Protect the Ball

The most basic concept in all of football should be at the forefront of the conversation for the Oklahoma Sooners following the loss to the Iowa State Cyclones. A critical turnover in the red zone provided a spark for ISU in Norman that never died out. Now heading to the Cotton Bowl for the Red River Rivalry against the Texas Longhorns, this key factor becomes of utmost importance once again.

There’s no denying the prowess of the Longhorn defense. Continuously showing improvement, this group has produced six turnovers over the past three games. DeShon Elliot would like to extend his streak of games with an interception to four this weekend. However, the struggle for the Sooners has been after the catch as well as during the handoff.

Knowing a turnover can ultimately change the course of the game, OU must hang on to the ball against a Texas program growing with confidence.

Convert On Third Down

Traditionally, a program that struggles to convert on third down struggles to win games. This season the Oklahoma Sooners have faced a mere 45 third down situations — the number ranks last in the nation. Giving the impression of big play ability, OU has converted 22 of those attempts for a 48.89% conversion rate. The percentage ranks 13th in the country.

On Saturday in the Texas State Fair, the Texas Longhorns will bring a defense that has forced opponents into 64 third down situations. Refusing to allow opposing offenses to convert, UT has surrendered just 16 conversions all season long. Allowing a 25% conversion rate, the Longhorns rank 9th in the country on third down.

Run the Ball Effectively

Last week, Iowa State dropped eight into coverage and dared the Sooners to win on the back of Abdul Adams and Trey Sermon. Unfortunately, Adams went down with an injury and never returned to action. Not willing to give up any information, fans still await the status of the explosive running back. Regardless, the UT secondary has been playing at a high level as of late. If the Longhorns drop eight into coverage, the pressure falls to the young running backs.

Behind a nasty offensive line, running the ball should not be an issue. Yet, Sermon doesn’t hit the hole with the burst that Adams has shown over the course of five games. Possessing NFL talent, Sermon has proven his worth later in games. Who will be the second option for the Sooners during the annual Red River Rivalry? I can’t answer that but I can tell you, the team that runs the ball effeciently has typically won this game. Lincoln Riley must have the solution to winning the battle on the ground up his sleeve.