Oklahoma is back in action on Saturday as they welcome FCS Western Carolina University into Norman for the official home opener. The Sooners are looking for a complete performance after what many considered a letdown against Tulane. Oklahoma won, but it was hardly pretty at times. Part of the reason for that most certainly can be attributed to the defense.
With the opportunity for a bounce-back performance against what should be an overmatched Catamounts team, look for the defense to crank things up a notch and more closely resemble the defense that closed the 2020 season.
Continue on for some bold predictions for the Sooners defensive for the upcoming game against WVU:
Turnovers, turnovers, and turnovers
In the second quarter, Oklahoma recovered three fumbles against the Green Wave. That’s when the defense looked its best. I believe we’ll see something similar against the Catamounts.
However, let’s diversify the type of turnovers. The Sooners will record a strip-sack, a forced fumble on a running back or receiver, and two interceptions. Billy Bowman, who was dangerously close to his first interception in his first game, will get it this week. The second will go to Woodi Washington.
Often in matchups of this caliber, the most noticeable difference in the teams occurs in the trenches. Oklahoma has a noticeable size and athleticism advantage on both sides of the line. Defensively, look for the defensive tackles of Oklahoma to spearhead the assault that will keep WCU from getting loose on the ground.
That will continue long after the starters exit, and they will keep the Catamounts under 85 yards rushing for the entire game.
Amongst the Oklahoma football community, it became very evident and noticeable just how many bodies played on defense in their first game. After looking at PFF’s grades and snap counts, it became evident 31 guys touched the field in game one. Players like Key Lawrence didn’t want to attribute that to their performance, but in some ways, it’s hard not to. Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch hinted at it. He wanted to give some players experience and keep bodies fresh for a game where temperatures were over 100 degrees on the field.
I think the number of bodies that see the field stays the same. Maybe not surprisingly bold, but it’s bold nonetheless. The temperature looks like it’ll be around 95 degrees at 6 p.m. local time. It’s not quite 100 degrees, and the sun would likely be setting, but it’s still hot, and fatigue, cramping, exhaustion are real things.
Grinch has way too many quality bodies that are more than capable of providing significant snaps against Western Carolina. Most importantly, OU should have a significant advantage on the scoreboard from the start of the second half into the middle of the third quarter, thus increasing the number of players that see snaps.
All in all, this game should see the Sooners flex their muscles against a program that will be bewildered by the pageantry of the moment. After a forgettable showing last weekend, a cleaner and more dominant performance are in the Sooners’ defense cards.