Oklahoma Football | Four Things To Watch For Against Cincinnati

It’s time to turn the page! With Oklahoma’s 66-17 thrashing of Tulsa on Saturday the non-conference portion of the schedule came to a close. Now it’s time for the somewhat grueling slate through the first wave of the revamped Big 12. The Sooners aren’t just getting one of the conferences newest members right out of the gate, they’re also getting them on the road. As Saturday’s trip to Cincinnati looms large over Sooner Nation this week, here are four things to keep an eye on.

The Health Of Oklahoma’s Secondary

Cincinnati may have fallen to Miami-Ohio over the weekend, but the Bearcats can still move the football. They are averaging 525.3 yards of offense per game in 2023 and 286 of those yards are coming through the air. Receiver Xzavier Henderson is averaging 14.9 yards per reception and has twenty catches on the season. That puts the spotlight on an Oklahoma secondary that is banged up. The Sooners were without Justin Harrington and Dasan McCullough in the Tulsa game last week, and then they saw Gentry Williams victimized by the injury bug in during the first half.

The hope is that they are all back this week for the conference opener, but things could get kind of spicy if any of them are absent.

Is There A Shift In The Running Back Rotation?

I swore on Saturday that I wasn’t going to give this any more thought and consideration and yet here I am. Cincinnati is giving up just over 100 yards per game on the ground. Why is going to be Oklahoma’s banger into the heart of that Bearcat defensive front? Going into the Tulsa game I would have sworn that it was going to be Tawee Walker but he never touched the ball. Instead it was Jovantae Barnes and Gavin Sawchuk going after the Golden Hurricane defense. Is that the same duo that we see again this week or do Jeff Lebby and DeMarco Murray switch it up again?

Can The Sooners Take Away Cincinnati’s Run Game?

The goal is to knock the Bearcats off balance. To do that, you have to take away one aspect of their offensive attack. The thought here is that Oklahoma attacks the Cincinnati offense in the same way as they did Tulsa’s. Take away the run game. The Golden Hurricane only managed to muster 75 rushing yards against the Sooner defense. They did so on 46 attempts and at a pace of 1.6 yards per carry. That’ll be the goal for Cincinnati’s offense as well.

The Sooners have the 15th-ranked run defense in the nation, allowing just 78.7 yards per game. They’re going against a Cincinnati offense that is pounding opponents for an average of 239.3 yards per game, and ranks #8 nationally. Is this where the rubber meets the road right here. This matchup is likely going to decide who wins the football game.

Can Oklahoma Clean Up The Penalties?

Over the last two weeks the Sooners have been flagged 16 times for 153 yards. Obviously that’s a trend that can’t continue…especially on the road. If not corrected, these are the types of things that can kill drives, give opponents new life, and swing momentum. It’s been mostly all good things for OU during the non-conference games, but this is one aspect that we need to see go away, and go away quickly.

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