Oklahoma Sooners Football: 5 Keys to Beating Iowa in the Insight Bowl

Tom GuthrieContributor IIIDecember 23, 2011

Oklahoma Sooners Football: 5 Keys to Beating Iowa in the Insight Bowl

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    Sure, it may seem like a mismatch, an anticlimax, or even a dud of a bowl game. 

    But the 2011 Insight Bowl at least gives us a matchup of two tradition-rich football programs from two tradition-rich conferences.

    For Oklahoma, the tussle with Iowa will serve as a chance at redemption, an opportunity to salvage whatever can be salvaged after a hollow 2011 season that began with so much promise yet concluded with an acute sense of disappointment over the dreams unfulfilled.

    What's done is done, however, and Sooner fans should do their best to get excited about the upcoming bout in the desert.

    To focus on besting the Hawkeyes and ending 2011 on a positive note, here are five points of focus OU should consider before they meet their opponent in Tempe.  

5. Get off to a Fast Start

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    Coming off a very poor outing against Oklahoma State, the Sooners need to show resiliency and make a statement early against the Hawkeyes.

    Ideally, that would be accomplished by either forcing a quick three-and-out and following it up with a touchdown drive or vice versa.

    The Hawkeyes will approach this game with the mindset of having nothing to lose and will most likely show high intensity and aggressiveness. An onside kick or trick play is not out of the question.

    Therefore, the Sooners must be the aggressor and deliver a blow early to pave the way for a successful Insight Bowl. 

4. Don't Commit Turnovers

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    Simply keeping the football away from the opponent has been a challenge for the Sooners down the stretch this season, as they have committed 12 turnovers in the last three games, two of which they lost.

    Iowa, a heavy underdog to many fans, will have a chance to beat Oklahoma if the Sooners don’t do a better job protecting the ball; if Iowa forces OU into one or multiple mistakes, the Hawkeyes could make it interesting.

    As long as Landry Jones gets solid protection and makes smart decisions and Sooner ball-carriers protect the rock, OU should be fine. 

3. Take Marvin McNutt out of the Game

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    Without running back Marcus Coker, who basically shouldered the entire rush game for the Hawkeyes, junior quarterback James Vandenberg will likely rely even more heavily than usual on junior receiver Marvin McNutt.

    McNutt has had a very productive season with 78 catches for 1,269 yards and 12 touchdowns, making him by far the most substantial target in the passing game for the Hawkeyes.

    Oklahoma should make it a priority to limit McNutt’s impact as much as possible. If the Sooners are able to make him a non-factor, it’s likely that Iowa’s offense will struggle to move the ball consistently, which could establish a vicious cycle if the Hawkeyes D can’t at least slow down the OU offense.  

2. Demonstrate Offensive Balance

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    In order to have sustained success offensively, OU needs to establish balance. That means either setting up play-action and the passing game with the run or going to the air immediately and complementing the pass game with the run game.

    Without Jaz Reynolds and Brandon Williams, the Sooners will have to rely on Roy Finch and Brennan Clay to deliver in the run game. Giving fullback Trey Millard opportunities would be wise, as well.

    As for the air attack, Jones will have to find new targets, as he has struggled consistently since losing Ryan Broyles. Kenny Stills will most likely be targeted early and often, but look for freshman Kameel Jackson and Trey Franks to get plenty of looks also. 

1. Show Passion for Four Quarters

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    Sure, it’s a cliché, but the reason it’s said so often is because it’s true: the will to win is essential.

    In Oklahoma’s three losses this season, that passion and fire seemed to be lacking at times. On paper, the Sooners have substantial advantages over Iowa, to the point that it wouldn’t be surprising if Oklahoma won handily (they are 14 point favorites, after all).

    However, games are not settled based on statistics; the beauty of competition is that it is timeless and anything can happen on any given day.

    That said, Oklahoma needs to show pride and desire in this game; forgetting about the disappointments and lost opportunities of the 2011 season is absolutely imperative. Beating Iowa to close out the year, although falling well short of OU’s initial goals, would still be a positive way to end the year.