Oklahoma Preview: Big Noon Kickoff Edition
By: Ryan Roberts
On Saturday afternoon inside of a sold out Nippert Stadium, the Cincinnati Bearcats will play their first ever game as a member of the Big 12 Conference. Their first opponent? The most storied program in Big 12 history ; Oklahoma Sooners.
Oklahoma is 169-58 since 1996 against Big 12 Conference opponents during the regular season. That is good enough for a .744 winning percentage. For comparison, Texas is 149-78 during the same span. Oklahoma is 11-1 in Big 12 conference championship games and have 14 conference championships during the 27 year history of the conference.
To add to the excitement of the game, Cincinnati will be home to the biggest pregame tailgate of the weekend as FOX's Big Noon Kickoff show makes its Clifton debut Saturday.
The show will take place at Bearcats Commons, the site of ESPN's College Gameday in 2021.
What you need to know:
Brent Venables' squad comes in ranked #16 nationally and 3-0 after defeating Arkansas State, SMU, and Tulsa by an average score of 56-9. The Sooner rank 3rd nationally in scoring offense and 5th nationally in scoring defense. Their 46.3 average scoring margin leads the country.
The Bearcats started the season 2-0 and looked to be building momentum coming in to this game after defeating EKU in blowout fashion and securing a road win at Pitt, but UC suffered a set back in a 31-24 overtime loss in the Battle for the Victory Bell against Miami. The loss ended a 16 game win streak for UC in the rivalry.
UC enters this match up with the 8th best rushing offense nationally (239.3 per game), which currently leads the Big 12. Scott Satterfield's squad also ranks no. 12 in total offense (525.3) and no. 8 in time of possession (34:15).
This will be the third all time meeting between the two programs. Oklahoma won 52-26 in Norman, OK during their run to the BCS National Championship Game. The next meeting between the two teams occurred in 2010, a 31-29 win for the Sooners at Paul Brown Stadium. This will be the first match up between the two in Nippert Stadium.
When Oklahoma is on offense:
Quarterback Dillon Gabriel is off to a blistering start. The redshirt senior leads the nation in pass completion percentage (.825) and ranks second in pass efficiency rating (220.4). He set a school record in the Sooners win over Tulsa by completing 90% of his passes (28-31) for 421 yards and 5 touchdowns in 3 quarters.
Oklahoma receivers Jalil Farooq (126) , Nic Anderson (120) , and Andrel Anthony (112) all went for over 100 yards receiving in the win over Tulsa. Anthony currently leads the team with 14 catches for 254 yards. The other Oklahoma receivers to know are Drake Stoops and Jaquaize Pettaway. Stoops is tied for the team lead in receptions with 14.
The Oklahoma offense puts stress on a defense both vertically and horizontally in the pass game and like to play at a blistering pace...think UCF the last time Dillon Gabriel visited Nippert Stadium.
Dillon's success starts up front. Oklahoma's o-line lost 3 starters to the NFL Draft in June, and will be without a key contributor or two due to injury, but the big guys up front are currently tied for second nationally by allowing just 0.3 sacks per game.
Brent Venables called this a game that will be won in the trenches, as Cincinnati comes in with 10 sacks through 3 games.
When Oklahoma is on defense:
The Sooners rank 5th in scoring defense (9.3 ppg) , 10th in tackles for loss (8.7 per game) , 15th in rushing defense (78.7 per game) , 19th in yards per play allowed (4.3) and 32nd in total defense (287.7 per game).
Oklahoma added 9 defensive transfers in the off season and have allowed just 5 scores on 37 possessions through three games. The defensive unit is currently fourth nationally with a +2.0 turnover margin and 8 takeaways through 3 games.
6 of those 9 defensive transfers were on the defensive line. Rondell Bothroyd, Trace Ford, Jacob Lacey, Phil Paea, Davon Sears, and Da'Jon Terry combined for 185 games played, 58 starts, 62 tackles for loss, and 33.5 sacks at their previous stops.
With 19 returning defensive letterwinners, the Sooners bring a deep and talented group in to Saturday's match up. Linebacker Danny Stutsman led the Big 12 in tackles last season and is currently averaging 10 stops per game. He was named Walter Camp National FBS Defensive Player of the Week after logging 17 tackles in week 2 against SMU.
In the secondary, safety Reggie Pearson is in his 6th year while 5 star freshman Peyton Bowen has made an impact at cornerback as a true freshman.
UC ranks second in the Big 12 with 21 plays of 20 yards or more. Oklahoma has 6 interceptions and has allowed just three plays of 30 yards or more.
Scott Satterfield's take on Oklahoma:
Oklahoma head coach Brent Venables met with the media Tuesday to discuss his team and preview Cincinnati:
If you can't make it to Nippert Stadium:
Pre game coverage starts on FOX at 10am with Big Noon kickoff hosted by Matt Leinart, Mark Ingram, Reggie Bush, Rob Stone, Brady Quinn, and Urban Meyer.
Crew: Gus Johnson, Joel Klatt, Jenny Taft
Radio: 700 WLW
Crew: Dan Hoard, Jim Kelly Jr, Tony Pike, Mo Egger
This will be one of the biggest games in Nippert history for multiple reasons. Oklahoma is one of the biggest brands to ever visit Clifton, but not the best team. That recent honor goes to 2016 Houston, who came to town #6 in the country and defeated both Louisville and Oklahoma when they were ranked in the top 5.
The game will be won in the trenches. It will be extremely important for Corey Kiner and the running backs, along with the offensive line, to establish the run early. Xzavier Henderson is currently tied for first in the Big 12 with 20 receptions through 3 games. He comes in with 299 yards and getting him going early could help open up the rest of the offense. I will be paying attention to how Coach Satterfield manages the depth at both positions throughout this game.
Defensively, the line must get pressure but not over pursue and allow Gabriel to step up and use his legs with a wide open field in front of him like we saw from Brett Gabbert. I like the UC defensive line in this match up and think they can present some problems for OU's line.
In the secondary, teams have tried to test the Bearcats down the sideline which has led to multiple defensive pass interference calls over the past two weeks. This secondary must stay disciplined and not give Oklahoma extra opportunities.
How Cincinnati adjusts to Oklahoma's offensive tempo throughout the game will be interesting to watch. Depth in the secondary and how it is managed is something else I will be paying attention to.
Brent Venables said it best..."there's a lot of really good teams who have gone in there (Nippert) over the past 5 years and not had success."
Oklahoma comes in favored by 14.5 with the over/under set at 57.5.
See you Saturday at Noon.