Oklahoma vs TCU – Preview, Prediction & Keys to the Game.
As we move further into championship November, the No. 5 Oklahoma Sooners face yet another CFP elimination game against No. 6 TCU. The game this Saturday will arguably be the biggest November home game for Oklahoma since they hosted TCU during their 2015 run to the College Football Playoff. In the epic 2015 matchup between the Sooners and the Horned Frogs, Oklahoma squandered a 30-13 lead after Baker Mayfield went out with a concussion at halftime. Luckily for the Sooners, TCU coach Gary Patterson opted to go for two to win the game late, and Steven Parker saved the day by batting the ball down. I think we all can agree that the play was one of those moments that will go down in Sooner lore for a long time.
Oklahoma vs TCU Game Notes
As we fast forward to 2017, Steven Parker is still holding down the back end of the defense at strong safety, but both teams look very different. The 2017 Oklahoma Sooners (8-1) are headlined by a more polished Baker Mayfield, a great offense, and a defense that has struggled mightily since the start of conference play. On the other side, the 2017 TCU Horned Frogs (8-1) have a solid offense and stout defense. They win games by playing the ball control game and shutting teams down on offense. In fact, over the last month, the TCU defense has allowed only 27 points. To put this into perspective, the Sooner defense has surrendered an astounding 138 points during the same time span! Despite the defensive struggles of Oklahoma, they have an offense that can keep them in any game.
Here are some of the keys to the game for Oklahoma vs TCU teams.
Create and capitalize off turnovers
We all how much this defense has struggled as of late. The good news is that Oklahoma has done a good job producing turnovers in recent weeks. Against Kansas state, Oklahoma had a forced fumble and a crucial interception by Jordan Thomas late in the second quarter. The next week, the Sooner defense came up with a big interception by Caleb Kelly that turned the tide of the game in the Sooners’ favor. Granted, that one came of fourth down, but it was still a refreshing sign. During Bedlam, the Oklahoma defense stepped up again and produced two interceptions and a forced fumble. These turnovers stopped the Cowboys from taking a commanding lead in the game.
While these turnovers have been crucial for the success of Oklahoma over the last couple of games, the offense needs to make sure to capitalize off them. Against both OSU and Kansas State, the Sooners produced turnovers that gave the ball to the offense with a short field and they settled for field goals both times.
Keep feeding Marquise Brown
After Bedlam last saturday, I could not stop watching highlights of Marquise “Hollywood” Brown. Not only did I thoroughly enjoy Gus Johnson yelling out “Hollyyywood!!”, but it was great to see the sophomore junior college transfer have a record-setting day. When Marquise Brown is rolling, it adds a whole new dimension to the Sooner offense. It creates too many weapons for the defense to account for. If DBs slide over to watch Brown, then that opens up space. On top of this, it opens up lanes in the middle of the field for guys like Mark Andrews, Mykel Jones, and Dimitri Flowers. In addition to opening up the field, Brown has also proven to be a reliable security blanket for Baker Mayfield on third down. This takes some pressure off Mark Andrews, who has been the security blanket for Mayfield for most of the year.
Against TCU, Marquise Brown needs to continue to win one-on-one battles and make big plays. If he is able to do this, it makes the offense virtually unstoppable. Last year, Dede Westbrook was able to burn TCU for 158 yards and two touchdowns in a shootout. Look for Marquise Brown to do the same this year against the Horned Frogs. If Mayfield gets Brown going early, then the Sooners should have no trouble putting up points against TCU.
Kenny Hill has to play clean
Last season, Kenny Hill threw 17 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions. This season, he has done a better job of taking care of the football and has thrown only 5 interceptions so far on the season. This improved play by Hill has led the Horned frogs to an 8-1 start after going 6-7 last year. Hill has also improved his accuracy this year and is completing 68% of his passes. This is substantial improvement over his 61% completion rate last season.
If Hill can continue to play well and take care of the football against the Oklahoma defense, it could be another agonizing day for Mike Stoops. Hill has the ability to beat Oklahoma with his feet and with his arm. On top of this, Hill gets to play against a banged-up Oklahoma secondary. Corner Jordan Thomas is questionable with a knee injury, strong safety Khalil Haughton is out, and free safety Will Johnson will have to sit out the first half after being hit with a targeting penalty against OSU. With the exception of Steven Parker, this means that Hill will be throwing against young and inexperienced guys in the Oklahoma secondary.
To make matters worse , TCU has some skilled receivers. The trio of Jalen Reagor, John Diarse and KaVontae Turpin have been lethal this year. They should have no problem finding holes in the young Oklahoma secondary. If Kenny Hill is able to hit these guys for some big plays and take care of the football, then he should be able to keep TCU in the game.
As good as this TCU defense is, I think even they will have trouble slowing down this Sooner offense. The Oklahoma offense is the top offense in the country for a reason, they can move the ball at will against anyone. Although OU will not be able to score as much on TCU as they did against OSU, I still see them putting up plenty of points against the Horned Frogs.
For TCU to slow down the offense, they have to get them off the field by creating turnovers. Against OSU, Baker Mayfield threw two interceptions on plays where OSU was able to disguise coverage. Since TCU plays better defense and disguises coverages better most teams in the country, they should have some success doing this against Baker Mayfield. If they are able to get a couple picks and capitalize off those plays, then that could be the difference in the game.
In addition to interceptions, TCU could come up with some fumbles if the Sooners do not take care of the football. Both Jeff Badet and Abdul Adams have been plagued by the fumble bug this season so they will likely be easy targets for the TCU defense. TCU boasts a strong front seven led by seniors Travin Howard and Chris Bradley. Howard is a skilled linebacker who flys around the field while Bradley is a stout defensive tackle who plugs holes up front. If the front seven is able to create turnovers and control the line of scrimmage, it could spell disaster for the Sooners.
I think this game will be close for much of the first half but then the Sooners will pull away in the second half. With plenty of time to scheme for Kenny Hill, the Sooner defense should be able to at least hold TCU to around 30. This means that as long as it’s business as usual for Baker Mayfield and co. (which is far from a given against this defense), the Sooners will win this game.
Oklahoma 47, TCU 30