The Tennessee Volunteers will be making their first road trip of the season as they travel to Norman, Oklahoma this weekend to face the Sooners. The Sooners need no introduction, they are one of the top teams in the country and currently reside on almost everyone’s short-list of teams expected to make it to the first ever College Football Playoff.
Through two games, Oklahoma has put up 444 yards and 9 touchdowns as a team running the football, while starting quarterback Trevor Knight is 40-of-68 passing for 552 yards, 3 touchdowns and an interception. Oklahoma’s balance on offense and playmaking ability on defense will provide this young Tennessee team with a very tough challenge this weekend.
Let’s take a look at some things that stood out in Oklahoma’s most recent win over Tulsa:
0:25: This is Sterling Shepard running Tennessee’s version of the ‘Pig Howard Sweep.’ The running back turned lead-blocker takes out the cornerback and Shepard is off to the races. Sterling is fast and fluid with the ball in his hands and is Oklahoma’s most dynamic playmaker on offense. Through two games he has 12 catches for 226 yards and two touchdowns. My guess is he will be Cam Sutton’s assignment.
0:52: As you can see, Oklahoma is another team that likes to move their offense at a very fast tempo. Here, they beat the camera and snap the ball before the play is being shown. The cornerback and safety on the bottom-left of the screen each bite hard on the play-action fake and get beat over the top for what should have been a touchdown, but Knight doesn’t throw a very good ball.
1:06: Oklahoma’s opening touchdown drive takes just three plays and covers 81 yards in 51 seconds.
1:28: Play-action swing pass. I doubt they try this one this week as Tennessee’s speed at linebacker and corner could blow this play up in a hurry. Tulsa has them stopped for a loss but can’t make the tackle in the backfield. It does give us our first look at Durron Neal, however. Neal is Knight’s second favorite receiving target.
1:38: Here’s an example of what a Stoops defense will do to try and confuse quarterbacks. The safety is at the line of scrimmage showing blitz, so the Tulsa quarterback thinks that the deep slant by his inside receiver should come open. However, at the snap of the ball Oklahoma’s safety turns and sprints to center field; forcing the QB to hit his check down route short of the first down marker.
2:03: Oklahoma fakes the bubble-screen action to the top of the field to pull down the safety to that side, but they are actually setting up the tunnel screen at the bottom of the field. Both OU offensive linemen and the inside reciever miss their blocks or this play could have gone the distance – because they completely fooled Tulsa.
2:32: Designed QB-Draw run to perfection here. Great blocking downfield and Knight makes a guy miss for a 31-yard touchdown run. I’m going to see this in my nightmares all week.
3:44: You can see that Knight and the motioning receiver carry out an option fake after Knight hands the ball off to the running back. This is the kind of play that makes their offense so hard to defend. If Tulsa had collapsed immediately to stop the inside run, Knight would have likely kept the football and run the option with his receiver to the sideline. This very similar – although certainly not identical – to some concepts that both Utah State and Arkansas State have shown Tennessee this season.
4:07: Blake Bell, former Sooner quarterback turned red zone nightmare for opposing teams.
5:30: Tulsa is actually able to apply some pressure to Knight on this play and forces him to throw off of his back foot. But Knight’s strong arm allows him to complete an accurate ball on time, even with pressure in his face.
5:52: RIP – The scary thing is that Tennessee runs this exact play with regularity. Oklahoma’s secondary is very disciplined, but they also take some chances because of the pressure their defensive line gets on the quarterback. Here, the outside cornerback guesses early that Tulsa’s QB is going to hit the receiver running the 3-yard out and guesses right. If Tennessee can protect Worley, this could be a good opportunity to run the outside receiver on a double move and try to catch Oklahoma cheating up to stop the short passes. Tennessee ran a similar play for touchdowns last year against Florida and Western Kentucky, if my memory serves me correctly.
6:22: This is OU’s starting nose guard, Jordan Phillips. He is 6-6, 335 pounds and will be lined up over Mack Crowder all night long. Crowder struggled against USU and ASU when they lined someone up in his face and bull-rushed him, so it will be important that Tennessee give him help from one of the guards or a running back on passing situations or else this will be the result. (Yes, this play gets called back due to a penalty, but you get my point.)
7:04: The same action as the play at 1:28 only this time they hand the ball off instead of throwing the swing pass. The result: 82-yard touchdown run.
7:40: Again they sprint the safety from the line of scrimmage to centerfield at the snap of the ball, and again it confuses the quarterback. He thinks he’s got single coverage and just throws a jump ball to his receiver, but the safety has already reached his mark and nearly comes down with an interception.
9:12: This is at least the sixth deep out that Oklahoma has run to the right side of the field for a first down – clearly a bread-and-butter route for them.
9:56: That’s 6-4, 252-pound senior linebacker, yes LINEBACKER, Geneo Grissom.
10:30: This is why you can never get comfortable on defense against Oklahoma. Even when you have them backed up, they have enough confidence in their offensive line and their playmakers to try a play-action pass from their end zone. Obviously, they already had a huge lead at this point, but this is still something that they will do in tight games to try and swing momentum.
11:39: Up by 45 and still tricking Tulsa with the safety movement and big blitzes. This is the second string defense on this play and, as you can see, there really doesn’t appear to be any dropoff from a scheme or talent standpoint. Oklahoma is just a very talented and well-coached team across the board.