🏈 Bring on Western Carolina
Can we super-sim the second half this time?
✌🏽 Happy Friday, friends. There’s a football game tomorrow in Norman. Let’s ride.
🤔 Trivia: As OU prepares to host Western Carolina, how many players on the Sooners’ roster are from North Carolina? [Answer in the footnotes]
🔥 Tune-up game!
The weeks Oklahoma face its pay-per-view opponent often struggle to feel like game week.
The Sooners’ baffling second-half collapse against Tulane last Saturday seems to have plenty of fans on edge, however, as they prepare to battle Western Carolina.
I’d like to preface everything written below with, we are not going to learn a lot from this game (and if we do, that’s probably a negative thing). But a … let’s say 63-3 win over Western Carolina ought to be therapeutic for some Sooner fans, who were ready to send Lincoln Riley back to East Carolina and Spencer Rattler to the Pac-12 school of his choosing after last week’s narrow victory.
No, I’m not going to go deep on Western Carolina. But let’s take stock of who needs a bounce-back game and who’s earned to treat this week as a bye:
In need of a bounce-back game
Perrion Winfrey, defensive tackle: Perhaps this stems from all the offseason buzz, but Winfrey was fairly underwhelming against the Green Wave. The Sooners’ defensive front played well as a whole. Winfrey needs to do more, however, for OU to tap into that next level of how good the defense can be and to build some momentum going into Nebraska week.
Eric Gray, running back: The Tennessee transfer wasn’t as electric in his OU debut as most of us expected. He never seemed to get in rhythm, but Riley’s reliance on Rattler’s arm might have had something to do with that.Gray, who had 27 yards on nine carries, should benefit from a fairly low-stakes game where he can continue to develop behind OU’s offensive line.
OU’s offensive line: Speaking of which, Riley didn’t seem overly concerned about the group, but this is just a matter of getting live reps at full speed. Watching back last week’s game, Tulane’s defensive line probably isn’t getting enough credit for how well they played. But if you take stock into what Riley said on Tuesday, the left side of the line absolutely has to get better and OU needs presumed first-string center Andrew Raym, who entered the game late last week, to get acquainted with the starters quickly.
Billy Bowman, defensive back: It’s only one game, but the true freshman has a real opportunity to be the Jayda Colemanof this OU defense. He already looked the part physically, but he had a nice day in his first OU game.
Isaiah Thomas, defensive tackle: There are so many good things to say about Thomas — the redshirt senior’s consistency being near the top of the list. When OU needs a play, Thomas is likely to deliver. OU’s defensive line has the potential to finish as one of the top units in the country, and Thomas has the chance to be the face of it.
OU’s receivers: Between Marvin Mims, Jadon Haselwood and Mario Williams, Oklahoma’s wide receivers were solid against Tulane. While we won’t see Theo Wease anytime soon, the room looks much improved from a year ago and are a good reason to believe Rattler and this offense can turn things around.
🔗 Carolina connection
Jon Cooper, the former OU and NFL offensive lineman, has made a nice coaching career for himself.
He’s jumped around from Utah State to Missouri to UCF before joining Arkansas’ staff last season. The Razorbacks replaced Cooper over the offseason, but as of a few weeks ago, he is back on his feet.
The 2008 Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year is coaching the position he played and will be back in Norman this Saturday as Western Carolina’s offensive line coach.
Cooper was hired following the unexpected passing of Western Carolina offensive line coach John Peacock, who died last month due to COVID-19 complications.
SI Sooners’ John Hoover wrote about Cooper’s story, which is worth your time.
📺 Big 12 on TV
It’s a bit of a top-heavy week for the conference.
The best games are some of the more nationally relevant matchups in Week 2, but unless you’re into clashes like Baylor-Texas Southern and West Virginia-Long Island University, then you might look for other things to do with your Saturday.
For the paying subscribers, my Week 2 Big 12 viewing guide is live. If you’re not signed up for the paid version of Eyes on Oklahoma, you can grab a seven-day free trial [Click here] to see if you like the extra content we put up throughout the week and after each game.
🗺 Expansion day!
BYU, Cincinnati, Houston and UCF have reportedly applied to join the Big 12, and the league is expected to extend invitations to all four on Friday.
Why this matters: OU and Texas have one foot out the door, but it’s not inconceivable the two could play at least one season (the 2023 season being the likely candidate) in the Big 12 with the four soon-to-be members. Do I think this happens? No. But this realignment stuff is far from over and isn’t going to get any less chaotic anytime soon.
Yahoo and Brett McMurphy were first to report the news.
👀 Good company
One of the biggest storylines for this weekend comes off the field.
OU is expecting 2023 quarterback commit Malachi Nelson, and plenty of other big names, to visit Norman.
If your recruiting news consumption is limited to just before the early-signing period, OU is building quite the 2023 class, which can’t officially sign with the program until December 2022 at the earliest.
The Athletic’s Jason Kersey had a great piece, however, that illustrates OU’s early success on the recruiting trail (a subscription to The Athletic is required).
👕 Stripe the Stadium
A friendly reminder OU is holding its “Stripe the Stadium” game this weekend.
You (or that one relative who goes directly to you for all OU football information) might be wondering, what color am I supposed to wear to the game?
The answer: Figure out what row and section you’re sitting in, then click here for the full breakdown (it’s too long to put in here).
Why is OU doing this for the pay-per-view game?: It is to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
Why is the design different from past years?: The 13 stripes that wrap around the stadium honor the 13 stripes on the American flag.
Anything else I should know?: OU is also planning to do other things to show its gratitude to emergency services personnel, frontline workers and military members.
⏰ On this day
Sixteen years ago today, Adrian Peterson led the Sooners to a 31-15 win over Tulsa. Peterson had 220 rushing yards, three rushing touchdowns and this iconic touchdown run, which you can watch by clicking here.
Four. Shane Whitter, Justin Harrington, Jeremiah Hall and Jake Mann.
Not that it bothered Kennedy Brooks
I couldn’t resist.