Oklahoma Football: Five Things the Sooners Have to Take Care of During Bye Week
Going in to their Week 11 bye, the No. 6 Oklahoma Sooners have a lot of things to take care of.
While it may seem like a long shot, the Sooners are still in the hunt for a spot in the National Championship game. If they win out their schedule, things are going to get rather interesting, especially if a few teams (Stanford and Boise State, anyone?) can slip up along the way.
After their disappointing loss at home to an unranked Texas Tech squad, it would have been easy for the Sooners to lay down and throw in the towel for the rest of the season.
However, they were able to get back on track the following week with a blowout win on the road at Kansas State, and then they took care of Texas A&M at home last weekend.
Rather than being rewarded for their stellar play the last two weeks, the Sooners were instead punished, or so it seemed.
All-American wide receiver Ryan Broyles went down with a knee injury during last weekend's win over Texas A&M, and unfortunately for the senior, his collegiate career is now over.
That's where the Sooners' bye week preparation begins: compensating for their huge loss.
Find a Replacement for Ryan Broyles
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Losing an All-American wide receiver is never easy, especially when that wide receiver is the all-time NCAA receptions leader.
After suffering a knee injury in last weekend's game against Texas A&M, Ryan Broyles was informed that his senior season (and college career) would be coming to an end.
When Sooners head coach Bob Stoops was asked what his team had to do to compensate for Broyles' loss, he simply replied that the "other guys will just have to step up and make plays."
The most obvious replacement is sophomore sensation Kenny Stills, who is currently second on the team with 41 receptions for 610 yards and eight touchdowns. However, fellow sophomore Jaz Reynolds has made a strong case for being the team's new go-to receiver.
In the Sooners' past two wins (Kansas State, Texas A&M), Reynolds has proven he is a force to be reckoned with. Reynolds has been pulling down one-handed catches like it's nothing, and he actually led the team last weekend with six receptions.
Even though Broyles was quarterback Landry Jones' favorite target, having guys like Stills and Reynolds as backups is a blessing.
I foresee both sophomores getting more looks, but Reynolds appears to be forming into Jones' new favorite receiver.
With the Sooners running the spread attack, guys like wide receiver Dejuan Miller and tight end James Hanna should also receive more chances to get into the mix.
Miller had a surprise showing against Kansas State, catching three passes for 42 yards and one touchdown. However, he soon faded back into obscurity, as the senior failed to catch a single pass in the Texas A&M game.
Miller has had a disappointing career, but this could be his opportunity to finish with a bang.
Prepare for Robert Griffin III
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Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III has had a remarkable, Heisman-caliber season.
Through eight games, Griffin III has thrown for 2,781 yards, 26 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He is putting up these stats while remaining one of the most accurate quarterbacks in college football, as he is completing 74 percent of his passes.
If his passing statistics weren't impressive enough, Griffin III has also ran for 386 yards and four touchdowns this season. He is one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the NCAA.
There's no way the Sooners aren't aware of this. It's a good thing they have an entire bye week to prepare defensive schemes for stopping Griffin III.
The Sooners' defense has proven to be better than average. They are No. 21 in the nation, allowing just 19.8 points per game.
If the Sooners want to win this game, it all starts in the secondary. By stopping, or at least slowing down Griffin III, the Bears' chances of winning almost completely diminish. This is due to the lack of defense the Bears play.
Baylor's defense is ranked at an embarrassing No. 114 in the nation, giving up 36.8 points per game. Against a high-scoring offense like Oklahoma, the Bears may be in for quite a bit of trouble.
Stop Griffin III, win the game. It's that "simple." If it doesn't happen, get ready for a shootout.
Run, Run, Run
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It's true that the Sooners are a pass-first offense, and even with Broyles out for the rest of the season, there's no way the offense is going to change with only three regular season games remaining.
All I'm proposing is that if the passing game does in fact look less than stellar against Baylor, there's no need to keep forcing it. Baylor's run defense is equally as bad as their pass defense, maybe even worse.
The Bears are giving up 211.2 rushing yards per game. The Sooners have only rushed for at least 200 yards three times this season, but how much of that is because of the spread offense?
The Sooners certainly have the talent in the backfield to run over people, and that's even after Dominique Whaley's season-ending injury.
Sophomore running back Roy Finch has done an admirable job filling in for Whaley, carrying the ball 64 times for 358 yards and three touchdowns. When your running back is averaging 5.6 yards per carry, there's no reason he shouldn't be getting a decent amount of touches each game.
Finch is finally getting the playing time that many Sooners' fans (myself included) thought he deserved all along. He is the most dynamic running back on the roster. Every one of his runs feels like it could be a home run.
If the Sooners keep letting Finch carry the load, especially against Baylor, everything will be just fine.
Also, what a great addition backup quarterback Blake Bell has been to the Sooners' running game. With Bell as the newly appointed wildcat, red-zone quarterback, he has already rushed for three touchdowns.
Finally, a red-zone offense that seems to work!
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The injury bug just keeps biting the Sooners.
Oklahoma has already lost its starting running back, Dominique Whaley, and its best wide receiver, Ryan Broyles, for the entire season.
Starting center Ben Habern was out of the lineup for over a month after busting a radius in his right forearm.
Starting wide receivers Kenny Stills and Jaz Reynolds have both missed time due to injury.
Starting cornerback Jamell Fleming missed two weeks due to a knee injury. Starting All-American linebacker Travis Lewis missed the season opener after injuring his toe in spring practice.
The list goes on and on, and year after year it always seems like the Sooners have to overcome a major injury to get to where they want to be.
As of right now, Whaley and Broyles are the only two starters who are expected to miss any time.
Fleming and Habern both came back last weekend against Texas A&M, Fleming as a starter and Habern as a reserve, so is it possible things are looking better for the Sooners?
I know that sounds odd to say after Broyles' career is officially over, but the Sooners have enough talent at that position to compensate, and with Fleming back, the Sooners' secondary finally looked in sync.
If the Sooners want to win out their remaining schedule, they have to keep their starters healthy. That starts with good practice and conditioning during this bye week.
Don't Worry About the BCS Standings
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The Sooners are currently at No. 6 in the BCS poll and are in control of their own destiny. However, that doesn't mean that they need to be worrying about where they're ranked.
All the Sooners can do at this point is play their hardest, try to win their last three games of the season and hope that a few teams in front of them slip up.
The Bedlam matchup against Oklahoma State is shaping up to be the most exciting and critical game between the two teams of all time. If Oklahoma State keeps winning, they will more than likely remain at No. 2.
Let's just say for fun that Stanford slips against Oregon and Boise State slips against TCU this week. If both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were to keep winning, then Bedlam would be a matchup between two Top 5 teams.
Would a win on the road against No. 2 in the nation be enough to propel the Sooners ahead of the other teams? It could be. The computers love Oklahoma State, and a win for the Sooners could steal away all that love in an instant.
For now, the Sooners just have to take things a week at a time. This week they have to focus on preparing for Baylor. All the rest will fall into place accordingly.