Oklahoma Preview: How Will OU Finish Against TCU?

Oklahoma (9-2) is coming off a 31-24 victory over the BYU Cougars last week, giving them two solid wins in a row. The Sooner defense forced three turnovers, highlighted by a 100-yard pick-six from Billy Bowman in the third quarter. Unfortunately, OU’s star quarterback, Dillon Gabriel, sustained an injury late in the second quarter and didn’t return.

Five-star freshman phenom, Jackson Arnold, took his place and led the Sooner offense on five drives in the second half. Two of them resulted in punts, one in a touchdown, and the other was the final drive of the game that ended in victory formation.

Head coach Brent Venables has sounded optimistic this week that Gabriel could return this Friday, but did not make any definitive statements. Gabriel’s injury had a larger impact than just his absence against BYU. Because Arnold had already played in four games this season, playing last week caused him to lose his ability to redshirt this season, meaning he will only have three more years of eligibility remaining.

Regardless of the quarterback situation, No. 13 Oklahoma will be facing the TCU Horned Frogs (5-6) at home on Friday at 11 a.m. CT, in what could be an emotional game for many seniors, most notably, Drake Stoops. The sixth-year wideout was recently announced as a finalist for the Burlsworth Trophy, awarded to the best player who began their career as a walk-on. He was also voted as a permanent team captain and has cemented himself as one of the toughest, most beloved players in Sooner history.

Previewing Oklahoma vs. TCU

What to Make of the Horned Frogs’ Offense

TCU entered this season with sky-high expectations following their surprise run to last year’s national championship game. However, they fell flat in their season-opener against Colorado and never seemed to recover. They are 3-5 in conference play, and their best win came in a 34-17 SMU team that is currently 9-2, with their only other loss coming to Oklahoma.

Their starting quarterback, Chandler Morris, was injured over a month ago with an MCL sprain, and the offense is now led by redshirt freshman, Josh Hoover. Hoover has had some great games, throwing for more than 300 yards in four games, and twice going over 400. However, because he has been asked to throw the football a lot this season, he’s been prone to interceptions, something the OU defense preys on.

Behind Hoover, redshirt junior running back, Emani Bailey has over 1000 rushing yards on the season but hasn’t run for over 100 yards since late October. On the outside, the Frogs have two main receiving threats: Savion Williams and JP Richardson. Jared Wiley leads the team in receiving touchdowns from the tight end position, making him a major threat in the red zone.

Key Player: Josh Hoover

The only way for TCU to stay in this game will be if Hoover can throw for over 300 yards and limit his turnovers.

Breaking Down the Defense of TCU

TCU’s defense has been the less impressive of their two units this season, although they haven’t been awful. They allow an average of 24.1 points but have also allowed teams to score at least 35 points in three games this year. They have been a touch better defending the run than the pass and are fifth in the Big 12 in team sacks and opponent third-down percentage.

Their leader on defense has been one of the better defensive players in the conference this year: Namdi Obiazor. The junior linebacker leads the team in tackles, with 79, and sacks, with four, while ranking second with six tackles for loss.

His running mate in the second level, Jamoi Hodge, has been almost as productive, generating two-and-a-half sacks and five-and-a-half tackles for loss.

The entire Horned Frogs’ secondary has struggled at times this season, however, Nook Bradford has been a bright spot in his safety position. He is fifth on the team in tackles, tied for second in passes defended, and tied for first in interceptions, with one of them being a pick-six.

There are points to be had against this TCU defense, regardless of who takes the snaps for Oklahoma this weekend.

Can Oklahoma Finish the Year Strong?

In a year with plenty of ups and downs, a win against TCU would be a good way to end the season. Not only would it keep the Sooners in contention for a Big 12 title game spot, but it would give Oklahoma their 700th win of the modern era and their 10th win of the season, which is quite remarkable after their disastrous 6-7 season a year ago.

Hopefully, Dillon Gabriel is able to get healthy for what could be his last home game as an Oklahoma Sooner. If not, fans will get a preview of OU’s future in Jackson Arnold.

Drake Stoops and other seniors are also sure to make big plays on Senior Day, as they look to finish the regular season in style. Both the offense and defense have been rolling in the last two games, and it seems like a Sooner victory is inevitable.

Key Players: Billy Bowman and Drake Stoops

Bowman is now second in the nation with five interceptions, tied for first in pick-sixes with two, and first in the country with 193 interception return yards. Against an interception-prone quarterback, Bowman could have himself a Thanksgiving feast on Friday morning.

With his father, Bob Stoops, sure to be in attendance, and Drake having had such a terrific season, here’s hoping he goes out with a bang in his final game wearing the crimson and cream.

Analysis

Oklahoma is favored by 10 points as of writing, and feels like they could be favored by more. They still have a chance, albeit, a small one, of going to the Big 12 Championship game, so there’s always something to play for. But you just get the feeling that this Sooner team has finally started to play up to its potential as the season winds down, and they are better than TCU by nearly every measure.

Prediction: Sooners 42 – Horned Frogs 23

Dillon Gabriel returns, Stoops scores twice, Bowman and Danny Stutsman terrorize TCU’s freshman signal-caller, and Oklahoma ends the regular season with 10 wins.

Main Image: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

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