Oklahoma football: Can Sooners fix all that ails them in next two weeks?

Nov 13, 2021; Waco, Texas, USA; Baylor Bears running back Trestan Ebner (1) is tackled by Oklahoma Sooners defensive lineman Jalen Redmond (31) during the first half at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 13, 2021; Waco, Texas, USA; Baylor Bears running back Trestan Ebner (1) is tackled by Oklahoma Sooners defensive lineman Jalen Redmond (31) during the first half at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

All season long, the dike holding back the watershed that threatened to destroy the Oklahoma football season has been getting weaker and less resistant to a full-scale flood.

To use the analogy of the little Dutch boy who legend has it saved his country by putting his finger in a hole in the dike, the troubles facing the Sooners this football season may have become too much to fix or too deep-seated to get them sufficiently resolved in the short time that is left.

After nine wins in nine consecutive weeks, Oklahoma received a well-earned bye week, which. although a little later in the season than what the Sooners would ordinarily prefer, was fortuitous in that it preceded a three-week run of the most difficult games on the OU schedule.

So the Sooners were blessed with an extra week to prepare and get healthier for the first of that challenging three-game gauntlet, a road trip to play a ranked Baylor team that was undefeated at home this season.

Everyone expected Oklahoma to come off of its bye week all fired up and ready to go and with something to prove after being ranked No. 8 in the College Football Playoff rankings despite a 9-0 record and being just one of four FBS teams to remain unbeaten this deep in the season.

So the stage was set: No 8 Oklahoma against No. 18 Baylor and the opportunity for the Sooners to pick up their first true quality win of the 2021 season. The scene was set, but the Sooners obviously were not. Instead of earning a big win, Oklahoma sustained a highly disappointing if not potentially devastating defeat.

What we witnessed on Saturday in the loss to Baylor was a collective play out of most every troublesome issue that has plagued Oklahoma all season. Everything from poor quarterback decision making to over- and underthrown passes to inability to run the ball to inconsistent offensive and defensive line play to poor tackling to failure to stop and failure to convert third downs.

It’s one thing to be able to fix one or two things that aren’t working, but when you have as many leaks in the dike as the Sooners have had to overcome this season — the biggest issue being inconsistency on both sides of the ball and difficulty in putting together a complete game — and a number of those same deficiencies exist this late in the season. a ready fix probably isn’t realistic.

Probably the best that can be expected is to continue to address those areas that have the greatest impact on winning and losing. In simple terms that boils down to being able to sustain and finish off scoring drives and preventing the opponent from scoring more points than you do.

For years, Oklahoma has been able to live off of its offensive firepower, but this season the Sooner offense hasn’t been as productive, which puts even more pressure on a defense that has gotten better but not to the extent that it can carry a sputtering, hit-and-miss offense.

Lincoln Riley called the OU offense “stale” after the Baylor loss. Yes, the execution was poor on a number of plays, and I would argue that some of the play calls coming from the sidelines were doomed for failure before they were run. From the beginning of the game, it was apparent that Baylor was better prepared, both on defense and on offense, and that they wanted this game more than Oklahoma did.

OU’s next two games are against teams that are better on offense and defense than Baylor is, which is a frightening proposition after what we saw last Saturday. The Sooners are still very much in the Big 12 race, but if they are going to make it to a fifth consecutive Big 12 Championship game and be able to defend their league crown, they are going to have to play considerably better than they did at Baylor.

Here is the challenge Oklahoma faces the next two weekends: Iowa State ranks 10th in the country in total defense, and Oklahoma State is even stingier on defense, ranked No. 3 among all FBS teams. Additionally, the Cowboys rank in the top 10 in most every major defensive category. By comparison, Baylor, which gave the Sooner offense fits all afternoon on Saturday, ranks 43rd in total defense.

It’s going to be an extremely steep hill to climb, but first the Sooners have to get by Iowa State. After that, they can worry about their in-state rivals in Stillwater.