(courtesy Oklahoma/Bleacher Report)
THE GAME: UC vs. Oklahoma
WHEN: September 25, 2010
KICKOFF: Sometime after 6 p.m.
WHERE: Paul Brown Stadium
SERIES: Oklahoma leads 1-nil
LAST TIME: Sooners won at home 52-26 on September 6, 2008
Well, here it is.
The one game you've had circled on your
schedule and the one where you weren't sure where your seats were
based on the change of venue. The UC Bearcats entertain their
second perennial powerhouse at the Bengals stadium this century (Ohio
State was the first in 2002) when Bob Stoops and the Oklahoma Sooners
visit the pro field downtown with it's 65,535 seats Saturday.
(That's roughly 30,000 and change more than Nippert--thus the move to Bengalville.)
While attendance is surely to be more than your typical Nippert sellout, it remains to be seen as to whether PBS will sellout for this one like the Buckeye game eight years ago did. Obviously, Norman, Oklahoma is considerably farther than Columbus for the Sooners fans.
That, and the Bearcats didn't do themselves any attendance favors by losing on the road at Fresno State and North Carolina State. Sure, both games were tough and involved worthy opposition, but a 3-0 Bearcat team against the 3-0 Sooners would've resulted in a packed house (and probably been the main Saturday night game for the ESPN/ABC #1 tandem of Brent Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit).
Instead, the Bearcats are on "The Deuce" and ESPN3.com if you're sitting with a laptop in a service area that's not squabbling over fees to have ESPN3.com in your general vicinity.
At 1-2, make no mistake, NO ONE on "Gameday" will pick the Bearcats for fear of extreme ridicule. Actually, you can probably figure Fowler, Howard, Herbie and Corso to choose Oklahoma in a whipping that might actually cause the legendary "Sooner Schooner" to blow out an axle.
Why so negative Scott?
If you think that, you've obviously not followed my allegiance to UC over the years. I've always done my best to support Bearcat football and believed in it when many didn't. However, people can see right through a "phony" and I've always felt it was my duty to speak or write truthfully.
Just as a win over Ohio State in 2002 would've been epic, a victory over the Sooners in 2010 would put the Bearcats back into at least some national discussion. Sadly, at 1-2, they're now looked at as an afterthought with their only hope being to run the table in the Big East again.
Losing at NC State in the main Thursday game did them no favors. While they were the underdog before, many will assume this Oklahoma game to be over by the half--just in time to turn the eight o'clock game on.
There lies the scenario of Coach Butch Jones.
He needs to pull out his best "us against the world speech" and come up with a way to stop a squad that lost the #1 pick in the NFL draft (QB Sam Bradford) and is still racking up points.
It seems statistically impossible, but sometimes you never know until you line up.
Eight years ago, a late catch in the endzone and the Bearcats ruin Ohio State's perfect season and national title hopes. That UC team finished 7-7.
Eleven years ago, UC lost at Nippert 31-24 to unheralded (and unheard of in these parts) Troy State. One week later, the Bearcats knocked off #9 Wisconsin 17-12 with future Heisman winner Ron Dayne.
Sometimes Buster Douglas beats Mike Tyson. Sometimes an NC State knocks off Phi Slamma Jamma or a Villanova beats Georgetown in the NCAA hoops final. Sometimes David beats Goliath.
Pack all of those stories and dreams with you Saturday night and hope for the best. In the meantime, here's some scoops on the troops of Stoops....
UC OFFENSE VS. OKLAHOMA DEFENSE
What is the UC offense?
Are they a running team who likes to pass? Or, a passing team forced to run? Thus far, the only thing identical to last year's spread offense is, that it is a spread offense. At times, Zach Collaros looks smooth throwing to D.J. Woods and Armon Binns. Other times, he's being rushed by either a lack of protection or a lack of concentration. While Zach's putting up decent numbers and is a weapon any time he has the ball, he appears to not being playing as confident as he did last season. Naturally, confidence builds with success and if Collaros can lead UC on a couple early fast-paced drives, this could be a game. One of the problems thus far with UC's "hurry up" is that it's not gaining momentum because of penalties and lack of playmaking. Outside of Darrin Williams and John Goebel in the Indiana State game, there's been no real rush threat to open up any opportunity to consistently pass.
The health and effectiveness of Isaiah Pead could be the key in this game. That, and if the lack of hook-ups involving the tight end can be resolved.
Leading the Sooners defense is junior linebacker Travis Lewis and a couple of defensive backs, junior Jamell Fleming and senior Jonathan Nelson. Two years ago, UC was able to score on Oklahoma and hang pretty much until then-QB Dustin Grutza broke his leg. One key in that game was the pacing of the offense that kept Oklahoma off balance.
NOD: UC should see early momentum based on high emotions playing at PBS. The offense has clearly underperformed and wants to win some fans back. However, despite the fan-friendliness of the passing game, the deciding point could come down to how the ball is run again. If blitz pick-ups haven't been improved on in the past week, this might be another long game for Bearcat fans. Keep in mind, Oklahoma's Bob Stoops was a defensive coordinator prior to becoming a head coach.
OKLAHOMA OFFENSE VS. UC DEFENSE
While I thought UC's defense was improving, they're still young and very susceptible to being burned on the long route. Oklahoma features no scrambling Russell Wilson like NC State, but they do have Landry Jones who can see over the defense and pick you apart if you let him (just ask Florida State--30-40, 380 yards and 4 TDs). The Sooners also feature two familiar players from 2008's game in RB DeMarco Murray, who had 88 yards and scored in Norman, and WR Ryan Broyles. Broyles is a 5-11, 183-lb., 22-year-old senior who typically racks up 100-plus yards receiving. He had 141 on seven catches in '08, and in three games has had 142, 124 and 116 yards. Obviously, hold Broyles under 100 yards receiving and you're in a better position to win. The other weapon of the Sooners in '08 was TE Jermaine Gresham. While he does have some experience at Paul Brown Stadium, he'll thankfully be on the road this coming weekend with the Bengals.
NOD: Oklahoma's had no problem scoring. They've had to hang onto some leads in games against Utah State and Air Force, but they've scored 31, 47 and 27 points so far--considerably more than UC. While you'd love to see the defense step up and make a name for itself, it's probably not going to be this week and UC's best bet here is to just outscore Oklahoma and hope to have the ball last.
Jake Rogers has not had easy kicks, but he still needs to take advantage of his attempts, especially with the offense struggling. He also clearly kicks better at home than on the road. However, this is not "The Nipp" and this is another venue for him to get used to.
Oklahoma's used two kickers, Patrick O'Hara and Jimmy Stevens. Stevens kicked against Air Force. Neither has a "bombs away" leg, but sometimes at Oklahoma you're just kicking extra points.
The Sooners do have a booming punter and kickoff specialist in Tress Way who's consistently averaging over 46 yards per kick the last two seasons. UC's Patrick O'Donnell has been adequate, but continues his "baptism under fire" with yet another tough opponent that'll be bringing speedsters into block his efforts.
In the return game, it's pretty much Ryan Broyles and DeMarco Murray from the Sooners offense. For UC, D.J. Woods has had some near missed on punt returns, while Darrin Williams is struggling to get to the 20 on kickoffs. Without question, Mardy Gilyard (St. Louis Rams) is missed as his Vidal Hazelton (out-torn ACL).
NOD: Because it's at PBS and not Nippert, the kicking game's even at best. Punting goes to Tress Way and Oklahoma and here's hoping you see a lot of him. For UC to have a chance, they'll need a big special teams play in this one.
Again, a loss here would not totally smear UC's season as they would still have the Big East schedule ahead. However, the inevitable would be the Bearcats' removal from the local and national discussion in terms of exciting football. You hope that doesn't occur, but that's the way things go when you're battling for fans in a marketplace with a postseason baseball team and an NFL squad.
On the other hand, an upset and seemingly everyone's your friend again. It's tough crowd.
Right now, virtually no one expects UC to win this game. To pull it off, they have to hope that Oklahoma's in that category. They need a lethargic, arrogant team to come in and assume that UC's going to back off because their uniforms read, "Oklahoma". If that takes place and UC can strike early and hang on, C-Paws will come out of every crack and crevice in town.
If I were Butch Jones, I'd call Rick Minter and ask him about that Wisconsin game in '99, or the near-miss of Ohio State in '02; I'd call Mark Dantonio (health permitting--and best wishes to a speedy recovery) and ask about beating #7 Rutgers here in '06; and I'd call Brian Kelly and get the flavor of the West Virginia game in '08 and last year's Pitt contest.
What buttons did they push to bring their teams together?
Right now, there's a lot of pushing but no combination that's consistently "locking in".