Oklahoma football: Who will be at QB when Sooners host TCU?

Oct 24, 2020; Fort Worth, Texas, USA; Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Marvin Mims (17) scores a touchdown as TCU Horned Frogs cornerback Tre'Vius Hodges-Tomlinson (1) defends during the first half at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 24, 2020; Fort Worth, Texas, USA; Oklahoma Sooners wide receiver Marvin Mims (17) scores a touchdown as TCU Horned Frogs cornerback Tre'Vius Hodges-Tomlinson (1) defends during the first half at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

Lincoln Riley addressed the obvious right upfront during his weekly Oklahoma football press conference on Tuesday.

The Sooner head coach let everyone know he will not be naming a starting quarterback for the Oklahoma football game Saturday night with TCU until later in the week.

“We’ll see how the week plays out,” he told reporters. “(We’ll) see where we’re at on Saturday. See you at 6:30 Saturday.”

Will it be the incumbent, Spencer Rattler, or the new kid on the block, true freshman Caleb Williams?

872. Saturday, Oct. 16. 6-0. 815. Sooners -11. 3-2. ABC. 6:30 PM CT

Riley said Rattler is handling things well under the circumstances after he was benched in the second quarter last Saturday against Texas. The Preseason All-Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year would return only for a two-point conversion try in the fourth quarter. He said both quarterbacks were practicing well, but John Hoover of Sports Illustrated reported earlier in the week that Rattler was taking snaps with the second-team offensive unit.

I’m not sure what that means for Saturday, when the Sooners are at home against TCU. At the very least it will mean TCU head coach Gary Patterson will need to prepare for both Sooner quarterbacks.

The No. 4-ranked Sooners (6-0, 3-0) are seeking their eighth consecutive win over TCU on Saturday. Oklahoma has won 14 consecutive games dating back to last season, the longest active streak in the country. The 14 straight wins are the seventh longest in the Sooners’ storied football history.

TCU (3-2, 1-1) comes to Norman fresh off a resounding 52-31 win at Texas Tech last Saturday. Oklahoma remained undefeated with its 55-48 come-from-behind win over Texas last weekend, the Sooners’ fourth straight Red River rivalry win over the Longhorns.

Saturday’s game will be nationally televised in primetime by ABC.  The No. 1 ESPN college football announce team of Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit will be on the call. Fowler will do the play-by-play with Herbstreit providing analysis, and Holly Rowe will be reporting from the sidelines. The same crew broadcast the OU-Texas game last weekend.

What to watch for from TCU

Like Oklahoma, TCU started the season with four straight home games. This will be the Horned Frogs second straight weekend, however, away from home. Historically, TCU has been a very good road team. Since 2009, the Frogs are tied for third nationally with 45 road wins. They are 45-20 during that span.

The TCU offense averaged 38.4 points and 446.2 yards of offense this season features junior Max Duggan at quarterback and the Big 12’s second-leading rusher in freshman Zach Evans. Duggan is a threat both to run the ball and throw, a combination that has given Oklahoma trouble in the past. Duggan is completing 65 percent of his pas attempts this season and has thrown nine touchdown passes.

Evans is one of the more exciting running backs in the country this season. He is averaging 117 rushing yards per game and his 7.9 yards per carry ranks third best in the country.

Derius Davis, Taye Barber and Quentin Johnston are Duggan’s three primary targets when he goes to the air, but Evans is also utilized in the passing game.

TCU ranks third nationally in third-down conversions, successfully completing 56 percent of their third-down tries, and the Frogs are tied for first among NCAA FBS teams in red-zone offense.

As long as head coach Gary Patterson is around, you can count on TCU always having a good defense. The Horned Frogs may not be as solid defensively this season as in past years, but they are fully capable of getting stops and making big plays. TCU greatest vulnerability defensively appears to be stopping the run, which could be a problem against the Sooners.

The Horned Frogs do the most damage in the first two quarters of games, outscoring their opponents 122-73 in the first half.

What to watch for from Oklahoma

The big question this week is who will be starting at quarterback for the Sooners. Who would have thought we would be pondering that question six games into a 6-0 season?

Although Riley isn’t revealing who it will be until game time on Saturday, there is a strong sense it it will be Williams.

The OU offense, which has had flashes of brilliance but has been sputtering most of the season under Spencer Rattler, appeared to have more rhythm and offensive spark last Saturday behind true freshman backup Caleb Williams, who brings a running dimension as well as a strong throwing arm to the attack. In a little over two quarters of action in place of Rattler in the Red River game with Texas, Williams completed 16 of 25 passes for 212 yards and two touchdown and ran for 88 more yards, including a 66-yard touchdown.

Williams completed three of five passes longer than 20 yards on Saturday, including a 52-yard TD bomb to Marvin Mims. Rattler has thrown just 15 such passes all season and completed only five.

Kennedy Brooks had a breakout game last week running the ball, rushing for a career-high 217 yards and two touchdowns. Look for more of Brooks against a suspect TCU run defense. Eric Gray will also see playing time. The Sooners are starting to use the Tennessee transfer more on end-around runs and pass plays out of the backfield.

Williams appears to have found a receiving connection with sophomore Marvin Mims. Mims caught both of Williams touchdown passes against Texas. The good news is, whoever starts at QB for the Sooners this weekend will have plenty of receiving weapons.

TCU has some excellent receivers, and they have plenty of speed, which will once again put pressure on the OU defensive secondary. The Sooners will need to do a good job pressuring and disrupting the rhythm of the TCU quarterback. OU is 14th nationally with 3.2 sacks per game so far in 2021, and they rank 10th in the country in tackles for loss (7.7 per game).

The prime defensive matchup will be Oklahoma’s front seven against TCU RB Zach Evans. The Sooners have held five of six opponents this season to 100 or fewer rushing yards.

Savvy Sooner stat(s)

Oklahoma is tied for third nationally this season with 10 forced fumbles and rank No. 6 in the country with seven fumble recoveries. A year ago, by comparison, the Sooners had just three forced fumbles in 11 games and ranked 108th nationally in that category.

The Sooners have win 21 of their last 22 games immediately following the annual rivalry game with Texas.

Bottom line

Oklahoma is an 11-point favorite, according to WynnBET Sportsbook. The OU offense, which has been lethargic most of the season, may have found something last weekend against Texas. The Sooners need to do a better job of getting off the field on defense and not allowing long, time-consuming drives. I’m betting that this will be the game that Oklahoma finally wins by double digits (not counting the Western Carolina blowout, of course). Oklahoma 41, TCU 20