The Oklahoma Sooners bring a high flying offense to the Big Easy hoping to secure yet another win over an SEC program. Squaring off against the Auburn Tigers in the 2017 Sugar Bowl, here are the keys to the game.
Control The Line Of Scrimmage Defensively
Over the course of the year, the Tigers proved to be a more than capable offensive unit. Racking up 449.2 total yards of offense per game, Auburn ranks 38th nationally. However, a majority of the yardage came on the ground. Leaning on Kamyrn Pettway, the rushing attack tallied up an average of 278.5 yards each outing to rank sixth in the country. Simply put, the numbers tell no lies. Auburn brings a physical front to the field on each and every down. There’s no denying the strength of this offense and it’s why the Sooners must find a way to control the line of scrimmage on the defensive side of the ball.
Convert On Third Down & Protect The Ball
Oklahoma remains one of the best at converting third down attempts. Connecting on 51.6% of the attempts (4th in the nation) led to an undefeated conference slate. However, this was not the case during the non-conference portion of the schedule. Against Ohio State, the Sooners kept the drive alive on 5-of-13 third down attempts while also losing the turnover battle. It proved to be a losing combination as Oklahoma fell for the second time in three games. Looking ahead to the Sugar Bowl, the Tigers may very well bring the best defense OU has faced since hosting the Buckeyes. Baker Mayfield and the offense must convert on third down while protecting the ball if they hope to pull out a victory.
Get Joe Mixon Involved Early & Often
While some may argue that Auburn needs to stop Dede Westbrook, let’s take a different approach for a second. Heading into a game against two Heisman Finalists, it’s clear that the Tigers can simply bracket Westbrook while letting the front seven handle business in the trenches. Playing quite a bit of man-to-man, the truth is no defensive player on the Auburn roster has seen a player quite like Joe Mixon. Possessing the ability to carry the ball or rattle of large chunks of yardage in the passing game, Mixon provides a unique challenge for any defense. If Oklahoma decides to get the runningback involved early and often, they’ll force a safety down towards the line of scrimmage. The move should leave Westbrook in one-on-one coverage, something the wideout has the ability to beat on every single play. The weapons are in place and we must trust that an offensive mind like that of Lincoln Riley will use them appropriately…but what do I know about football?