The Other Side: How the Sooners can trounce the Cougars
With spots now available in the Big 12, Houston will look to prove itself worthy of consideration when they face the University of Oklahoma Sooners on Saturday.
Kelli Stacy, a staff writer for The Daily Oklahoman, joins The Cougar as a guest to look at how both teams match up.
Oklahoma passing attack versus Houston secondary
With the loss of Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield is looking at a wide receiving core with little experience. This means the passing attack could struggle in the first game of the season.
Mayfield said he’s going to lean a lot on the running game, which will be necessary if the young wide receivers struggle. Senior Dede Westbrook will likely become Mayfield’s go-to target, despite the fact that offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said the ball would be spread around more this season.
The Cougars lost quite a few starters in the secondary, including star cornerback William Jackson III, who was drafted in the first round of the NFL draft.
Despite OU’s lack of experience, offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley’s play calling will remain simple enough in the first game and give OU the edge over Houston’s inexperienced secondary.
Houston passing attack vs Oklahoma secondary
Houston quarterback and Earl Campbell Award winner Greg Ward Jr. will be the Sooners’ biggest problem on Saturday.
Ward is a mobile quarterback who’s also a down-the-field threat. Despite being known for his mobility, he passed for 2,828 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2015, proving that he’s a threat as a passer as well.
A key for the Sooners will be keeping Ward in the pocket and forcing him to pass, and with the Sooners returning All-Big 12 cornerback Jordan Thomas, senior cornerback Dakota Austin and safeties Ahmad Thomas and Steven Parker, the Sooners will have the advantage.
Oklahoma rushing attack vs Houston front
The Sooners return veteran running back duo Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon, who rushed for a total of 2,102 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2015.
Senior Daniel Brooks and freshman Abdul Adams will help out in the backfield some, giving the Sooners a deep stable of running backs. Houston returns most of their starters in the defensive front, including Steven Taylor and Tyus Bowser.
With the Sooners having such inexperienced wide receivers, Mayfield will lean heavily on the run game, but the Cougars will have their hands full with the Perine and Mixon.
Houston rushing attack vs Oklahoma front
Texas transfer Duke Catalon will be starting at running back for the Cougars against OU. Catalon sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules and this will be his first college start.
Houston’s run game will likely be led by Ward, who is known for his running ability. In 2015, Ward ran for over 1,000 yards and set a single-season team record with 21 rushing touchdowns.
The Sooners lost defensive end Charles Tapper as well as linebackers Eric Striker and Devante Bond, meaning one or more players will need to step up to replace their production. With inexperienced players, the Sooners will likely struggle to contain Ward.
Kelli Stacy is a staff writer at the Oklahoma Daily.