he proved last week he’s the same caliber of runner he was in 2019. It would be most helpful if Eric Gray is the running back who makes a statement this week. Whether he does it off 15+ rushes or two or three breakaway runs, I predict Gray is the leading man on the ground tomorrow.