Oklahoma football: Six storylines on Sooners’ road challenge at TCU

Oklahoma's Perrion Winfrey (8) hits TCU's Max Duggan (15) after a pass during a college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the TCU Horned Frogs at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. Oklahoma won 52-31.Ou Vs Tcu
Oklahoma's Perrion Winfrey (8) hits TCU's Max Duggan (15) after a pass during a college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the TCU Horned Frogs at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. Oklahoma won 52-31.Ou Vs Tcu /

The road doesn’t get any easier for Brent Venables and the Oklahoma football team.

The 2022 schedule calls for a road trip to Fort Worth, Texas, this weekend to take on TCU, one of three Big 12 teams that remains undefeated and with a high-precision offense.

This will be an interesting week for the Sooners. Not only are they coming off a loss in their Big 12 opener and hungry and eager to get that bad taste out of their mouth with a solid win, but it is also a week before the annual Red River Showdown with their biggest rival, the Texas Longhorns. The OU coaches and players will say that the two situations are unrelated, but the one thing we can all agree on is that Oklahoma does not want to go to Dallas to face a fired-up Texas team having suffered two straight losses.

The Longhorns, interestingly, face a similar circumstance, having lost a week ago at Texas Tech, but UT is at home this weekend taking on West Virginia.

Back to the task at hand, however, Oklahoma has a good recent history against TCU. Since the Horned Frogs joined the Big 12 to start the 2012 season, the Sooners have won 10 of the 11 games between the two teams. That one loss, though, did come at TCU, 37-33. in 2014.

The Horned Frogs went on to finish 8-1 in the Big 12 that season and shared the conference title with Baylor. Because the Big 12 recognized dual champions that season, TCU and Baylor, both ranked in the top 10 at season’s end, cancelled each other out and subsequently missed the final cut for the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Something else curious about the 2014 season and that road loss by OU at TCU, the Sooners lost three other conference games that year, all at home, to Kanas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State. Let’s hope history doesn’t repeat itself in 2022.

Here are six storylines to follow this week as the Sooners prepare for the road test at TCU:

Will the OU defense be able to stop TCU quarterback Max Duggan?

The Sooner defense struggled against K-State quarterback Adrian Martinez, TCU’s Max Duggan may present an even bigger threat. Duggan leads the country through three games in passing efficiency and completion percentage (77 percent). He can also run, and his size (6-foot, 2 inches, 220 pounds) makes him hard to bring down when he does. Aiding Duggan’s cause, he has a stable of very good receivers who are big and can run. Five different receivers have at least seven catches this season.

The Sooners have lost back-to-back Big 12 games just once since 1999.

Can the Oklahoma defense find a way to stop TCU QB Max Duggan?

The TCU senior quarterback Max Duggan will be appearing in his fourth game against Oklahoma. This season, he is off to a terrific start. He leads the country in both passing efficiency and completion percentage (77 percent). He is also mobile and able to make plays with his feet and his size, making him tough to bring down when he takes off out of the pocket. Aiding his cause is a very good stable of receivers who possess size and speed. The Sooners struggled last week against K-State QB Adrian Martinez. Duggan may present an even bigger challenge.

Will the Sooners defense be able to fix its issues in time to rebound against TCU?

The Oklahoma defensive performance in the loss to Kansas State was highly disappointing. According to head coach Brent Venables in his postgame comments after the loss, they were atrocious on third downs, tackled very poorly, weren’t physical enough and experienced positioning misfits from the very start of the game. It was a very different Sooner defense from what we saw the week before against Nebraska. But then, Kansas State is not Nebraska this season. The concern is that TCU’s offense is much better than K-States. Will OU be able to make the adjustments, technically, physically and mentally to better complement the offense and return to the win column on Saturday?

Will Dillon Gabriel return to his natural rhythm and passing accuracy?

Dillon Gabriel’s strength is his calmness in the pocket and his typical accuracy throwing both short and long passes. He has also shown his ability to pick up big yards on the ground. He is one of just three Big 12 starting QBs yet to throw an interception this season (TCU’s Max Duggan and K-State’s Adrian Martinez are the others). In the Kansas State game, for whatever reason, Gabriel threw wide and high of the mark to several open Sooner receivers. On at least three of those occasions, the misfire occurred at critical points in the game that would have extended potential OU scoring drives. That is highly uncharacteristic of Gabriel in his career, and Sooner fans are hopeful to see the quarterback return true to form on Saturday against TCU.

Which offense will win the day?

The Oklahoma offense ranks seventh among FBS teams, averaging 513.0 yards per game. TCU ranks ninth nationally in offensive performance with an average of 510.0 yards of total offense per game. In addition, the Horned Frogs are averaging 8.1 yards per play, second best in the country. The Sooners rank 12th nationally in that category, averaging 7.3 yards per play.

Losing the Big 12 opener has had a positive impact on Oklahoma in the past

Oklahoma has lost five Big 12 openers since the 2000 season. On the other four occasions, the Sooners went on to win the Big 12 Championship (2006, 2007,

Since losing at TCU in 2014, the Sooners have won eight straight in the series

Since the 2014 loss at TCU, Oklahoma has won eight straight games in the series. Over those eight games, the Sooners have outgained TCU 4,134 yards to 3,004 and has gained over 500 yards of offense in six of the eight. What will Saturday bring in a battle of Top-10 offenses nationally?