OU vs. TCU: Can the Sooners Sustain the Momentum From the Baylor Win?


Round two in Oklahoma’s three-game Big 12 playoff that the Sooners have earmarked as their road to a ninth Big 12 football championship will take place on Saturday in Norman in a battle of one-loss teams. OU vs. TCU takes center stage for a second week in a row in ABC’s prime-time Saturday night TV lineup.

For the second week in a row, the Sooners’ once much-maligned but now vastly improved defense will take on an opponent whose offense ranks among the very best in college football. Last week it was Baylor, the nation’s most prolific offense, and this week Oklahoma will line up against the country’s No. 2-ranked offensive unit, which may or may not have the services of its All-America-caliber quarterback Trevone Boykin.

Boykin injured his ankle last weekend in the Horned Frog’s close call against winless Kansas. Head coach Gary Patterson is being somewhat vague about his star player’s status for Saturday against the Sooners, but it appears to this point that Boykin is going to try to give it a go, although not at 100 percent.

The problem for Oklahoma is that the Sooners historically have had problems defending dual-threat quarterbacks like Boykin, and even if he is only at 80- or 90-percent capacity, the four-year TCU starter is the best quarterback the OU defense has faced this season.

Nov 7, 2015; Stillwater, OK, USA; TCU Horned Frogs quarterback Trevone Boykin (2) carries the ball as Oklahoma State Cowboys safety Jordan Sterns (13) defensive end Trace Clark (90) close in during the first half at Boone Pickens Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

The Horned Frogs will, however, be without the services of their best receiving target, senior Josh Doctson, on the team with the fifth best pass offense in the country. Doctson injured his wrist in TCU’s loss to Oklahoma State and reportedly is out for the remainder of the season.

The Sooners have been on an absolute terror in their past five games, including a giant win on the road last weekend over Baylor, which at the time was ranked 6th in the College Football Playoff standings.

Since losing to archrival Texas in a game in which Oklahoma was favored by 17 points, the Sooners have turned it up a notch on both sides of the ball, and the noticeable improvement in the OU defensive play this season has been a major difference-maker and a big reason a number of college football experts believe the Sooners are in the best position to run the table and take home another Big 12 championship.

Over the last five starts, Oklahoma has outscored its Big 12 opponents by an average score of 55-16 and outgained them by over 300 yards a game (618-308). In their seven conference wins, the Sooners have held all seven teams below their season average for total offensive yards, and three of those teams (Kansas State, West Virginia, Texas Tech and Baylor) were 174 or more yards under their season average when they played Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma offense is averaging about 100 more passing yards per game (331) than rushing yards (214), but offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley uses the run game with Samaje Perine, Joe Mixon and even quarterback Baker Mayfield to set up play-action passes and open up the Sooners’ Air Raid attack that has produced 33 of OU’s 58 offensive touchdowns this season and 60 percent of the total offensive yardage.

When you have dangerous running backs like Perine and Mixon, who are also threats catching passes out of the backfield, and talented playmaking receivers such as Sterling Shepard, Durron Neal and Dede Westbrook, it stretches a defense, creates mismatches and makes the Sooner offense very difficult to contain.

Nov 14, 2015; Waco, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) drops back to pass against the Baylor Bears during the first half at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma and TCU have played only 14 times, with the Sooners owning a 9-5 series advantage. Three of the TCU wins, however, have come in Norman. Since joining the Big 12, the Horned Frogs are 1-2 against OU and 0-1 in their only trip to Norman.

Three Keys to the Game

Baker Mayfield vs. the TCU defense: Mayfield ranks second in the nation in passing efficiency, third in completion percentage (70.2) and is tied for fourth in passing touchdowns (31) this season. He will be going up against a TCU pass defense that allows an average of 231 passing yards per game. Against Texas Tech’s version of the Air Raid this season, though, the Horned Frogs gave up almost 400 yards through the air, and in the loss to Oklahoma State it was 375 yards and five passing TDs.

Containing the TCU quarterback: Trevone Boykin is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the country. His passing game, once merely adequate, is among the best in the Big 12, but he is perhaps even more dangerous when he pulls down the ball and takes off on the ground. He averages close to 60 yards rushing a game, and his quickness and elusiveness makes him extremely difficult to corral and bring down. Boykin’s running ability will slow down the OU pass rush. If he plays, the TCU star won’t be operating a full strength due to an ankle injury, but that does not mean he can’t beat you in multiple ways. Boykin, just a couple of weeks ago considered a prime contender for the Heisman Trophy, won’t have his top receiving target, Josh Doctson, which could limit his effectiveness in the pass game and add to his sack vulnerability against the Big 12’s leading sack unit.

Third-down conversions: The Sooners can lessen the stress on their defense against a very good TCU offense if they can stay out of third-and-long downs and convert third-down opportunities when necessary. That not only enables possessions to remain alive, but keeps the TCU offense off the field, which is the best defense under all circumstances. The problem will be that TCU is the best in the Big 12 in stopping opponents on third down (81 percent effectiveness). On the other side of the ball, the TCU offense is second best in the conference in converting third-down opportunities (50.7 percent effectiveness rate).

My pick: Oklahoma 48, TCU 27 – As good as the TCU offense is with Trevone Boykin leading the attack, the Horned Frogs’ defense hasn’t appeared to be able to stop anybody. Texas Tech scored 52 points against them and Kansas State, a team that is offensively challenged, got 45 (the same team that was shut out by Oklahoma just a week earlier). Oklahoma has the offense to match TCU’s ability to move the ball and score plenty of points. But there is no comparison between the defenses. The Sooners’ D will be the big difference in this one as OU comes within one win of stealing the conference’s top prize from the three teams that have ranked above OU virtually all season long.