Oklahoma Sooners: 2-Game Texas Trip Set to Provide True Identity for Sooners
You hear that?
That’s the sound of alarms going off in thousands of households across the city of Norman.
But is it too early to be reaching for the panic button?
Following the Oklahoma Sooners’ shocking home loss to Kansas State—a game in which weak run defense and lousy ball control contributed heavily toward the outcome—the fans have every right to be hysteric.
According to a recent Bleacher Report poll, the large majority of Sooner Nation has lost their faith in the on-field product head coach Bob Stoops has sent out this season. Recent comments made by an Oklahoma legend, former head coach Barry Switzer, aren’t going to help much in that department.
But just like every crime suspect is innocent until proven guilty, this Oklahoma squad’s season is alive and well until proven otherwise.
In fact, their next two games will serve as their trial.
Many believe the Sooners’ last four games—Baylor, at West Virginia, Oklahoma State and at TCU—to be the defining stretch for this team. However, I’ve always believed it to be the three-game stretch the Sooners are currently on—Kansas State, at Texas Tech and Texas.
Is Landry Jones going to be the starter for the remainder of the season? Are the holes in the defense ever going to close up? Will a primary rushing threat step forward? Is a Big 12 title, let alone a national title, still in the cards?
How many wins will the Sooners finish with?
All these questions and more will be answered at the completion of these two games.
While I’m adamant that all judgment be held off until then, the Kansas State game exposed some dents in the Sooners’ armor. They’re weaknesses we should pay close attention to over these next couple of weeks.
For one, there is an uncharacteristic lack of physicality from the Sooners’ defense.
In years past, an opposing running back would find it difficult to come across yards, let alone positive ones. Defensive linemen such as Gerald McCoy, Tommy Harris, and Frank Alexander would dominate the line of scrimmage, moving it backwards and closing up any running lanes.
This edition of the Sooners—currently ranked No. 71 against the run—is a far cry from that.
Linebacker Tom Wort believes it to be a direct correlation to the Sooners not being physical enough during practice.
While Stoops brushed off these accusations, there has to be some creditability taken from a comment made by one of the defensive leaders of this team.
Then there’s the lack of productivity from fifth-year senior quarterback Landry Jones.
Entering his third full season as the starter, many expected Jones to validate the preseason Heisman candidate claims. His performance thus far has garnered him anything but that.
Compared to his previous years, Jones’ five touchdown passes this season through three games is rather pedestrian. In fact, just last season Jones threw five touchdown passes in a single game three times.
More alarming is the fact that you’d have to go back nine games to find the last time Jones threw more than three touchdowns in a game—a 58-17 victory over Kansas State.
It was the following game against Texas A&M where the Sooners lost wide receiver, and Jones’ go-to guy, Ryan Broyles for the remainder of the season.
Since, Jones has tossed eight touchdowns to eight interceptions.
Coincidence? I think not.
Until Sterling Shepard’s recent emergence, Kenny Stills has proven to be the only productive option Jones has had thus far this season. It’s imperative for Jones to find success spreading the ball around if he hopes to turn this season around, let alone save his spot in the starting line-up.
With two teams currently 4-0 up next for the Sooners, there’s no more room for errors or misunderstandings among the team.
First up on the stand is Texas Tech.
Averaging a little more than 547 total yards of offense per game, the Raiders come in ranked No. 8 in total offense.
While the Sooners have already faced some talented rushing attacks, they've yet to be challenged through the air.
The Sooners are currently No. 3 against the pass, allowing a little more than 123 yards per game. Opponents have only completed a meager 49.33 percent of their passes.
With only one passing touchdown allowed, does the credit go to great play from the secondary or weak play from opposing quarterbacks?
Raiders quarterback Seth Doege and his No. 7 ranked passing attack will look to put that theory to test.
This will serve as the secondary's biggest test to date. Right now, they're all that's keeping this Sooners defense from unraveling completely. Pass this and it could serve as a rallying point for the entire defense.
Next up on the stand is Texas.
No matter the records, this annual showdown is always circled on the calendars of both squads.
The Longhorns will bring in the highest ranked rushing attack the Sooners have faced thus far—currently ranked No. 19, averaging 228 rushing yards per game.
Add to that the surprising play of sophomore quarterback David Ash—10 touchdowns to one interception—and the Longhorns stack up pretty well on paper.
Their defense, on the other hand, not so much.
The Longhorns are currently No. 63 in total defense, allowing opponents a little over 390 total yards per game. But their Achilles heel has proven to be their rush defense—ranked No. 86.
It's a pretty safe bet to say that this one might just be decided on the ground.
While it cannot be stressed just how important these next two games are, Stoops has a great track record of motivating his team following a loss.
You'd have to go all the way back to the fourth and fifth games of Stoops' inaugural season with the Sooners for the last time his team has dropped back-to-back regular season games.
With an extra week of preparation before a trip to Lubbock, I don't expect that to change.
Nobody in the nation currently knows the true identity of these Sooners. However, with all the subplots taking place over the next two games, we're more than likely going to come away with a good sense of who these Sooners really are.
The defense rests its case.
You can follow Sebastian on Twitter at @SP7988
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