Tag Archives: Samaje Perine

Allstate Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma’s Offense vs. Auburn’s Defense

The Auburn Tigers and Oklahoma Sooners will do battle in the 83rd annual Allstate Sugar Bowl on Monday, January 2nd, 2017, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA. Kickoff is set for 7:30 local time (CT).

The seventh ranked Sooners (10-2, 9-0 Big 12) are Big 12 Champions and winners of nine games in-a-row.

The Tigers (8-4, 5-3 SEC) finished the 2016 campaign ranked 17th in the College Football Playoff Poll. That was good enough for second place in the SEC and a spot in a New Year’s Six  bowl game.

This will be only the second time these two college football powers have met on the gridiron. The first encounter came in the Sugar Bowl, oddly enough, following the 1971 season. In that game, Oklahoma jumped out to a 34-0 lead and never looked back, winning 40-22.

Auburn will be making its sixth (2-2-1) appearance in the Sugar Bowl while the Sooners have played in seven (5-2) of these events.

Oklahoma has a high octane offense which scores at a 44.7 (third in the nation) points per game clip. Its total yardage is 557 yards per game (third in the nation), with 319.8 (12th in the nation) of that coming through the air and 237.5 (21st in the nation) on the ground.

Auburn’s strength is its rushing attack, averaging 278.5 yards per game (sixth in the nation and first in the SEC). The Tigers pass for 170.8 yards per game (112th in the nation) and score an average of 32.3 points per game (47th in the nation).

From these statistics, it is clear that Oklahoma is capable of scoring a lot of points and piling up a great deal of yardage. Auburn has a good offense and can run the ball extremely well.

This is where it gets interesting. Auburn is very stingy in points allowed. It only gives up an average of 15.6 points per game. That is fifth in the nation. And total yardage? The Tigers allow 348 yards per game and that is 20th in the nation.

Oklahoma? It gives up 29.7 points per game and allows 440 yards per game.

Auburn gave up as much as 30 points in only one game this season. That came in a 30-12 loss to SEC Champion and College Football Playoff bound Alabama.

Oklahoma, on the other hand, allowed 59 points to Texas Tech, 46 to TCU, 45 to Ohio State, and 40 to Texas.

It all boils down to Oklahoma’s superb offense vs. Auburn’s stellar defense. And I think the game’s key matchup, within this context, is the Tigers’ defensive line versus the Sooners’ offensive line.

Baker Mayfield is an excellent quarterback and Dede Westbrook is as good as it gets at wide receiver. When you combine those two with the running back tandem of Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine you begin to get an idea of just why the Sooners vaunted offense is, indeed, so lethal.

Mayfield completed 235 out of 330 pass attempts for 3,669 yards (71.2%) and 38 touchdowns with only eight interceptions.

Westbrook caught 74 passes for 1,465 yards. 16 of those receptions went for touchdowns. He averaged 19.8 yards per catch.

Mixon ran for 1,183 yards on 168 tries for 7.0 yards per carry. Perine ran the ball 179 times for 974 yards and 5.4 yards per carry.

But back to the battle of the trenches. I like Auburn’s d-line to handle Oklahoma’s o-line. And I like Auburn’s o-line to fare well against Oklahoma’s d-line.

Auburn should be able to establish the run with Kamryn Pettway and Kerryon Johnson each at full speed. Stanton Truitt and Kam Martin should contribute, as well.

Also, Gus Malzahn says Sean White is well and will not be limited in anyway. That is big news for the Tiger faithful.

One more key is motivation. The news from the Plains is that Auburn is fresh, explosive, highly motivated, and are chomping at the bit to pick up a big win versus a high profile opponent, The Big 12 Champion.

I certainly don’t think Oklahoma will come out flat or listless, but I do think it is disappointed in not making the playoff, and I believe that Auburn wants this one more.

The Sooners are a three-point favorite.

I can see a three-point win, but with the victory going to the Tigers of the SEC.

Auburn 31, Oklahoma 28

Here is some more excellent info, with predictions, on this big game:

http://www.espn.com/blog/ncfnation/post/_/id/134103/sugar-bowl-auburn-tigers-vs-oklahoma-sooners

http://collegefootballnews.com/2016/allstate-sugar-bowl-prediction-game-preview-history-scores

 

E-mail Bird at bird [dot] lecroy [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @Autull.

Can the Oklahoma Sooners Crash the College Football Playoff Party?

Once the first 2016 college football playoff ranking was unveiled with all of the pageantry that ESPN could muster, college football fans had one more topic to argue about. Was Texas A&M deserving of its top four ranking or was Washington the more deserving team? It didn’t matter then and it doesn’t matter now. That fanatical argument doesn’t matter because there is still a lot of football left to be played this season and chances are good that one of the teams currently on the outside looking in will sneak into one of the playoff spots.

Oklahoma could be that sneaky team.

With two losses on its resume, Oklahoma may seem like a long shot that only a Big 12 homer such as myself (no, not really) could hold out hope for. But there are a few two-loss teams that are ranked ahead of the Sooners and some of those teams could realistically expect to lose another game or two. So please, hear me out on this.

Oklahoma’s loss to Houston no longer looks like the quality loss that it once did. Losing to Tom Herman is no longer the badge of honor that it once was considered. But how about that loss to Ohio State? I’ll tell you how that loss to Ohio State looks. It looks like a proverbial quality loss. That loss continues to look better and better if Ohio State continues to play like it did against Nebraska.

As for what Oklahoma can control? The Sooners control their own destiny to a large extent and it all starts this Saturday as Stoops and his Sooners end the season against Baylor, West Virginia and Oklahoma State. All of those teams are ranked so all of those wins would strengthen the resume of the Sooners.

The Big 12 and Oklahoma aren’t known for suffocating defenses, but that’s just fine. The Sooners have the offensive fire power to rip through the remainder of the schedule. Baker Mayfield is torching opposing defenses with the help of Dede Westbrook. If the Sooners hadn’t lost to Ohio State, both of those players would be in the Heisman conversation based on the statistics that each are producing.

If having players the caliber of Mayfield and Westbrook weren’t enough for opposing defenses to deal with, the Sooners will have both Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine available against Baylor. If Perine stays healthy and Mixon stops throwing temper tantrums at campus parking lot attendants, the Sooners should have all of the pieces in place to scare the rest of the conference.

The Big 12 has a bad reputation when it comes to comparing its teams to the upper echelon of teams from other conferences. I’m as guilty of that as everyone else. But if you’re a Big 12 fan and specifically a fan of Oklahoma, none of that should matter. What should matter to you is that the Sooners do have a puncher’s chance to slide into the playoff. Could the team win the championship? Get into the playoff first and then we’ll talk about that.

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Wikimedia

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Does Ohio State Have Enough to Take Down Oklahoma?

Following blowout victories over Bowling Green and Tulsa, it’s no shock that the Ohio State football team is 2-0 heading into a pivotal showdown with one-loss Oklahoma on Saturday. Are the first two performances enough to go on the road and take down a Sooners team seeking redemption for a season-opening loss to Houston? A loss to the Buckeyes would certainly remove Oklahoma from the playoff conversation.

Offensively, the first half performance against Tulsa is not going to be the recipe for success in Norman. In fact, it won’t be anywhere close. Thanks to a couple of interceptions returned for touchdowns by Malik Hooker and Marshon Lattimore, the Buckeyes looked impressive on the scoreboard, but it was the offense that was limited to six points prior to halftime.

However, the lackluster performance in the first half doesn’t concern me one bit. Not that Ohio State was looking ahead, but it’s fairly common to play flat against an inferior opponent with such a significant game upcoming, especially for a young team. Although the two teams reside in the same state, the focus for a team like Tulsa was not be anywhere near the level it will be for Oklahoma. The majority of these new-look Buckeyes will receive their first taste of big-game experience, so don’t think Ohio State won’t be amped and ready to make a statement right out of the tunnel.

When I made my game-by-game predictions for Ohio State back in the spring, I didn’t see Oklahoma as a team the Buckeyes were capable of defeating this early in the season, especially on the road with a lack of experience in a setting like Norman. Unsurprisingly, I think I was wrong. The home field and “backs against the wall” mentality will certainly represent a huge advantage for Oklahoma, but the Buckeyes simply have more talent, particularly on defense.

That’s not a knock on Oklahoma as it is still one of the top teams in the nation despite the loss to Houston. There isn’t a team on Houston’s schedule that is going to knock them off. And who knows, maybe Oklahoma comes out of the gate and lays an old-fashioned whooping on Ohio State en route to a 52-10 pummeling of the Buckeyes. However, the defensive side of the ball is what separates Ohio State from Oklahoma.

Even against lesser competition, I don’t think many expected the Buckeye defense to yield zero touchdowns through the first two games of the season. Granted it was in mop-up time with the game already out of hand and mainly reserves on the field, but the Oklahoma defense allowed multiple touchdowns to the University of Louisiana-Monroe. I realize that has no meaning concerning this matchup, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that Oklahoma’s defense is anything but shutdown.

The Sooners possess plenty of playmakers on offense that will put points on the board against any defense, including quarterback Baker Mayfield and running back Samaje Perine, but defense wins championships right? Well, it also wins big games on the road, under the lights.

Oklahoma has more than a fair chance to squeak out a top-five victory to keep their playoff hopes alive. As a result, there shall be no couch-burning along High Street or thought that a playoff appearance is out of the question with a loss. I have previously stated that this is as close to a win-win situation as you can get for Ohio State, especially for the magnitude of this game.

Obviously, a win means the Buckeyes remain undefeated and enjoy a week off before beginning conference play. Even with a loss on Saturday night, if you were to tell me that Ohio State runs the table in the Big Ten and ultimately wins the Big Ten Championship with the only blemish on their resume being a loss at Oklahoma, I would say the Buckeyes are still going to be included in the playoff.

Regardless of how the Ohio State-Oklahoma game plays out, the Buckeyes will take to the bye week with their playoff aspirations still intact.

E-mail Mark at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @msilverman25

Photo

Pre-season Top 10 Teams That Could Disappoint

By the end of every season there are teams that have been huge disappointments. There always seem to be a couple teams that make us question the purpose of pre-season polls, teams that start the year in the top 10 but tumble their way out of it by the end of the year. Many times it’s teams that look to be on the upswing from the previous year, but haven’t actually had a one- or two-loss season to make them deserving of a top 10 ranking. Other times it is a much tougher schedule or unforeseen factors that result in a team not living up to expectations. Based on projected pre-season polls, these are the teams I believe are the most vulnerable that will likely start in the top 10.

Oklahoma Sooners

There are plenty of reasons the Sooners would be ranked high to kick off the 2016 season. They’re coming off an 11-2 season that ended with an appearance in the College Football Playoff. Quarterback Baker Mayfield is returning as well as maybe the best backfield in the country with Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon. But much of this call is based on history. Oklahoma’s M.O. is that it does well when pre-season expectations are low (like 2015), but flames out when it begins a season in the top 10. If you’re looking for on the field reasons, the Sooners have to replace Mayfield’s security blanket with Sterling Shepard off to the NFL and the defense loses its best pass rushers. The Sooners also play arguably the toughest non-conference schedule in the nation this year with games against Houston and Ohio State.

Michigan Wolverines

I don’t doubt that Jim Harbaugh will have the Wolverines competing for championships real soon, but it seems premature to have Michigan in the top 10 before the season even starts this year. Harbaugh is a great coach, but last year showed he just didn’t have the talent level to compete with the upper-echelon teams yet. The Wolverines lost at Utah to begin the 2015 season, were blown out by Ohio State, and their best win was probably..Northwestern? Harbaugh will get the most out of his talent and will have to work his QB magic with a new signal-caller. The Wolverines may win double-digit games, but with a schedule that includes road games against Michigan State, Iowa, and Ohio State, I wouldn’t expect a playoff appearance just yet.

Baylor Bears

Baylor had a fairly remarkable season when you consider the injuries it sustained at quarterback. Now that Seth Russell returns healthy, it could be other factors that derail the Bears season. The Bears lost a lot of key players on defense, including defensive linemen Shawn Oakman and Andrew Billings who could each be picked in the top couple rounds of the NFL Draft. The run defense could be an issue during a three-game stretch where the Bears play at Texas, home versus TCU, and at Oklahoma. It will leave Baylor having to outscore teams which has often the case over the past few years. The Bears will certainly have the skill position talent to do so, but only if there is enough room to work behind an offensive line that returns just one starter from a year ago.

Stanford Cardinal

It’s tough to put the Cardinal on this list, because they’ve been making prognosticators look bad and out-performing expectations for years now. They’ve become one of those teams you just expect to be good no matter what. A few years ago Stanford had to replace Andrew Luck, but was fortunate to have Kevin Hogan in line, who ended up winning 36 games as a Cardinal quarterback. Hogan certainly wasn’t the player Andrew Luck was, but it’s still difficult to assume you can just replace a QB who won that many games. It will help having Christian McCaffrey back, but we can expect at least some regression since it will be nearly impossible to repeat the once in a lifetime season the Cardinal running back had last year. The defense should be good, so the other part of this call is the schedule. It would be one thing if the new quarterback got to ease his way into the season. That won’t be the case. Stanford opens the year with Kansas State, then follows that up with three conference games, home versus USC, away at UCLA and Washington. If that wasn’t brutal enough, the Cardinal also have road games against Notre Dame, Arizona, and Oregon throughout the year. Stanford is unlikely to pull a USC and fall all the way out of the poll, but with that schedule it may be tough to stay in the top 10.

E-mail Jason at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @JLindy87.

Featured image courtesy MGoBlog

The Best Running Backs of 2015

The 2015 Heisman Trophy winner is….The enthusiasm you read that phrase with probably equaled the enthusiasm used by the actual presenter on Saturday night. His unenthusiastic and abrupt announcement oddly mirrors what the Heisman has become. While it still holds some merit, it doesn’t seem quite as important now that the winner is usually a quarterback who puts up astronomical stats in one of the spread-type offenses that have so heavily populated the college football landscape today. Those spread offenses are part of the problem. Years ago it was a lot easier to determine and quantify how much better a Heisman winner was compared to his competition. After all, most of the offenses the players played in were similar. Now days the best player is often not the Heisman winner or even a finalist if he comes from a pro-style offense. It has become difficult for voters to ignore the video game numbers that a QB from a Power 5 conference can put up.

Just 10 years ago Vince Young and Matt Leinart finished 2nd and 3rd respectively in the Heisman voting. Neither threw for 4,000 yards and neither threw for even 30 touchdowns. This year Deshaun Watson and Baker Mayfield each threw for 30+ touchdowns and while both finished in the Top 5 of voting, the sense was that they both had “average” seasons relative to what the Top QBs have produced in recent years. Back in the day, a QB who threw for 3,500 yards and accumulated 41 touchdowns for an undefeated team would have been a runaway Heisman winner. This year? Watson wasn’t even in the Top 3 on every ballot. This all created the perfect storm for a non-QB to win the award, with Alabama running back Derrick Henry taking home the honors in 2015.

College football fans and I should be happy a non-QB was able to win the award for once, but I couldn’t help but feel unsatisfied with the winner. Maybe it was Henry’s consistency throughout the year that made his big games stand out less. Maybe it was the ridiculous 40+ carries he received in each of the last two games of the season that led to some of those “big games”. As I watched some of the highlights during the ceremony, I found myself wondering if Henry was even one of the three best running backs in college football. Last week I laid out why I thought Stanford back Christian McCaffrey should win the Heisman, so clearly I thought he was a better running back this year than Henry. So who were some of the other top ball carriers in 2015?

I’ll start with Leonard Fournette, who halfway through the year was the favorite for the award. Fournette has been called the best RB prospect since Adrian Peterson and barring injury is a better NFL prospect than Henry. Fournette and Henry are both bigger running backs, but Fournette looks faster and quicker on the field. Alabama didn’t have a great passing offense but it at least had to be respected. LSU on the other hand had the 111th ranked passing offense in college football this year. Despite this, Fournette averaged more yards per carry than Henry and had just five fewer touchdowns.

Ohio State Buckeye Ezekiel Elliott is another running back that will likely have higher NFL Draft prospect grades than Derrick Henry. Elliott came into 2015 with a ton of momentum after demolishing teams on Ohio State’s way to the 2014 championship. He was actually about as good statistically as he was in 2014, though he obviously won’t have two playoff games for a showcase as he did last year. Elliott had 19 touchdowns and at least 100 yards in every game except one on his way to maybe the quietist 1,700 yard, 19 touchdown season you’ll see out of a player from a big-time program. It’s safe to say he suffered from the underwhelming season the Buckeyes had as a team.

Florida State was another team with a disappointing season based on its recent standards. That disappointment would have been a disaster instead if it wasn’t for Dalvin Cook. Cook averaged an astonishing 7.9 yards per carry and scored 18 rushing touchdowns on just 211 carries. His numbers would have been greater if not for a hamstring injury that caused him to miss almost three full games. Even so, he finished sixth in the country rushing for 1,658 yards.

Samaje Perine is similar to Cook in that workload, or lack thereof, held him back from a run at attending the Heisman ceremony. Like Cook, the Oklahoma back scored 18 touchdowns on 211 carries. When he was finally let loose at the end of the year he came up big time. The final three games, also the Sooners’ most important, Perine ran for 166/188/131 against Baylor/TCU/Oklahoma State and averaged 6.8 ypc as Oklahoma made its playoff push against three Top 15 teams. Holding Perine back was that he received at least 20 carries in just five games as opposed to Derrick Henry who had that many in nine of the Tide’s contests and 30+ carries in four of them.

This all isn’t to say Henry wasn’t deserving of the Heisman, he was. But many of these running backs could have been deserving if put into Henry’s situation on a team with a great offensive line and up big in many second halves. Henry after all, was just 55th in the country in yards per carry. Just like numbers often dictate which quarterbacks win the Heisman as opposed to what scouting and on-field grades may say, the same can be said for running backs. With that said, here are my Top 5 running backs from the 2015 season.

1. Christian McCaffrey
2. Dalvin Cook
3. Leonard Fournette
4. Derrick Henry
5. Ezekiel Elliot

 

Feature imagine courtesy Kat Vitulano

Is the Big 12 About to Get Snubbed, Again?

The Oklahoma Sooners exorcising demons against anyone, let alone Baylor, would have been an insane thought to anyone back in 2010. And exorcising demons might be taking it a bit far, but Baylor had won three out of four against the Sooners after not having beaten them in, um, ever. In typical Oklahoma fashion, the Sooners have played their best in a year where less was expected of them. Even after their upset loss to Texas, they had still put enough of a beat-down on their last few opponents that they were clawing themselves back into playoff consideration. Another loss to Baylor, after already having been upset by Texas earlier in the year, would’ve been tough for even the staunchest Bob Stoops supporters to defend.

But the Sooners looked every bit the team that finished the year on fire while beating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl two years ago, and every bit the team they have been in every 2015 game save the Red River Shootout. The Sooners were dominant in almost every facet. Holding Baylor to 34 points in Waco is, after all, quite the accomplishment. And if it weren’t for a couple ill-advised penalties, the ten point margin of victory may have been even greater. Oklahoma showed off a physical, attacking defense. QB Baker Mayfield made play after play in the passing game. Watching this contest, you would have thought that Sooners wideout Sterling Shepard was the pass-catcher in the Heisman race, not Baylor’s Corey Coleman. The Bears had no answer for Shepard and if they tried, Oklahoma just pounded away on the ground with Samaje Perine, who merely had 166 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

It’s that balanced offense that should have Oklahoma’s remaining opponents (TCU and Oklahoma State) scared as hell. If the Sooners can find their way into the College Football Playoff, the other three teams should be just as worried. But just like 2014, the same question persists. Not just with the Sooners but the Big 12 in general. Will they be left out of the playoff once again? At this point it’s hard to think otherwise.

Clemson, Alabama, and Ohio State seem like locks if they win out, so there are multiple teams fighting for that fourth spot. For whatever reason the committee is enamored with Notre Dame, slotting them at four. We’ll see if that changes when the new rankings come out tonight. If an undefeated Big 12 team didn’t rank ahead of the Irish last week, it’s hard to imagine Oklahoma State’s close win over Iowa State being enough to jump them this week. The Big 12 will just have to hope that the Sooners have been impressive enough to move them up to around six in the rankings for now.

Another thing to look for in the committee’s rankings tonight is how far Baylor and TCU fall. That will be a key indicator as to what the committee’s overall thoughts on the Big 12 are. In my opinion Baylor shouldn’t fall that far, at least not yet. Baylor may have been overrated, but I don’t think you can definitively determine that just because they lost to what now will be one of the top six/seven teams in the country. And it’s hard to say they were overrated when we have no idea how they would have done had their starting quarterback not been lost for the year.

Moving along in the state of Texas, TCU had a down-to-the-wire win against Kansas. That would have been great, if this were basketball. But the Horned Frogs deserve some benefit of the doubt here as well. They were up 10-3 in the first quarter when QB Trevone Boykin got injured, and for all we know could have been well on their way to another blowout. After losing their undefeated season the week before, it would have been easy for TCU to fold once their Heisman contending quarterback was lost for the game. Instead they found a way to win, as ugly as it may have been.

So what is the best case scenario for the Big 12? A loss by Notre Dame against Stanford in two weeks would be right at the top. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State will also need to secure wins this week before playing each other on the final week of the regular season. If a 10-1 Sooners team travels to Stillwater to face an 11-0 Cowboys team, I actually think a win by the Sooners would be the Big 12’s best chance.

It’s hard to argue against a possible undefeated, but it’s already clear the committee doesn’t respect Oklahoma State as much as most undefeateds. The committee switches between “eye test” and resumes whenever they feel like it, and the Cowboys are on the wrong end of that perception. An Oklahoma team that has been steam-rolling people for the last month, that knocked off Baylor on the road, then knocked off an undefeated rival on the road on the last weekend of the season? That should be enough to get the Sooners in the playoff. Having Oklahoma in the playoff will certainly have a better ring to it than Oklahoma St. Even better for college football if it gives the committee a chance to pit the Sooners against the Crimson Tide, where Alabama would have the chance to exorcise some of their own demons.

Top 4

Clemson

Alabama

Ohio State

Oklahoma State

Legacy Lines – 9/11/2015: Storylines Matter Too

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the second week of Legacy Lines here at Campus Pressbox. Since there were some extremely competitive games last week in college football, it is only natural that those who scheduled strong opponents will play cupcakes this weekend. Which, on a normal weekend, would lead to a bunch of games nobody wants to watch, however, there are a couple great games to tune into. Gameday is going to watch Michigan State take on Oregon, which is sure to be a fun one, but Tennessee vs. Oklahoma is our Legacy Line game of the week.

We’ll jump into the preview later, but for now, it is time to talk about the past. While Tennessee and Oklahoma have only played three times, with the fourth coming tomorrow, it would seem as if there isn’t much to talk about. In fact, it is the opposite. The first two times the teams battled against each other, they were in the Orange Bowl. The first Orange Bowl game came in 1939, which had Tom Stidham coaching the Sooners and Robert Neyland on the other side for the Vols. Both teams came into the game ranked high, but the Vols had the slight edge at #2 in the nation. The Vols would end up winning the Orange Bowl 17-0 and gave Oklahoma their only loss of the season that year. These two teams may have not played each other a ton of times, but the games they have played were important and usually meant the winner would finish close, if not at the top of the polls. The second Orange Bowl game was played in 1968, after the ’67 season. OU and UT were unbeaten in conference play up until the game, and they were both highly ranked because of it. The Vols were #2 and the Sooners just below at #3. Oklahoma walked into that game with confidence and won 26-24 with a late field goal attempt by the Vols missing wide right to give the Sooners the win. The peculiar part of the whole thing was that Litkenhous named the Volunteers national champs before the Orange Bowl matchup. The Vols still claim to this day to be the national champs of the 1967 season. As you have seen, the Vols and Sooners don’t play each other often, but when they do, the game means everything, and Saturday won’t be any different. Will the young Tennessee team finally live up to all the hype, or will a veteran coach lay down the law in Neyland?

Now, fast-forward to the present day, and these two teams are set to square off under the lights and a national TV audience at 6 p.m. Saturday, on ESPN. There is no denying that this is a huge game for both programs. The winner of this game will most likely jump into conference play with an edge over the rest of the squads. It means that much to both teams. When we get down to the X’s and O’s, there are a few matchups that could cause the game to lean one way or another. The Vols secondary will have to bounce back after a lackluster performance to face Baker Mayfield and the Sooners’ playmakers. Even though the Vols have one of the best corners in the nation in Cam Sutton, I think Mayfield could rattle the DB’s if he gets off to a good start. I give the slight edge to Oklahoma, but look for the Vols to hold their ground for most of the game. Another critical matchup will be Samaje Perine and the Sooners line vs. the Tennessee defensive line. At first glance, you might give the edge to Oklahoma with their star running back and decent offensive line, but in reality, the Volunteers should be tipping the needle in their favor. The biggest reason I believe that the Vols’ D-line has the edge is because of the Sooners slightly inexperienced O-line. The left side of OU’s line is underclassmen, with their starting left tackle, Orlando Brown, a redshirt freshman. Personally, I don’t think those young blockers will be able to hear themselves think Saturday night, which could cause major line problems early. If the crowd noise starts to rise, the left side of the line might be affected ever so slightly. The reality of the situation is that these two teams are pretty much even, and the only thing that will separate one from the other is who has the best day tomorrow. This game ends up a close one, but the Vols are on the winning sideline, by three points, possibly less.

Since we have covered some history and some matchups, we need to talk storylines. As most of you know, Bob Stoops was defensive coordinator for the Florida Gators when the Vols played them in 1998. So, Stoops is familiar with Tennessee, which means that he knows the type of environment he is coming into. For those of you who don’t know, it is a hostile one. Another big story this week comes from the Sooners starting left tackle, Orlando Brown. He was once a commit to Tennessee, but for certain reasons, he ended up at OU. Now that he is playing in Neyland wearing the opposing colors, his teammates say he wants payback. On the other side of things, the Volunteer fan base has decided to checkerboard their stands by assigning colors to sections. They did this for the Florida game last year, which they ended up losing. Some cool history, a great game, and outside storylines, what more could you ask for? As if the matchup against ranked teams wasn’t enough, these storylines will make for an even more intense environment Saturday, and hopefully, a fantastic game.