Oklahoma and Tulsa tangle this weekend in a game that finds both teams riding high two weeks into the season.
The Sooners come into the contest fresh off a thrilling comeback win at Tennessee last weekend to run their record to 2-0. Meanwhile, the Golden Hurricane waxed New Mexico, giving Philip Montgomery two straight victories to open his tenure as TU head coach.
Vegas is projecting this as a walkover win for OU, installing the Sooners as 31-point favorites. Even if that turns out to be the case, TU will still have the opportunity to test its mettle in hostile territory against a nationally ranked squad.
Tulsa at Oklahoma
Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: Fox Sports 1
Spread: Oklahoma -31
Three Things to Watch
1. OU’s Defensive Scheme
Montgomery came to Tulsa by way of Waco, Texas, where he called plays for four years as Baylor’s offensive coordinator. A year ago, the manner in which his Bears blasted OU’s defense left many in Sooner land wondering if OU defensive coordinator Mike Stoops had lost his touch. Montgomery has installed the Bears’ patented up-tempo offensive attack at TU. That means Saturday offers a potential preview of the adjustments OU has made in advance of the Sooners’ showdown with Baylor later this year.
2. Pressuring Baker Mayfield
Even in the win over Tennessee, the Sooners’ issues on the offensive line were exposed. Mayfield spent most of the evening running for his life as the Volunteers pass rushers treated his blockers like turnstiles. The ‘Cane should have opportunities to put some licks on OU’s quarterback and pressure him into mistakes, especially if OU center Ty Darlington can't go. If OU’s big uglies continue to struggle with giving Mayfield time, it doesn’t bode well for their hopes of competing for the Big 12 title this season.
3. OU’s Attitude
Between an early kickoff and last week’s emotional win, the Sooners have some major sleepwalking potential in this spot. Aside from the scoring margin, it likely won’t matter to the final outcome of the game if OU isn’t sharp. Chances are that it would matter to OU head coach Bob Stoops, though, who’s now working toward preparing his squad for conference play.
Coming away from Owen Field with a win is a tall order for a mid-major program in transition like Tulsa. TU has beaten OU just one time in the last 36 years, a 31-24 upset in 1996. In their last five meetings, the Sooners have won by an average of about 40 points.
Look for OU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley to work more on the timing between Mayfield and the Sooners receivers in the passing game. Riley also may call on his QB to take multiple deep shots in an effort to build some confidence in the downfield passing game.
Montgomery likely will try to spread the field to isolate favorable matchups against OU’s defensive backs, who will get a good test from TU receivers Keyarris Garrett and Keevan Lucas. Unfortunately for TU’s coach, he’ll probably find that OU’s pass coverage has taken big steps forward from last season.
Ultimately, if the Golden Hurricane can stay competitive into the second half, TU fans should take it as a sign that the new regime has the rebuilding program on a good path.
Prediction: Oklahoma 49, Tulsa 20
— 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.