The Oklahoma Sooners are in the College Football Playoff for the third time in four years but they may face their most daunting task yet in the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide. An early 14-point underdog is no doubt a motivating factor but how that will ultimately affect the X’s and O’s of the game has yet to be discussed.
Before we jump into game planning and strategy there are four pressing questions regarding this specific matchup that should be discussed.
How Good Is Kyler Murray?
Kyler Murray had one shot at playing quarterback for the University of Oklahoma and he absolutely made the most of it. The 2018 Heisman Trophy winner took college football by storm and shattered the record books along the way. The Sooners are going to need a little more from him though.
Through the 2018 campaign Murray torched opposing defenses to the tune of 311.7 passing and 68.6 rushing yards per game. He was a one-man wrecking crew who accounted for 51 total touchdowns but Oklahoma is going to need him to be better.
Alabama is traveling to Miami with the nation’s fourth-ranked scoring defense (14.8 PPG) and tenth-ranked overall defense (295.4 PPG). That’s a far cry from TCU who led the Big 12 in overall defense (344 YPG) with a national ranking of #26.
Kyler Murray and company put up 536 total yards of offense on the Frogs and posted 52 points against a Gary Patterson team that allowed only an average 24.4 points per contest.
Iowa State was the Big 12’s top scoring defense, allowing just 22.5 points per game to rank 35th nationally. Murray led the Sooners to 37 points against the Cyclones during Oklahoma’s visit to Ames.
Neither one of those defenses is Alabama though. While I’m extremely skeptical of offenses in the S.E.C., I do think that Bama’s defense is going to be the best Oklahoma has faced. That means Murray is going to have to be the best the Sooners have ever seen from him when he plays in the Orange Bowl.
The list of quarterbacks to give Nick Saban fits is pretty short but what they have in common is mobility. Murray isn’t just able to run and pass, he’s able to do so with prolific results. That makes him Oklahoma’s greatest hope.
There isn’t a more difficult player in America to try and scheme against than Kyler Murray. He’s always going to be the guy you can’t account for and if you blitz him then you’d better do so with pinpoint accuracy.
Still though, Saban is going to have some tricks up his sleeve as he prepares for Murray but there’s no doubt Lincoln Riley and his favorite MLB draft pick are going to do the same. That’s where the big question mark comes here.
Through thirteen games this season Oklahoma fans have been treated to seeing performances from the best player in the nation. How good is Kyler Murray? We’re about to find out.