Game Scout: TCU at Oklahoma

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange


KICKOFF: Saturday, 7 p.m. ET
GAMEDATE: 10/5/13
SITE: Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, Norman, Okla.
TV: FOX
SERIES: Oklahoma leads the all-time series 8-4, including last year's 24-17 victory in Fort Worth. That was the first contest between the two teams as conference opponents.
AP RANKINGS: TCU unranked; Oklahoma No. 11

KEYS TO THE GAME
Off to a 4-0 start for the third time in four years, Oklahoma now has its entire focus on the conference season. The Sooners finished 3-0 in the non-conference portion, including last week's 35-21 victory at Notre Dame.
Coach Bob Stoops didn't want to put too much significance on the Notre Dame win, especially with the large chunk of the conference season still remaining. But he also didn't want to eliminate the boost it gave his team either.
"It should give them confidence," he said. "To go into a great environment against a good football team and play like we did should give them confidence. Hopefully it gives them a hunger to do it more and better. That's what I'd like them to do."
There are only conference games remaining and the Sooners' next opponent is Texas Christian, a Big 12 member all the way back to ... last year. Oklahoma defeated the Horned Frogs last year in Fort Worth, 24-17.
With a current nine-game conference winnings streak, and an 84-5 record at home in Bob Stoops' 15 years in Norman, it would seem like TCU would have no chance to defeat the Sooners at Gaylord Family -- Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.
But upon further examination, it's not a sure thing. One of Stoops' two losses at home to non-conference opponents is to Gary Patterson and TCU in 2005.
Stoops' team is now ranked 11th in the Associated Press poll and 10th in the USA Today Coaches' poll. But he is not taking anything for granted. "We can get a lot better in a lot of areas and that's what we're going to keep working for," he said.
TCU believes it can get a lot better, too, especially after entering halftime of last week's game trailing SMU.
"As a full team, we haven't played our best football game," Patterson said. "When are we going to do that? I don't know. We've got to start playing our best football. If we do that then we'll have an opportunity to win some ballgames."
As it is, the Horned Frogs are off to a 2-2 start, including an 0-1 mark in the Big 12 following a Sept. 12 defeat at Texas Tech. TCU plays only conference games through the remainder of the season, beginning with this visit to Oklahoma (4-0, 1-0).
To win, TCU must play its best football. Although it did enough in all three phases to overwhelm SMU in the second half, better opponents will demand that the Horned Frogs concentrate on the finer points for 60 minutes.
"It's still about getting guys to understand that every play is important," Patterson said. "There's not anybody you can't beat down the road and there's not anybody we can't get beat by, as long as you can keep yourself in ballgames. We haven't had a breakout game offensively. So when are we going to start clicking ... and go score points."

PLAYERS TO WATCH
Sooners
--QB Blake Bell survived the unseasonably warm conditions in South Bend to finish 22-of-30 for 232 yards and two touchdowns against Notre Dame. He also rushed for 59 yards. He left the game to get IV fluids but came back later in the game.
--QB Trevor Knight was much more effective in relief of Bell. He had a season-best 30-yard gain.
--WR Sterling Shepherd could have a big day against TCU's weak secondary. He tied a school record with 15 catches against Notre Dame and with TCU giving up 238 yards per game, Shepherd is likely licking his chops.

Horned Frogs
--CB Jason Verrett leads the nation in passes defended (29) since the start of the 2012 season. During that stretch, Verrett has six interceptions. He is tough on high-level receivers, allowing LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. just one reception before holding Texas Tech's Eric Ward without a catch.
--CB Kevin White does not get as much attention as Verrett, except that opponents may be more inclined to throw at the junior who lines up on the other side. White, however, has seven breakups, including an interception, as well as fumble recoveries in each of TCU's first two games.
--WR Ty Slanina was one of several backups to get chances against SMU after coach Gary Patterson grew tired of dropped passes. The true freshman responded with three receptions for 63 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown for the go-ahead score.

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