With Bedlam bearing down on us, I caught up with Crimson and Cream Machine site manager Jack Shields to preview tomorrow’s game. We chatted about the Oklahoma offense, Baker Mayfield’s antics, and Toby Keith.
Let’s get right to it.
How are OU fans feeling about this matchup? Are they usually pretty optimistic, and has that changed this year?
I think fans are a bit worried about this one because of the deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball. I think some fans are confident that they'll have their act together defensively for this particular game, but I think fans are a little less optimistic about Bedlam than they have been in the past. I've been getting sort of a similar vibe from Oklahoma State fans, so it's apparent that this entire state has just been nervous all week long.
OU's defense has struggled mightily at times this season. How do you feel about the group coming in to this game?
Oklahoma looked as bad as it had all season during the first quarter of the game against Texas Tech, but things changed when Mike Stoops switched to a four-man front. Over the final three quarters of play OU held Tech to seven points and a shade over 200 yards of offense, which wasn't too shabby. This slowed down the rushing attack and made it easier for the front to pressure Nic Shimonek on a regular basis. If Stoops sticks with that, I think OU can do enough to at least limit the damage on that side of the ball.
Shoot straight with me for a second: Have you ever thought Baker Mayfield might be a little annoying?
I don't think I've ever actually found him annoying, but I grew tried of the media's coverage of him long ago. Seriously, how many articles can be written about one guy having a chip on his shoulder? It's insane. If I supported a different school, I think that would probably annoy me more than anything.
Who are some playmakers to watch for on the OU defense? We know about Baker and the cast, but what about the Sooner D?
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo leads the Big 12 in sacks, so his name is definitely the first one that comes to mind. Say what you want about the defense, but I'll be very surprised if he isn't a consensus All-American at season's end. Linebacker Caleb Kelly is another guy who needs mentioning, as he's sort of the X-factor of the defense. When he plays well, Oklahoma's defense tends to be productive. He's a former five-star recruit who probably has a higher ceiling than anyone on this team (with the possible exception of Orlando Brown).
How can Oklahoma State slow down the OU offense?
Iowa State was able to slow things down by dropping eight and forcing Mayfield to go through progressions, but other teams have tried that and failed miserably. It's sort of a tough question to answer because no one has really been able figure out how to stop this offense. Lincoln Riley can just figure out how to hurt a defense in so many different ways, and Mayfield's ability to move around makes it tough to get any meaningful pressure. Additionally, this offensive line is good enough to allow the running backs -- who are getting better each week -- to sort of have their way.
We've talked a lot this week about OU's base defense, and how OSU can exploit it. Do you think they go with a 3-man or 4-man front? Why?
Because of reasons stated earlier, I think they go with the four-man front. However, Mike Stoops has made plenty of head-scratching decisions in the past, so you never know.
How does OU win this game on Saturday?
Despite the fact that Oklahoma State is ranked 16th nationally in defensive efficiency, I'm not too worried about OU on the offensive side of the ball. The key will be OU's ability to keep Oklahoma State from making big plays in the passing game. If OU is unable to get pressure and Jordan Thomas gets burned deep a few times, we could be in for a shootout in Stillwater. If this defense is able to force Oklahoma State into third-and-long situations (as it did against Texas Tech), I think OU will be able to do enough to limit the damage.
Thoughts on Toby Keith?
Toby Keith's music panders to the lowest common denominator. I'm embarrassed by the fact that he's an OU fan, and I hate the fact that central figures at the University of Oklahoma feel the need to publicly kiss his a**. Several people in the service industry have told me that he doesn't tip. I've also heard plenty of bad things from people who work at his restaurant in Downtown OKC. If I'm going to listen to country music, I'm listening to thoughtful and respectable musicians such as Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell or the Turnpike Troubadours. So, yeah... not a fan of TK.
Hmm... I think OU wins by a score of 45-35. The Sooners tend to do well as an underdog, so I think they end up playing with a bit of an edge in this one. Will the defense will have its act together (relatively speaking) and force a few turnovers? I actually kind of think it will. I predict that Rudolph and Washington will hook up for a couple of scores early, but I think Mike Stoops will eventually fix whatever's broken. I definitely think this will be a one-score game in the fourth quarter and will probably be the most entertaining game of the season in this conference.