Two of the most prolific offenses in college football are meeting up on Saturday when the No. 18 Oklahoma Sooners and TCU Horned Frogs square off at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
The Sooners (3-1, 0-1 Big 12) are reeling from a 41-34 loss to nemesis Kansas State last week. The Wildcats generated 509 yards of total offense in their upset win, a reminder that OU’s defense remains a work in progress under first-year head coach Brent Venables.
Meanwhile, the Horned Frogs (3-0, 0-0) are riding high coming off a 42-34 win over cross-town rival SMU. They overcame a penalty-filled performance to secure the victory (and the Iron Skillet) versus the Mustangs in a return to first-year TCU head coach Sonny Dykes’ old stomping grounds.
Here’s what to watch when the Big 12 foes take the field in Fort Worth on Saturday.
No. 18 Oklahoma at TCU
When Oklahoma Has the Ball
Through their first four games of the season, the Sooners haven’t shown many signs of slowing down on offense under their new coaching staff. OU is averaging 40.3 points and 513 yards of total offense per game. Offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby’s up-tempo scheme has the Sooners averaging 70.5 plays per game, up from 65 in 2021.
TCU will have to contend with an OU running game that is among the most efficient in the country. The Sooners are knocking out 5.7 yards per carry, which ranks 11th nationally. TCU hasn’t struggled to stop opponents on the ground, though, allowing 3.2 yards per attempt through three games.
OU’s passing game also presents a challenge unlike anything the Horned Frogs have seen versus Colorado, FCS Tarleton State and SMU. TCU defensive coordinator Joe Gillespie may try to key on breaking up the connection between Sooners quarterback Dillon Gabriel and star receiver Marvin Mims, who is averaging nearly 100 receiving yards per game so far in 2022.
When TCU Has the Ball
Dykes, an Air Raid devotee, has supercharged a TCU offense that was hit-or-miss a year ago. The Horned Frogs are putting up 46.3 points per game so far, a significant increase from 28.7 last season. Now entering Big 12 play, we’ll find out how much of that improvement is owed to a diet of weak defenses in the non-conference portion of their schedule.
Senior quarterback Max Duggan looks like one of the primary beneficiaries of TCU’s offensive overhaul. The multi-year starter is leading the nation in passer rating at 216.0, ahead of notable names like Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Alabama’s Bryce Young. Ironically, Duggan only has the starting job because of an injury to OU transfer Chandler Morris in TCU’s season opener against Colorado. Morris returns this week, so Dykes may go to his backup if Duggan struggles early versus OU.
Venables and OU defensive coordinator Ted Roof are looking for answers to shore up the Sooners’ run defense after surrendering 5.6 yards per carry last week to Kansas State. They need to find them quickly if they want to slow down the Horned Frogs’ ground attack, one of the most explosive in college football. TCU is churning out 6.3 yards per attempt so far, which ranks fourth in the country.
Is TCU ready to step up in competition, and how are the Sooners handling a deflating loss? Those two questions loom large over this matchup.
If OU is still reeling from last week’s defeat, TCU has an opportunity to hang a second upset in a row on the Sooners. On the other hand, if losing to KSU was a wake-up call for OU, the home team will probably find itself in a tough spot.
All things being equal, the Horned Frogs can set themselves up for success by exploiting the interior of OU’s defense with running back Kendre Miller and involving Duggan or Morris in the rushing attack. Forcing the Sooners to overextend themselves defending the middle of the field will open opportunities for wideouts like Derius Davis and Quentin Johnston to make big plays on the edges.
Unfortunately for the Horned Frogs, they have yet to face a physical ground game like what OU brings to the table. After some early stallouts in their first two matchups with UTEP and Kent State, OU’s rushing attack started humming behind senior Eric Gray, who gained a combined 227 yards on 17 carries versus Nebraska and Kansas State.
Assuming this game comes down to which team can be more effective in slowing down the other on the ground that appears to favor the Sooners.
Prediction: Oklahoma 41, TCU 28
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— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is the founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.
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