OU vs. SMU: One player, one problem, one preposterous prediction and one pick

OU vs. SMU: One player, one problem, one preposterous prediction and one pick

OU’s defense can take a more noticeable step forward by holding down SMU Saturday. Danny Stutsman must lead the way.

Guerin Emig

By Guerin Emig

| Sep 7, 2023, 2:08pm CDT

Guerin Emig

By Guerin Emig

Sep 7, 2023, 2:08pm CDT

Oklahoma wasted Arkansas State 73-0 last week and Brent Venables said: “We know it’s not going to always be that easy.”

SMU will certainly make it tougher on the Sooners. Just look at their skill players – quarterback Preston Stone, running backs LJ Johnson and Jaylan Knighton and wide receiver Jordan Hudson were four-star high school prospects. Johnson transferred to SMU from Texas A&M, Knighton from Miami and Hudson from TCU.

Feels like OU had better buckle down defensively. In fact, let’s start a Sooners-Mustangs breakdown with the game’s most critical defender…

One player: OU linebacker Danny Stutsman

No Sooner defender overextended himself against Arky State. Stutsman and Kobie McKenzie, who is battling to back up starting MIKE linebacker Jaren Kanak, led OU with four tackles. 

Stutsman should at least double that total as he tracks Johnson and Knighton Saturday evening. He doesn’t need to reach his career high of 18 (at Texas Tech last November), but he does need to impact the game. He needs to make Johnson and Knighton feel him.

That’s something Louisiana Tech could not accomplish in losing 38-14 at SMU last week, when Johnson and Knighton combined for 192 yards on 31 carries. Johnson went for 128 himself, 67 coming on one burst. 

“We know we have a long way to go,” Stutsman said after polishing off Arkansas State, “but we’re making steps in the right way.”

OU’s defense can take a more noticeable step forward by holding down SMU Saturday. Think less than 20 points. 

Stutsman, the Big 12’s leading tackler last season, must lead the way. 

One problem: Seriously, this isn’t going to be as easy

Stay with the OU defense.

Arkansas State ran just 50 plays last week. Hot as it was in midday, OU defenders barely broke a sweat before they were back on the sideline watching their offense and special teams ring up 73 points.

SMU ran 79 plays against Louisiana Tech. The Mustangs averaged 81 plays last season, Rhett Lashlee’s debut as head coach, to rank third in FBS. 

Don’t expect the Sooners to go as far into their bench as they did in the opener, when position coach Ted Roof estimated he used 12-13 linebackers. Do expect Roof and Venables to rely on a steady rotation from their first and second strings. 

Freshman Kip Lewis needs to help Stutsman at WILL linebacker. Konnor Near and/or Kobie McKenzie need to help starting MIKE ‘backer Jaren Kanak. Assistants Todd Bates and Miguel Chavis probably need to go 12-13 deep across OU’s defensive line to keep pressure on Stone. 

“I think it will be tested in a different way,” Venables said of his pass rush in anticipation of SMU. 

OU’s entire defense will be tested in a different way. The Sooners might avoid the heat of the day Saturday, but they’ll sweat plenty.

One preposterous prediction

SMU is headed to the Atlantic Coast Conference next year. Interesting, since there might be 50,000 fans at Owen Field Saturday night unaware that the Mustangs are currently representing the American Athletic Conference.

The whole realignment thing is insane. We’ve just come to either accept it or insulate ourselves from it. We move right on and figure we’ll adjust. I’m as guilty of that as anyone. 

On that note, I predict SMU has better luck in its first season of ACC football than Texas does in its first try in the SEC. 

The Longhorns host Georgia, Florida, Kentucky and Mississippi State next fall. That’s a 3-1 record at best. They travel to Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M with the annual Red River rumble still scheduled for Dallas. That feels like 2-2 at best. 

I have no idea when they’ll figure out next year’s ACC ledger. I do believe SMU can find its way to five or six ACC wins.

Thus the Mustangs’ first football bragging right over Texas since Reggie Dupard — REMEMBER HIM?!! — scored four touchdowns in a 44-14 SWC rout Oct. 26, 1985. 

One pick: Shetland Ponies 41, Pony Express 21

 

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Guerin Emig is a columnist for the Sellout Crowd network. Read his work at selloutcrowd.com and guerinemig.com. Reach out with feedback and/or ideas at [email protected] or (918) 629-6229. Follow him on Twitter at @GuerinEmig and Instagram at @guerin.emig. .

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