I’m hoping it will be like some big games in OU’s past seasons where OU comes out firing from the opening snap and lays it on them all game. But, this is what I believe to be most probable based on past experience:
1. Ignore the first couple of drives for each team. I expect our offense to struggle the first part of the game and we will likely see some scary bigish plays from Clemson’s offense to start the game. Mike and Lincoln will get the new wrinkles figured out and the game will really start. What’s important is that we are not down 14+ points when that happens.
I think we need to survive the first 4 drives of the game.
Conversely, if we come out looking dominate in the first 4 drives of the game it’s important we don’t get overconfident and let up a bit because it is usually not indicative of how the rest of the game will go. Essentially the game usually starts over after the first 4 drives and things often get reversed.
2. I expect the offense to score considerably more points in the 4th quarter than any other quarter. This is how Riley roles. He seems to wait until the final 1/3 of the game to really figure out how to beat the defense. I wouldn’t be surprised if at least half of our points come in the final 1/3 of regulation.
3. I expect a couple of personal fouls, but I’m really hoping the guys have learned their lesson. They will be fired up for this game and emotions are going to be high. It’ll get nasty. We absolutely cannot have stupid fouls, especially on offense or 3rd and long with the defense. A personal foul on offense is basically taking points off the board.
4. We must avoid 3rd and long at all costs. I expect there’s only two ways we pick up 3rd and longs. Either Baker runs the ball himself to pick it up or we run that shallow cross screen. I fully expect we will run that cross screen at least a couple of times on 3rd and long. Without question we’ll run it at least once.
5. With BV running a lot of man coverage and liking to bring pressure I expect Baker will be able to get some big runs up the middle of the field. I suspect Riley will be calling plays that clear out the middle of the field in order to allow Baker room to run. That said, I can totally see BV going against what he’s done all year and using a bunch of zone coverage like he ran at OU in order to throw off our game plan and limit Baker’s ability to run.
6. I don’t expect to have much success with the zone read plays. Unless we surprise them with it I expect they will do a really good job on the edges playing both options. Running in general will be tough but I think it’ll be a lot of feast and famine with the run game and finally getting it going in the 4th quarter after struggling most of the game (with exception of some big runs peppered in when the defense guesses wrong).
7. I expect this to a defensive battle for most of the game with our defense keeping us in the game. I expect Clemson will get some big plays on us, but we will be aggressive and fighting and will control the line of scrimmage which will force quite a few 3 and outs. I expect Clemson’s most successful plays to be rolling the QB out with some mid range completions. I imagine they will frustrate us by picking up way more 3rd and longs than they should and keep drives alive that should have been punts.
8. Riley will have several plays that he knows will work really well based on a weakness in Clemson’s defense and the way they play certain things. He typically has a few plays that he goes to when he finally gets the look he saw on film and those will be big plays. He does this exceptionally well. BV is such a mad scientist that if there’s a game in which Riley’s prepared plays don’t work it’s this one, but I still think he’ll get his. And these plays will be things we haven’t run all year. Designed specifically to take advantage of a specific thing that he sees on film.
I imagine we’ll also have a trick play that doesn’t work. lol Haven’t had too good luck with those overall this season!
9. This is just a gut feeling but I think A. Thomas is going to get an interception in this game. I also expect our corners to play lights out and really dominate the receivers making it very difficult for Watson to pass. Sanchez is no doubt champing at the bit to show how good he is. He seems to go in waves like that where he’ll struggle and then refocus and be amazing.
10. I heard a stat that Baker is first in the country against the blitz. His completion % is high and he has 13 TD’s and no INT’s. I think this is a misleading stat. Baker has not been very good against pressure as he has opted to scramble instead of looking to pass. Not passing the ball when there’s any kind of pressure will keep your completion % high and will prevent INT’s. What should be looked at is the number of times he’s lost yards vs the blitz.
I expect Baker to feel a lot of pressure especially on 3rd and longs and struggle in the first half with panicking and leaving the pocket way too soon. I think we’ll see quite a bit of Baker running for his life on passing plays and either throwing the ball away or getting tackled before he can make it past the LOS. I think he’ll settle down in the second half, though, and Riley will find ways to deal with the pressure.
Now, this is all what my brain tells me based on the information from the past. What my gut tells me is that OU is going to dominate the game, but that could just be optimism bias. So feel free to believe either my brain or my gut, whichever you think is most trustworthy in this case.