- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
1. Can OSU win in Norman?
With all the success he’s had during his career in Stillwater, Mike Gundy is still searching for his first win in Norman, Okla. as a head coach. And OU coach Bob Stoops is 5-1 against the Cowboys during his tenure.
During the Cowboys' last trip to Norman in 2009, they appeared to have their best chance of giving Gundy his first win with the Sooners playing a makeshift offensive line in the midst of a disappointing 8-5 season.
OU hammered OSU 27-0 that afternoon. Thus, it appears OU’s home mystique is still intact when it comes to Bedlam until OSU can prove otherwise.
2. Can OU stop OSU’s run game?
Led by the Big 12‘s top running back in Joseph Randle, the Cowboys average 216.7 rushing yards per game. Randle is a versatile, tough runner who can be difficult to bring down. And his backup Jeremy Smith is one of the nation’s top No. 2 running backs.
It’s a scary proposition for the Sooners.
OU has allowed 710 rushing yards in the last two weeks. It’s unlikely the Sooners take the same defensive approach that led to watching Baylor’s Lache Seastrunk and West Virginia’s Tavon Austin run up and down the field, but it won’t matter what defensive scheme OU uses if it doesn’t tackle better.
3. Which backup quarterback will have the bigger impact?
OU’s Blake Bell and OSU’s J.W. Walsh each have made significant impacts on their teams this season. The Sooners use Bell in their “Belldozer” package, which can be a nightmare for defenses to try to defend. Not to mention, it was that package that provided the Sooners lone touchdown in last season’s 44-10 defeat.
OSU has created a package of its own for Walsh, who has shown he can be more of a threat with his arm than Bell has during their time on the field. Walsh leads the Cowboys with 1,469 passing yards and 11 touchdowns with three interceptions in seven games. Nonetheless, he didn’t start last week against Texas Tech and probably won’t start in Bedlam. But he should play and he could create problems for the Sooners defense with his versatility, particularly in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
It’s quite possible that one of the two backup signal callers makes a game-changing play on Saturday.
4. Will the Sooners defense return to the dominant level it reached in the middle of the season?
While it hasn’t been pretty in the past two weeks, the Sooners have held opponents to 5.05 yards per play or less in seven of its 10 games this season and 309 total yards or less in five of those 10 contests.
It’s easy to forget how impressive Mike Stoops' unit was for most of the season, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see that type of production resurface on Saturday. The Sooners defense still features talented athletes with the proven ability to make life difficult for any offense.
They just need to prove themselves, all over again, against one of the nation’s top offenses in Bedlam.
5. Can OSU stop the Sooners group of stellar wide receivers?
The Sooners use of their four-receiver package with quarterback Landry Jones at the helm creates mismatches for any defense. Receivers Kenny Stills, Justin Brown, Jalen Saunders and Sterling Shepard have the ability to create offensive opportunities consistently each week. And OU has made the package one of the foundations of its offense.
OSU features two quality cornerbacks in Justin Gilbert and Brodrick Brown, but the rest of its secondary, including safeties Daytawion Lowe and Shamiel Gary, will have to win their share of individual battles for the Pokes to slow down the Sooners. Additionally, the Cowboys will need to win some battles up front or it could be a long day for their secondary.
2dJake Trotter and Brandon Chatmon