VTM: Fans go week to week with how their team plays and Oklahoma fans are no different. From "burn it down" after the UT loss to "everything is fine" after the 55-0 win at K-State, which team should we expect on Saturday?
CCM: I don't think anyone was really ready to burn anything down after losing to Texas and I'm quite sure that no one believes that everything is fine. There is frustration there over the struggles of the offensive line and some of the slow starts the team has had but I also think there's an understanding that Rome wasn't built in a day with the implementation of the new offense.
That said, you have to be impressed with what the Sooners did in Manhattan last weekend. To say their manhood was challenged in the week that followed the Texas loss would be accurate and Oklahoma responded with the most complete performance they've had, on either side of the ball, this season. This week will show how much of that resolve they can maintain.
VTM: It seems like there is a growing contingent of schools utilizing not only former Tech coaches under Leach to run their offenses, but also Tech grads. Art Briles at Baylor, Sonny Cumbie at TCU and now Lincoln Riley at OU. Have you seen a definite impact yet with Riley's system as opposed to Heupel's?
CCM: Yeah, the Sooners are experiencing a revival in the passing attack once again. It's crazy because Heupel was a "Leach disciple" when he played under him in 1999. Yet, Heupel struggled to run the offense to the same extent. I don't believe that Riley has fully been able to implement the offense to his liking yet but the initial results have been good.
Now, to be fair, the receiver position had become a bit depleted and Riley is benefiting from JUCO transfers Dede Westbrook and Jarvis Baxter as supporting characters to Sterling Shepard. Riley's decision to bring the tight end back into the offense.
VTM: Now to be fair, with Heupel as OC everyone talked about he couldn't open it up as much because Bob Stoops wanted the power run game and that's one of the reason's Lincoln was brought in. Now, it seems OU fans are talking about why there isn't as much play calling toward the running game? How do you see it?
CCM: I'm not sure about that and sure would like to know who "everyone" is. Stoops said a couple seasons back that he wanted to see the offense opened up and, for whatever reason, it never happened. I do think that there was a bit of a rift among the coaching staff about the direction of the offense which helped usher Heupel and Jay Norvell out the door.
Oklahoma had to run the ball last season out of necessity because of the ineptness of the passing game. They result was a record-breaking freshman campaign by Samaje Perine, and of course fans want to see more of him. Like I said earlier though, I'm not sure that Riley has been able to fully implement the offense yet to his liking.
VTM: A lot is being made with Baker Mayfield and the way he departed the Tech program and came to OU. Lot's of OU fans saying the "griping" about Mayfield from Tech fans is just a lot of hurt feelings. He made it clear he never wanted to be at Tech to begin with and that OU or TCU were always his first choices. Is Mayfield preparing for this game to really rub Tech's nose in it or is he just glad he's where he wanted to be all along?
CCM: No, he certainly has a vendetta against the Red Raiders. He feels, and many OU fans agree, that he earned a scholarship in 2013. You're either on one side of the fence or the other but those sympathetic to him feel the fact that he wasn't on scholarship warranted him being released and that Kingsbury was just bent that he was leaving.
Mayfield has won over the fans and, more importantly, his teammates and they'll all be there to show their support on Saturday. I'm not sure that it'll have much of a positive effect for the Sooners though, you can only play so much on emotion. At some point you have to play, and win, on your talents and not your feeligs.
VTM: Mayfield has had a good start to the season, (Mainly because of LIncoln Riley's outstanding system and playcalling that upholds the greatest traditions of Texas Tech), and where we see flaws that showed up in 2013... OU fans seem to put that on the offensive line or a bad play call. How big of a day do you expect Mayfield to have on Saturday on a scale of UT to KSU?
CCM: You do realize that Bob Stoops introduced the Big 12 to the spread offense in 1999 when he brought Mike Leach on as his offensive coordinator, right? Mayfield played like a freshman at times in 2013 but he was still good enough to be named the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year. Has he been perfect in 2015? Nope, not at all. He has been pretty dang good though.
The problems along Oklahoma's offensive line aren't imaginary though. They've struggled to open up running lanes and have buckled under pressure time and again. People aren't lining up to bag on Mayfield for that, but rather to commend him for the way he's guided the offense and kept plays alive when flushed from the pocket.
With all due respect, it's kind of hard to bet against a guy who is playing against a defense that gives up 37 points on average and is allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 65% of their passes for nearly 300 yards per game. Yes, I would expect Mayfield to have a good day on Saturday.
VTM: The majority opinion is that if OU wins, Mayfield won't have a huge part. It'll be mainly a game like last year where OU tries to wear down Tech via the running game and pull away late. How do you see this game unfolding?
CCM: If Mayfield doesn't have a huge part in what Oklahoma's offense does on Saturday then something went drastically wrong. I wouldn't assume that the Sooners are going to change what they do offensively to the extent where they take the ball out of the hands of one of their biggest playmakers.
Keep in mind that Oklahoma's offense limped in to Lubbock last year and were depleted in personnel, particularly in the passing game. With Texas Tech coming in dead last in the conference in run defense I would expect Perine and Joe Mixon to have some success but this offense has been pass first from game one this season and I would be really surprised if that changed.
VTM: Give Tech fans a few players to keep an eye on this Saturday..
CCM: On the offensive side of the ball I mentioned the new receivers already but tight end Mark Andrews is fun to watch as well. Running back Joe Mixon is a dangerous as a receiving threat while also averaging 4.9 yards per carry.
Defensively some of the same characters are still there. Charles Tapper and Eric Striker can still make things tough in the offensive backfield but the Sooners have also made improvements on the back end as well. Jordan Thomas has secured the other corner position and is having a solid season and Steven Parker has grown up a bit at the safety position.
VTM: Keys to the game for OU?
CCM: Protect the ball. I think it starts right there. This will be a game where both defenses play for stops and you won't want to help them out by turning the ball over. The second key is tackling in space. It's hard to get to the quarterback when he's running the "quick release" offense but you can limit his production by tackling on first contact. Finally, Oklahoma has to capitalize on any Texas Tech mistakes that may come their way.
VTM: Tech gets the upset if...?
CCM: If the three things mentioned above don't happen for Oklahoma.
VTM: And lastly your prediction?
CCM: This is going to be the strongest test of the season for Oklahoma's secondary and I'm not convinced yet they they're up for the challenge. I'm also not convinced that Tech can stop the Sooners either so I have OU winning a shootout by the final score of 49-42.
Ah Sooners... The tone here is laughable and I have so much I want to respond too, but it's cool. Tech fans, just roll with it.