In the second half of this week’s preview, we’ll take a look at some statistics and players on Oklahoma’s offense and UCF’s defense ahead of Saturday’s matchup. OU is sixth in the AP Poll and first in the Big 12, and this season has been a rousing success for Brent Venables in his second year.
The Sooners are coming off a bye week that will hopefully allow everyone to heal their various bumps and bruises, while the Knights are reeling from a 55-21 loss, their third straight. You can find the first part of the preview here. Let’s dive into the Knights’ defense and the Sooners’ offense.
Oklahoma vs UCF: What to Watch For When Oklahoma Has the Ball
The UCF offense has put a lot of points on the scoreboard this season, unfortunately, their defense has also allowed its fair share of points, which has led the Knights to a 3-3 record overall, which includes a 0-3 introduction to the Big 12.
This unit has allowed almost 28 points, which is third-worst in the conference, and allows an average of 387.3 total yards per game, which is sixth-worst. They’ve also given up almost 200 rushing yards per game and 250 passing yards per game, so the Sooner offense will definitely be able to exploit them through the air and on the ground.
The Knights’ defense is led by senior linebacker, Jason Johnson, whose 52 total tackles rank 5th in the Big 12. He had a season-high 15 tackles a few weeks ago against Baylor.
Tre’Mon Morris-Brash is in his 5th season for the Knights, and he leads the conference with five sacks from his defensive end spot. He has also excelled at blowing up plays in the backfield and also leads the conference in that category with 11. Matthew Alexander, a sophomore defensive tackle, also has five tackles for a loss. He, Morris-Brash, Lee Hunter, and John Celiscar will present the Sooners’ offensive line with a formidable challenge.
The UCF secondary has not excelled at creating havoc for quarterbacks and pass catchers though, as they only have four interceptions on the season. However, they have allowed the fewest passing yards per game in the Big 12 at 189.
The Sooners come in with one of the best, most explosive offensives in the nation: they’re averaging 45.2 points and 506 yards per game, good for fourth and sixth nationally. Dillon Gabriel has been simply masterful and is certainly a dark-horse Heisman candidate at this point in the season.
Gabriel has played to the tune of 1,878 passing yards, a 16:2 touchdown touchdown-to-interception ratio, and a 72.3% completion percentage. He also showed that he could do damage with his legs in the game against Texas, and is now third on the team with 208 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
However, the rest of the Sooners’ rushing attack has not been as statistically successful as past Oklahoma teams. Part of the reason is just that they haven’t had an inordinate amount of rushing attempts, ranking seventh in the Big 12 in total attempts.
Tawee Walker and Marcus Major have been successful at times, but neither they nor Jovantae Barnes have proven themselves to be the surefire, number-one back. This may be an area that the Sooners will have to improve in if they want to run the table.
The receiving corps took a major hit after Andrel Anthony suffered a season-ending knee injury against Texas. He had been Gabriel’s leading receiver and was fantastic at hauling in deep shots down the field.
Jalil Farooq and Nic Anderson will have to step up in his stead, and good news for the Sooners: Farooq proved he was more than capable during the Red River victory. He caught five balls for 130 yards and was electric after the catch.
Anderson is only a redshirt freshman, but he has also had his bright moments this season, catching three touchdowns against Tulsa and also snagging the game-winning score against the Longhorns. Drake Stoops will likely also see an increase in targets with the Sooners’ top receiver gone.
Gabriel, the receivers, and offensive coordinator, Jeff Lebby, will have to learn to navigate life without Anthony against a stingy Knights secondary.
The Sooner offense is on another level right now, and UCF has inspired a lot of confidence on defense, so Oklahoma should be able to have its way with the Knights. It would be nice to see the running game dominate more than it has and for the receivers to step up and take on bigger roles. OU has talent everywhere, and the Knights have been prone to giving up a lot of points, but Oklahoma has to make sure they don’t overlook UCF, or they could find themselves in some tough offensive spots. All things considered, the Sooners have the advantage and should score a lot on the Knights.
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