Thursday, November 19, 2015

Previewing OSU-Baylor and OU-TCU

The state of Oklahoma is about to host two major football games that could have a big impact on a Big 12 championship race that is starting to look like it might come down to the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State season finale in Stillwater.

Baylor and TCU look to be out of the running due to injuries, which have now claimed Seth Russell and Josh Doctson, two of the better offensive skill players in the entire league. But of course, both of those teams are still more than capable of playing spoiler to the playoff hopes of the Oklahomans.

The rest of the Big 12 is a morass of struggling teams with major questions marks about how long their coaches are going to stick around. I'm very curious to see what happens at Kansas State, for instance, and Mangino is now available again while Iowa State will presumably be on the market for a new O.C.

But for now, every team in the Big 12 that really matters is playing on Saturday night in one of these two games.

Sizing up Baylor at Oklahoma St.

The biggest question here is whether or not Jarrett Stidham is healthy and ready to go. Now I tend to think he'll be fine, but no doubt that a back injury in the days after the injury is a difficult thing to work through and Baylor's young QB really needs reps.

If Chris Johnson is the man at QB for Baylor against Oklahoma State than this game is probably already over.

The match-up between Oklahoma State's offense and Baylor's defense is probably the most interesting aspect of this game. Mason Rudolph got his career off to a great start when he nearly took down Baylor a year ago in Waco and now he comes into this game looking to protect home field and an undefeated record.

Last year he did a lot of damage against the Bears throwing 7 routes to David Glidden matched up on Terrell Burt:

You'll note this is the same weakness that Oklahoma picked on a week ago with Sterling Shephard, although they tended to use snag rather than this "bash" concept (also known as 7-ins).

OSU also has outside receivers like James Washington that can present problems for the Baylor cornerbacks when they're matched up in isolation. Take this post-dig route combination from last year, for instance:

They get twin receivers to the boundary, which forces Baylor to play their cover safety over the boundary slot or risk losing the boundary linebacker against the run. However, the linebackers are sucked in by the play-action, the cover safety is sucked in to stop the dig route, and that leaves the corner on an island against the post route by Washington.

So suffice to say, the Cowboys are very capable of attacking the same coverage weaknesses that Oklahoma ruthlessly exploited last Saturday in Waco.

The big questions are the run game, whether the Bears will be able to handle the pass more conservatively without getting punished by the OSU ground game, and if the Bears can get a pass-rush from their DL.

The Cowboys are one of the few good offenses in history that can't run the ball worth a lick (108th in rushing S&P, 105th on standard downs) and it's because they do work on passing downs (8th in the nation!).

Since the Bears are wretched on passing downs I expect that OSU will score some points in this one.

On the flip side, the 'Pokes have a mediocre run defense but are excellent on passing downs thanks to their numerous packages and the DE tandem of Jimmy Bean and Emmanuel Ogbah who have combined for 16 sacks on the year so far.

Their ability to get pressure with four and match personnel with Baylor makes me think this game could get ugly for Baylor nation. Look for some more cover 2 brackets on Coleman, including plenty of tampa-2 on passing downs, and for the Bears to continue to pound away with the run game in response. That might work better this week than against the Sooner front but I again foresee it failing to produce enough points to keep up.

Sizing up Oklahoma at TCU

Oklahoma is the flavor of the week right now after slowing down Baylor's offense and another week of the Baker Mayfield-improv hour getting great results. It's worth noting that the Sooners' current five game winning streak came against four creampuffs and a Baylor team that might have been overrated and was adjusting to life without their starting QB.

Of course, TCU is dealing with injuries to what might be the three most important players on offense with Trevone Boykin (ankle), Joey Hunt (something), and Doctson (wrist, done). It's hard to see the Frogs taking down the Sooners without a healthy, running Boykin.

The uncertainty around Boykin is probably why Vegas hasn't given odds on this game.

Here's something we do know though: there is quite a bit of optimism from the Sooner side about running the ball on TCU and I'm not sure this optimism is entirely well placed.

First of all, OU has a finesse approach to blocking with a heavy reliance on stretch plays and Samaje Perine bringing the physicality when he can square up his shoulders and run through people. That latter element should be concerning to TCU, but the finesse approach to blocking won't scare the Frogs' defensive front.

Part of the reason TCU has survived this season on defense in the midst of all their injuries, besides the fact that Patterson is a patchwork-quilt maker, is the play of their DL. They aren't getting a ton of pressure on the QB with their base rush but they are stout against the run and have several good DTs between Davion Pierson, Chris Bradley, Aaron Curry, and Tevin Lawson.

What's more, their safeties can run and tackle and they play with great leverage as a team. You figure Perine probably bulldozes his way to a solid game regardless but the overall OU run game may not find much success or explosive plays against this group.

Perhaps the bigger concern is covering Sterling Shephard, as the TCU secondary basically consists of three traditional safeties, an up and coming corner (Nick Orr), and an older more suspect corner (Corry O'Meally). OU should be able to force TCU to roll some coverage over to Shephard and then attack the resulting soft spots with the run game or other receivers.

Gary Patterson is going to make it a point to try and confuse Mayfield and hide where the Frog weaknesses are and it's going to take a savvy, veteran performance from the Sooner QB to see through it all and get after them.

But without Boykin it's hard to see TCU scoring enough to require too much. For that reason, an OU victory seems fairly likely in this one.

1 comment:

  1. Funny that TCU has become a "trap game" for OU. Concern is that the Sooners are too caught up in playoff and Heisman talk.

    Ok St has done a poor job running the ball in general, but is actually pretty good situationally (power), I guess with the Walsh package. On the other side of the ledger, the Pokes are 4-0 in one possession games while averaging 6 pts/g in turnover luck (fifth nationally).