On your way to the game? Getting ready to watch on TV? Either way, Jenni Carlson wants to bring some snacks to the party. Here are some bite-sized nuggets to devour before OU and OSU open their seasons.
It’s game day, my friends.
Are you ready?
Of course you are. College football fans in Oklahoma are always prepared for the start of the season. Whether you’re on your way to Norman or Stillwater for the season openers or you plan to watch the Sooners and Cowboys on TV, there may be a few things you missed.
So, starting today and continuing every game day this season, I’ll be doing a quick roundup of things you need to know. The nuggets will be tasty and digestible.
Consider it my contribution to your game-day snack table.
Sooner to watch: Tawee Walker. A surprise could-be starter at running back. It will either be him or Marcus Major according to the OU depth chart released Tuesday. Walker only had 18 carries a year ago but apparently beat out Jovantae Barnes and Gavin Sawchuk. Walker is a relative unknown, so here’s an obscure factoid to use to shock and amaze your friends: he was a youth-football teammate of former Sooner tailback Rhamondre Stevenson when they were growing up in Las Vegas.
Cowboy to watch: The guy playing quarterback, whoever that may be, is the easy answer, so let’s dig a little deeper. Keep an eye on Collin Oliver. The junior was a breakout star as a freshman at defensive end, then had a more subdued season last year. But now, he’s moved to linebacker. Cowboy defensive coordinator Bryan Nardo told me Oliver looks like he’s played the position his entire life.
Newbie Sooner to watch: I know he’s not starting, but keep a close eye on linebacker Dasan McCullough. He was a top-50 prospect coming out of high school, then became a freshman All-American in his one season at Indiana. He has serious star potential and could be the kind of linebacker Brent Venables sorely needs in his defense.
Newbie Cowboy to watch: Again, Alan Bowman is the easy answer, so let’s go with nose tackle Justin Kirkland. Just typing out his measurables makes me smile: 6-foot-4, 346 pounds. Can’t wait to see the big fella move around.
Familiar face in Norman: Arkansas State has three players who are products of Oklahoma high schools, including starting receiver Jeff Foreman. The former Del City High standout is the Red Wolves’ leading returning receiver. You might also spy linebacker Gavin Porter from Broken Arrow and left guard Austin Woods from Verdigris. Both are second stringers.
Familiar face in Stillwater: Linebacker Michael Onwuzurike transferred to Central Arkansas after playing two seasons at East Central in Ada. He finished his last season as a Tiger with 47 tackles, including seven for loss.
Cool stat at OU: The Sooners have faced Arkansas State twice before and Red Wolves coach Butch Jones three times, though never when he was the Arkansas State coach. The last meeting with Jones was particularly memorable — a 31-24 double-overtime win in 2015 at Tennessee. That was the night OU rallied from a 17-3 deficit in the fourth quarter and Baker Mayfield, in just his second OU start, announced his arrival as the Sooner signal caller. (See Berry Tramel’s excellent story on Jones).
Cool stat at OSU: You might notice pink decals on the helmets of Central Arkansas players. The Bears are wearing them this season in honor of Milisa Moore, a longtime administrative assistant in the Central Arkansas athletic department who died in May after a lengthy battle with breast cancer.
If you go … : Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. After a few cooler days, Saturday’s forecasted high is 96. The humidity isn’t expected to be insane, but with clear skies, you’ll want to be well hydrated if you’re headed to Norman or Stillwater. The second half will be the cooker at OU while the first half will be scorching at OSU.
If you don’t go … : An interesting side note about the TV broadcast of the OU game: the play by play will be done by Roy Philpott, not a familiar name to many but likely a familiar one to Brent Venables. Philpott is a 1999 Clemson grad who soon after graduation started CUTigers.com, a website dedicated to covering Clemson sports. Once upon a time, he also was the radio voice for baseball and women’s basketball at Clemson as well as hosting pre- and post-game shows for football and men’s basketball. Venables spent a decade at Clemson before returning to OU.
If I could be in two places: Being at TCU for Deion Sanders’ Colorado debut would be totally fascinating. I suspect turning around the Buffs will take some time — they have been downright horrible — but they are facing a team that should give them hope. Look at what the Horned Frogs did last season, going from so-so to national-title game. A quick turnaround is possible in the portal era.
Playing favorites: Season openers aren’t the best — high-stakes games with championships on the line are — but there are still moments during those first games of the season that give you goosebumps like no other. The OSU band parting, and Bullet sprinting down the length of the field. The OU Pride’s drumline stepping to the goal line with that drum cadence. The first “There’s Only One” video in Norman. The first “And hell is coming with me” video in Stillwater. Sign me up for all the goosebumps on Saturday.