As Oklahoma and LSU prepare to face each other in the Peach Bowl, it seems to be a forgone conclusion, by the national media, that the Tigers are moving on to the College Football Playoff championship game. LSU is a 13-point favorite over the Sooners but that doesn’t mean Oklahoma doesn’t have reasons to be confident.
The Running Game
Oklahoma running back Kennedy Brooks is averaging 6.7 yards per carry this season and Jalen Hurts is running at a clip of 5.7 yards per carry. Rhamondre Stevenson is running at a pacer of 8.0 yards per carry.
In contrast, LSU is giving up an average of 3.61 yards per carry to its opponents but here’s what really works in OU’s favor. It is extremely difficult to stop both Jalen Hurts and Oklahoma’s running backs.
Take the Big 12 championship as a good example of this. Baylor chose to focus on Jalen Hurts, ultimately holding him to 1.7 yards per carry (aided by three sacks). In response, Brooks averaged 3.5 yards per carry and Stevenson was at 6.0 yards per rush.
Oklahoma should be able to move the ball on the ground against the Tigers, which should allow them to be able to control the clock and limit opportunities for Joe Burrow and company.
In leading a revival of Oklahoma’s defense, Alex Grinch has turned up the heat on opposing quarterbacks. By applying tighter coverage and bringing pressure into the backfield, Grinch’s defense has recorded a total of 35 quarterback sacks this season for a total of 248 yards of loss. That’s an average of 2.69 sacks per game for 19.07 yards of loss.
LSU ranks 77th nationally in quarterback protection, allowing an average of 2.23 sacks per game.
Jalen Hurts has faced LSU’s defense, under the coordination of Dave Aranda, twice as a starting quarterback and has a 2-0 record in those games. Aranda certainly has familiarity with Hurts but he’s never seen Lincoln Riley’s version of the former Alabama quarterback.
Meanwhile, you can bank on Hurts being instrumental in helping Riley game plan to attack Aranda’s defense by noting formations, schemes, and tendencies.
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