Ask the Expert: Oklahoma

To get the inside scoop on Oklahoma, we went to an expert on
Sooner football --
Josh McCuistion with -- with questions
about OU and Saturday's game in Norman.
Since 2004, these two teams have alternated wins each year. If the trend
continues, Texas Tech is due for a win this year. What does Oklahoma have to do
to prevent history from repeating itself?
JM: "The biggest thing is going to be what it always is in Big
12 games that always kind of goes undiscussed, but it's the running game. I
think whichever team can run the ball better, more consistently, they're
probably going to be the team that wins. And when you look, it's kind of an
interesting dynamic, because Texas Tech has been so good at run defense this
year, Oklahoma is running the ball better than they have, but something's kind
of got to give in that direction. So it'll be really interesting to watch, but I
think that's what it's going to come down to.
"I think both teams are going to
move the ball with some success through the air because that's just what happens
in the Big 12, but I think it's probably more important for Oklahoma to move the
ball on the ground. I think they're going to have to try some new things, try to
throw some stuff that Texas Tech hasn't seen yet."
Is there a level of respect given by these OU players to this Texas Tech
team or is OU expecting an
easy win at home?
JM: "The players know they're not at that
point where, even back in 2011 when clearly they overlooked that Texas Tech team,
they know that they don't have that kind of respect where just about any time
they walk into the stadium, the game was probably won just because they were
more talented. They clearly could go out there without their best effort and win
most of the time around the Big 12. That's not the case right now.
not that talented, they've lost their two best defenders in Jordan Phillips and
Corey Nelson. They know if they're going to win and if they're going to try to
win another Big 12 Championship, it's got to be with consistent and quality
effort. I think last week might have been the wake-up call they needed.
Everybody wants to talk about that Texas game, Texas is talented. There's some
reason you can find for how that happened. Kansas, to be up 13-0 on Oklahoma,
there's no excuse for how that happened. That's just a team not ready to play,
just unprepared in every possible way. Mentally, physically, whatever you want
to say. They just came out flat and they paid for it.
"If Tech wins this week, I
don't think it's going to surprise anyone, but at the same time, I don't think
it would be surprising if Oklahoma comes out flat again."
Is Blake Bell a championship-caliber quarterback?
JM: "I go back and forth about that. I think within the right
offense he can be. When you look at it, this is not a guy like the Big 12
Championship quarterbacks you've seen in years past. With the guys that could
throw it all over the yard, who were destined for the NFL, all those kinds of
things, he's clearly not that guy. Oklahoma's not running that same kind of
offense, though, or at least is trying to get away from running that same kind
of offense. So I think there is a window there where he can be a guy that can
help Oklahoma win, but unlike some of those guys, Sam Bradford, Landry Jones,
he's not going to be able to do it on his own, where it's going to be him
passing for 500 yards and winning a game. It's just not going to happen.
Oklahoma's going to have to play better defensively, and they have so far this
year, and they're going to have to continue to run the ball. But to me, I want
to see Oklahoma share some of the load. Put Trevor Knight out there, let him
make some plays. Put Kendal Thompson out there. They've got so many weapons on
offense that I don't know that they're being used because there's this attempt
to let Blake Bell grow in the position, and that's certainly needed, but I don't
know that that's going to be the way for Oklahoma to get to where they want to
Who do you have as the X-factor of this game?
JM: "I think it's probably a guy like Charles Tapper for
Oklahoma. If Charles Tapper, who is a guy that at times has flashed All-Big 12
and probably beyond that kind of ability, Oklahoma needs him to play
consistently, they need him to try to find a way to make some big plays, because
obviously Texas Tech is going to move the ball between the 20s. They need to put
Texas Tech into situations of second and long, third and long, and if he can
find a way to do that, to help Oklahoma's defensive line take some of that
pressure off the secondary and the linebackers, then I think it can be a huge
game for Oklahoma. He has the ability to do those kinds of things, but we're
going to have to see if that's actually going to transpire into reality."
Best-case scenario?
JM: "Oklahoma is not in a position right now where they can
talk about how much they win by. They need a marquee win. The kind of win they
thought Notre Dame was going to be, and I think Notre Dame is a good team, but
it's clearly not the scalp on the wall that Texas Tech could be if Texas Tech is
the kind of team that I think. They've shown flashes to me, again I think we all
are a little unsure of just what they are based on competition, but they clearly
got some good wins.
"It's going to be interesting to see how Oklahoma looks at
that, but I do think there's no question that it's just winning. I think for
Oklahoma, the best kind of outcome for them is to go out, show they can run the
ball, show a good run defense, and start to establish that kind of offense. I
think people are reluctant to believe right now that Oklahoma can run the ball
consistently even with their performance against Notre Dame, which was really
strong, defensively against the run, and Oklahoma did really well in that game.
"I think they need to go out and start to make it clear to the Big 12 that
they're moving in a different direction, they're going to do some different
things. I think that it will only help them as they go down the schedule, teams
start to prepare for more than just drop back and throw it 40 times a game."
JM: "Blake Bell comes out, has another performance just like
we've seen the last few weeks, really struggles to throw the ball, puts all the
pressure on the run game, and Oklahoma can't just get that run game going in
predictable situations. You see that and the Big 12 Championship is almost
certainly gone at that point. You start to look at what's going to happen with
Baylor in a couple weeks. There are just so many problems that can come from
"They need Blake Bell to have a nice game, a solid performance, they just
can't afford to continue with him working so, I don't know if it's scared, or
however you want to say that, but just doesn't look right in passing situations
right now. Oklahoma can't afford for that to continue because then you start to
talk about players wondering if he's the guy, you just get all those questions
that are not just from guys like ourselves, but are from within when people
start to wonder if this is the right direction for the team."
Final prediction?
JM: "I really think it's going to be all about how this game
starts. When you look at Oklahoma, when they've played well this year, they've
come out pretty early, they've played well, obviously the Notre Dame game they
got off to a huge start. Oklahoma needs to make a few stops early just to show
themselves, everybody else that they can handle what Texas Tech's doing
offensively. I think Oklahoma's defense is greatly improved, but it hasn't faced
an offense like this yet. I think there's something of a premature grade on them
right now. We don't know what's going to happen when they go back into these Big
12 offenses that can throw it all over the field.
"If they can get off to that
fast start, I really think Oklahoma can win this game, my problem is, can
Oklahoma score enough points? Whether Oklahoma's defense plays well or not,
Texas Tech is going to score some points, and I think that's a concern. I don't
know, with what we've seen from Oklahoma's offense so far, that you can count on
that happening. I would probably pick something along the lines of 28-24 Texas
Tech, but again, it's just so hard to know with so many variables about both
teams, for this late in the season being so unknown right now. "