Before the season started, Oklahoma-TCU looked like a potential Big 12 championship game in October. Neither team is off to a particularly impressive start, which has taken some shine off of the matchup.
Even though the Big 12 race may appear wide open at this point, these two teams should still factor heavily into the race. The Sooners and Horned Frogs have historically played tight games, and the oddsmakers seem to think there’s another one coming Saturday.
Oklahoma at TCU
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 1 at 5 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FOX
Spread: Oklahoma -3.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Which Quarterback Makes Fewer Mistakes?
As practitioners of the Air Raid, both teams rely heavily on their QBs to operate at a high level to keep the offenses humming. So far, Baker Mayfield and Kenny Hill have shown a penchant for the kinds of mistakes that lose games.
In OU’s losses to Houston and Ohio State, Mayfield has accounted for a total of three turnovers. Equally frustrating for the Sooners, he has passed up easy completions for low-percentage throws downfield. His scrambling has caused more problems than solved them for the offense, too.
Meanwhile, Hill has thrown four interceptions already this year. Arkansas returned one for a score in TCU’s loss to the Razorbacks.
Whichever signal-caller can cut down on those costly errors Saturday will likely lead his team to victory.
2. Can OU Stop the Fade?
The cornerback position across the field from Jordan Thomas has given OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops heartburn all year. Houston and Ohio State both victimized the revolving cast of corners filling the spot with a steady diet of back-shoulder fade routes.
Count on TCU offensive coordinator Doug Meacham spreading the field to isolate Parrish Cobb, Michiah Quick or whomever else the Sooners decide to try at the position. OU’s corners will have to prove they can capably defend those routes, or opponents will continue to eat them alive.
3. OU’s Running Game
One way for OU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley to take some pressure off of Mayfield would be to feed running backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine. Against Houston, the two stud runners combined to carry the ball a total of 12 times. They toted the rock a combined 26 times versus Ohio State, and even that didn’t seem like enough.
If not handing off to them, Riley should still look for ways to get the ball in the hands of Mixon and Perine through the air. However it gets done, the Sooners’ backfield stars need more touches to keep the offense moving the chains.
Gary Patterson has been a thorn in the side of Bob Stoops since his TCU team knocked off OU in the 2005 season opener. His squads always play the Sooners tough, usually taking the game down to the final play.
This year, however, TCU seems to be missing something. It could be a leadership void created by the graduation of former QB Trevone Boykin. It could be a decline in nastiness on defense.
TCU still has time to find whatever it is that it lacks, but the Horned Frogs need to be firing on all cylinders against OU. A 1-3 start for the Sooners with Texas on deck would leave fans with plenty of tough questions for Stoops. Expect an inspired effort from OU after taking a bye week to regroup.
In the end, OU will force Kenny Hill into enough mistakes to steal away from Amon G. Carter Stadium with a win.
Prediction: Oklahoma 34, TCU 28
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.