Texas (3-2, 2-0) will travel to Dallas on Saturday for their annual showdown against Oklahoma (4-1, 1-1). Oklahoma is coming off a shocking loss at home to Iowa State, but still has what many consider to be the top offense in the country. Let’s take a look at what the Sooners will showcase on the offensive side of the ball.
Baker Mayfield is no stranger to Texas fans. The senior will be starting his 3rd consecutive Texas-OU game and will face Texas for the 4th time in his collegiate career. Mayfield entered 2017 as one of the early front-runners for the Heisman trophy and has lived up to expectations through the first 5 games. Mayfield has thrown for 1635 yards, 15 touchdowns and 0 interceptions, while adding 74 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground. He is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the country and has a knack for being able to use his legs to extend plays.
Texas shut down Mayfield in 2015, but let him throw for 390 yards and 3 touchdowns in last year’s matchup. The defensive backs for the Longhorns will have to clean up some of the coverage busts that showed against Kansas State. It is no secret that Texas has defensive backs that bite on the double move often, and Oklahoma exploited it last year. Lincoln Riley still serves as the play-caller for the Sooners and has the offense firing on all cylinders, aside from a 7 point second half performance last week against Iowa State.
The Sooners have opted to go with a committee approach to help replace the production left behind from the early departures of Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon to the NFL. Freshman Trey Sermon leads the team in carries with 61 for 373 yards and 3 touchdowns, but sophomore Abdul Adams has turned his 35 carries into 372 yards (10.6 YPC) and a touchdown. Adams is questionable for Saturday’s game with a left foot injury. If Adams is forced to miss time, it would open the door for additional carries by backups Rodney Anderson and Marcelias Sutton. Baker Mayfield has taken a lot of pressure off of the running game, but Oklahoma still likes to run the ball, especially out of 2 back sets.
Trey Sermon and Abdul Adams have both also played key roles as receivers out of the backfield, which is a staple of the Air Raid offense. Sermon has 8 receptions for 77 yards and 2 touchdowns, while Adams has 5 receptions for 80 yards and a touchdown.
Lincoln Riley also loves to utilize fullback Dimitri Flowers. The senior is the short yardage back, rushing 4 times for 9 yards and 3 touchdowns. He is also used a receiver out of the backfield, with 15 catches for 263 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
The wide receiver situation for Oklahoma is an interesting one. Freshman CeeDee Lamb has quickly become a favorite target of Mayfield. Through 5 games, Lamb has 17 catches for 307 yards and 4 touchdowns, but suffered an injury against Iowa State and is considered questionable for Saturday. If Lamb is unable to go, sophomore Marquise Brown and graduate transfer Jeff Badet will be forced to step up. Brown has 14 receptions for 230 yards and a touchdown, and Badet has hauled in 13 passes for 262 yards and a touchdown. Senior Jordan Smallwood has also seen success this year in limited playing time, turning 6 catches into 77 yards and a touchdown.
Despite the loss of All-American Dede Westbrook from a season ago, Baker Mayfield has been able to have continued success because of his abilities to spread the ball around. There is not one receiver that really scares opposing teams, but Oklahoma has 3 or 4 receivers that are capable of making plays.
Tight End Mark Andrews is the team leader in receptions (19) and yards (355) to go along with 2 touchdowns. Andrews earned First Team All-Big 12 honors in 2015 and 2016, and will be a huge matchup problem for Texas. The 6’5 Andrews is utilized in a variety of roles and will line up all over the field. Andrews is a very solid blocker, but his real threat is as a receiver. Texas had a lot of problems defending seam routes against Kansas State, and I fully expect Oklahoma to try to get Andrews in 1 v 1 matchups against Texas linebackers.
Part of Mayfield’s success can be attributed to a talented offensive line. Junior left tackle Orlando Brown is a future 1st round NFL draft pick and was named a second team All-American by the Associated Press in 2016 after only allowing 1 sack all season. Right tackle Bobby Evans is a native Texan who started 12 games last season as a redshirt freshman and was named All-Big 12 Honorable Mention. The Sooners start a pair of juniors at the guard positions, Ben Powers and Dru Samia. Powers was named Second Team All-Big 12 in 2016 and is a junior college transfer who is in his second year as a starter. Samia was named to the Honorable Mention All-Big 12 team last season and is expected to return to the starting lineup after missing the Iowa State injury due to injury. Senior center Erick Wren is a former walk-on who has now started 15 career games transferred to Oklahoma from Arizona Western Community College.
Oklahoma boasts one of the most experienced offensive lines in the Big 12. The Sooners have only allowed 8 sacks through 5 games and the offensive line has helped pave the way for an offense averaging over 200 yards rushing per game. The Texas defensive line will have its hands full, particularly against Brown and Evans. Charles Omenihu, Malcolm Roach and Chris Nelson will have to do an excellent job of making sure Mayfield is unable to get outside the pocket and make throws, because that is where he is most dangerous.