The Oklahoma Sooners are in tiptop shape heading into their by week.
After letting the defense shoulder much of the burden during the first two weeks, the offense finally seems to have found its rhythm. Not to mention, Oklahoma also seems to have its quarterback.
Bring on Notre Dame.
After toppling Tulsa 51-20 last Saturday, the Sooners proved they were deserving of a Top 15 ranking. But given the team’s performance over the years under head coach Bob Stoops, that isn’t too surprising.
However, a couple aspects of Oklahoma’s start have caught us off guard.
This Defense is For Real
Say what you want about the level of competition the Sooners have faced thus far.
All that matters is that the defensive unit has made life tough for the team’s opponents. They’ve also looked quite good in doing so.
Just take a look at some of the early numbers.
Oklahoma ranks No. 4 in scoring defense (9.0 PPG), No. 17 against the rush (100.7 YPG), No. 34 against the pass (190.7 YPG) and No. 14 in total defense (291.3 YPG). Furthermore, the team ranks No. 8 in pass efficiency defense, limiting quarterbacks to a QB rating of 88.5. In fact, the Sooners haven’t allowed a passing touchdown yet.
The defense unit has also come up big in critical situations.
In third-down situations, Oklahoma has held opponents to just 12-of-44 (27.3 percent)—No. 14 in the nation. The team also ranks No. 19 in red-zone defense.
Sure, it’s still early on and the Sooners’ toughest tests are still to come. But how can you fault the team for making the best of what it’s given?
Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops’ unit certainly didn’t look this good through three weeks last year.
Blake Bell, not Trevor Knight, is the Best Fit at QB
In hindsight, the Oklahoma coaching staff’s decision to start Knight over Bell looks rather foolish right now.
Consider this: In the first two weeks, Knight threw for just 205 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions on 21-of-48 (43.8 percent) passing. In comparison, Bell threw for 284 yards in the first half alone during his debut as a starter on Saturday.
The junior finished with 413 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions on 27-of-37 (73 percent) passing. He also added 24 yards on the ground.
Fox Sports Southwest’s David Ubben (@davidubben) put the performance in context:
Blake Bell topped Sam Bradford's OU record for most passing yards in first start. Had 413, 4 TDs. Sooners roll, 51-20.
— David Ubben (@davidubben) September 14, 2013
But potent offense aside, what stands out the most with Bell at quarterback is how the Sooners are able to move the chains.
During the first two weeks, the team was just 12-of-34 on third-down conversions. Against the Golden Hurricanes, Oklahoma was a stellar 12-of-16 on third downs.
With Bell at quarterback, there’s no telling how good this offense can be.
Err...About that Schedule
Entering the season, the Sooners were believed to have one of the toughest schedules in the nations. In fact, Phil Steele had it ranked as the No. 2 toughest slate in college football.
With matchups at Notre Dame, TCU, Texas, at Baylor and at Oklahoma State, it’s hard to argue against that. More concerning, Oklahoma was set to play three of those teams—the Irish, Horned Frogs and Longhorns—on consecutive weeks from Sept. 28-Oct. 12.
However, what originally looked like a daunting gauntlet now suddenly looks like a walk in the park.
Two of those teams, TCU and Texas, have surprisingly already dropped out of the Top 25 with two losses. The other, Notre Dame, has already lost and barely escaped with a victory against Purdue over the weekend.
It would be a huge surprise if the Sooners didn’t head into their Nov. 7 Thursday-night showdown against Baylor 8-0.
Summing It All Up
Nobody is surprised that Oklahoma is 3-0 heading into its showdown at South Bend on Sept. 28. However, nobody expected the team to get there the way it did.
With Bell at QB and the defense playing at a high level, it’ll be hard slowing down these Sooners.
All of a sudden, the schedule also favors them too? Teams might as well be inviting Oklahoma to come through and stomp all over them.
Dare I say it, this could be a potential sleeper pick for a team to reach the BCS title.
All stats used in this article are courtesy of NCAA.com.