- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
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NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma turns its attention to conference play after recording the most impressive non-conference win by a Big 12 team against Notre Dame last weekend. TCU visits Oklahoma Memorial Stadium with an eye on putting itself back into the Big 12 title race.
Here are some storylines, players to watch and a prediction:
Avoiding a letdown. The Sooners have to stay focused on the Horned Frogs, who have a quality defense and enough talent to make OU pay if they are overlooked. TCU knows what it is like to win in Norman and could have more urgency than the Sooners with the understanding that another Big 12 loss could eliminate their hopes of competing for a conference title.
Another test for Blake Bell. The junior quarterback has been simply outstanding in his first two games as the Sooners’ starter. Bell was 49 of 67 for 645 yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions while leading OU to wins over Tulsa and Notre Dame. TCU brings one of the best secondaries the Sooners will face this season to Norman on Saturday. It will test Bell’s accuracy and the ability of the receivers to get open.
Boykin will test the Sooners. TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin is the most dynamic running quarterback the Sooners have faced this season. He can make the OU defense pay with his arm and legs, but if the Sooners' defensive front can create pressure, it could force Boykin into a game-changing mistake or two.
Players to watch
Linebacker Corey Nelson: The veteran has taken his game to another level as a senior, with 21 tackles, second on the squad. OU will need him to continue to show his versatility with Boykin taking snaps, as those two are likely to meet up in the open field more than once. Nelson needs to win those individual battles and have success bringing down Boykin when he blitzes.
Receiver Lacoltan Bester. TCU has talented cornerbacks in Jason Verrett and Kevin White, who could match up with receivers Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard. If that’s the defensive plan for the Horned Frogs, Bester will have to take advantage of the opportunities he has to make plays as OU's third receiving option.
OU offensive line. The Sooners have done a great job protecting Bell in the past two games, allowing just one sack. But TCU presents another challenge as the Horned Frogs enter the game leading the Big 12 with 15 sacks, and elite defensive end Devonte Fields could see action Saturday after missing last weekend's win over SMU.
Reason for concern: TCU is going to try to force Bell and the Sooners to make mistakes. The Horned Frogs have forced 12 turnovers this season, No. 1 in the Big 12, so Bell will have to continue to do a terrific job protecting the football.
Prediction: OU 34, TCU 24. The Horned Frogs play well and challenge the Sooners deep into the fourth quarter, but a couple of key plays from Bell and key stops by the OU defense helps the Sooners pull away in the final 15 minutes. Saunders proves he is one of the Big 12's top receivers with two touchdowns against the Horned Frogs’ stellar secondary.
5dJake Trotter and Brandon Chatmon