Oklahoma Football: 5 Keys to Winning the UTEP Game
The Oklahoma Sooners are set to start their season on the road for the first time since 2002 on Saturday in El Paso.
The No. 4 Sooners head to the Sun Bowl to battle the UTEP Miners to start the 2012 campaign.
OU and UTEP have played twice before in Norman, but never in El Paso. In 2000, Oklahoma started its championship season with a 55-14 victory. In 2002, OU won again, shutting UTEP out 68-0.
Historically, these programs are as big a mismatch as you will find in the FBS. Still, OU will need to execute to avoid an embarrassing loss in a season with national title hopes.
Here are seven things the Sooners will need to focus on against UTEP.
Control the Tempo
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A big key to the Sooners' style of play is maintaining a steady pace on offense.
The Sooners have been utilizing an up-tempo offense with Landry Jones at the helm, producing huge plays and bigger numbers.
OU will have an early advantage if they can set the pace and tone immediately.
For UTEP to have a chance, they will need to control the clock and keep the Sooners at a snail's pace. If Oklahoma is on its game early, though, UTEP will be scrambling to make up ground fast.
Oklahoma will be well on their way to victory if the game is played at a quick pace.
Force UTEP to Throw
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The Miners need to keep the ball as long as possible to have a shot at winning, putting all their hopes for an upset on the rushing attack.
OU has the ability to score upwards of 50 points each time they take the field, but it's hard to score if they don't have the ball.
Oklahoma will need to force UTEP to put the ball in the air as much as possible to regain possession.
Miners quarterback Nick Lamaison has struggled immensely in the past, throwing for just 12 touchdowns last season. Lamaison did limit his interception total to 10, but he was nowhere near a top QB.
OU's secondary will pick apart Lamaison if the ball comes their way. Expect to see eight and nine men in the box early for Oklahoma as they attempt to force the Miners into passing situations.
Spread the Ball
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The Sooners have the chance to try out some new offensive weapons and shake the rust off some old ones against UTEP.
Oklahoma will do its best to spread the ball to numerous targets throughout the game Saturday.
The returning star is wide receiver Kenny Stills, who is entering his junior year as the No. 1 ball catcher.
Stills will attempt to fill the void left by Ryan Broyles, who left for the NFL following his senior year.
While Stills will hopefully be the consistent star, freshman Trey Metoyer is set to make a big impact as a freshman with the Sooners.
OU will also test the knee of running back Dominique Whaley, the former walk-on who is returning from a season-ending injury last season.
OU will have a better shot at winning if they can move the ball around the field, but it will also be a good warm-up to see what will and will not work in the future.
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You could call this game a trap game considering the massive mismatch between the two teams, but Oklahoma will need to take the Miners seriously to ensure a win.
OU lost a tough game at home to Texas Tech last season that derailed any hopes at a national title. A rain delay may have set the focus of the Sooners off that night, but don't expect Oklahoma to take their eye off the victory.
The Sooners have a core of veteran leaders on offense despite the graduation of Ryan Broyles. Landry Jones will have the team ready to play and will make sure they are giving their all on each play.
Still, it's easy to let up when you are up big. Oklahoma will need to keep their foot on the pedal and not make it easy for UTEP to stay in the game.
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This game is the utter definition of a mismatch, and it will take some sort of divine intervention for OU to lose.
UTEP hasn't beaten a Big 12 team since the conference's conception in 1996. In two previous matchups, OU has outscored the Miners 123-14.
The Miners are also 4-47 all-time against AP Top 25 schools and have never scored more than 23 points against a top-five team.
Unless the unthinkable happens, OU will walk out with a win.