Guerin Emig: The Sooners should do what they do best offensively – utilize Dillon Gabriel and his receivers for their biggest moments. But with the game on the road and Gavin Sawchuk a hot back, it also feels like an ideal situation for grinding it out down the stretch to get home safely.
Coaches are programmed to compliment their upcoming opponent. Thus Brent Venables had this to say about BYU this week: “They are a little bit like us a year ago. They are a little bit Jekyll and Hyde and have lost a couple of really tough games.”
That is being waaaay too kind, Brent.
Here are BYU’s five losses in chronological order: 38-27 at Kansas, 44-11 at TCU, 35-6 at Texas, 37-7 at West Virginia and 45-13 to Iowa State.
What the 5-5 Cougars have done is win a few really tough games. 14-0 over Sam Houston, 38-31 at Arkansas and 35-27 over Cincinnati. What the Cougars haven’t done the past three weeks is be competitive (see: those scores against Texas, West Virginia and Iowa State).
The Sooners lost two of those weeks but they were most definitely competitive. They also wadded up West Virginia 59-20 their last time out.
They seem to be in very good position headed to Provo for the first time in program history. Let’s check to be sure …
One player: Gavin Sawchuk
It’s tough to figure out what’s been worse since Big 12 play began – BYU’s offense or defense. Likewise, it’s tough to figure out what has let down Kalani Sitake worse – BYU’s run defense or pass defense.
It would be easy to spotlight Dillon Gabriel coming into this game, given that the Cougars are the only FBS team with a single-digit sack total (9) and rank 76th in pass defense.
Let’s prop up Sawchuk instead.
Here’s a running back who has gone from one carry against Texas, to six at Kansas, to 13 in Bedlam, to 22 against West Virginia. He has looked more assertive with every opportunity, topping out at 135 yards against the Mountaineers.
He should have a shot at a new career high in Provo against FBS’ 115th-ranked run defense.
Iowa State’s Abu Sama rushed for 110 yards on eight carries at BYU last week. West Virginia’s CJ Donaldson and Jaheim White combined for 248 yards against the Cougars the week before.
BYU “held” Texas’ Jonathon Brooks to 98 yards Oct. 28, and gave up 101 to Texas Tech’s Tahj Brooks Oct. 21.
The Sooners should do what they do best offensively Saturday – utilize Gabriel and his receivers for their biggest moments. But with the game on the road and Sawchuk a hot back, it also feels like an ideal situation for grinding it out down the stretch to get home safely.
One problem: Lawrence, Stillwater … and Provo?
The 10 a.m. kickoff makes this the earliest game in OU history (although keep an eye on the clock … the OU-Arkansas 2002 Cotton Bowl kicked at 10:10). That’s odd.
The Sooners have never played in Provo and at LaVell Edwards Stadium’s 4,630 feet elevation. That could take some getting used to.
Overconfidence could be a factor. Check out what Deseret News columnist Dick Harmon wrote after BYU-Iowa State: “What the last three games showed is how far Sitake must go in recruiting to even be competitive in this Power Five league. He’s behind. Far behind. And losses like this make it harder.” Oof.
Let’s land on something Venables said Tuesday: “We didn’t play well on the road the last couple of outings.”
The Sooners’ biggest issue isn’t time of day, altitude or even their opponent. It’s them.
Last week they showed us they could still play really strong football again. Now they must show us they can play really strong football away from home again.
One preposterous prediction: BYU begets Boise State
BYU is one of the few programs OU has never beaten, the Cougars having won in 1994 (at the Copper Bowl in Gary Gibbs’ final game) and 2009 (at Jerry World the night Sam Bradford tore up his shoulder).
The Sooners erase those dark memories with an emphatic victory Saturday, prompting Joe Castilgione to consider erasing another one.
Boise State is 1-0 against OU thanks to the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, the Broncos’ fairy tale versus one of the Sooners’ all-time nightmares. Castiglione comes from Provo, calls Boise AD Jeramiah Dickey and the two start negotiating a home-and-home beginning in the 2040s.
One pick: OU 37, BYU 14