A quick shout out to our friends at C&C Machine and especially Jack Shields for speaking with me, let’s jump into the good stuff!
1: Right now Iowa State has the best ranked defense in the Big 12, what are some ways Oklahoma can attack the Iowa State defense and have some success vs them?
It’s going to come down to how well OU is able to do on first downs, because this is what dictates the Sooners’ ability to run Jeff Lebby’s up-tempo offense. If this team can regularly get five-yard gains on first down, that train will get rolling, and it’s really tough to stop at that point. Having said that, doing what you need to do to establish that tempo is a tall task against Iowa State. It happened against Kansas, and the result was a 700-yard output. Certainly not expecting that this week!
2: OU’s defense has been struggling lately, but so has Iowa State’s offense. What are some key matchups you’re looking for in the OU defense vs Iowa State offense battle?
OU’s defensive success is dependent on the front three of four getting home with the pass rush, or at least creating enough disruption to throw off an offense’s timing. It’s been a while since that’s been the case, unfortunately. OU just doesn’t have elite guys up front this year, so teams with decent offensive lines have been able to take advantage. This game should come down to who wins that battle up front (as simple as that comes across).
3: Venables was considered a home run hire coming into Oklahoma but has obviously endured some troubles in year 1, what are your overall thoughts about him this far and going forward?
To be very clear, he’s far from any kind of hot seat. I think most people recognize that he just doesn’t have who he needs on defense to run his particular system. As the current guys become more familiar, and the new recruits come in, things should turn around.
Offensively, OU is always going to have the horses. Five-star QB Jackson Arnold arrives in 2023, so I don’t think too many people are concerned with the long-term outlook on that side.
As far as this season is concerned, he’s been able to keep the locker room together in spite of the bad stretch. Can’t say the same for Jimbo Fisher. Can’t say the same for countless Texas head coaches over the years. That alone is a good sign.
Overall, he’s the right guy to lead this program into a new conference. The recruiting is already seeing an uptick (currently No. 4 nationally for 2023), and I think his general coaching philosophy aligns with the move a lot more than his predecessor’s. Don’t get me wrong – Lincoln Riley truly is a great coach, but his move was probably best for both parties long-term.
4: Star safety Billy Bowman got injured against TCU, Venables said that he will be back “sooner rather than later,” but what has OU been doing in his absence and what can we expect to see Saturday?
He’ll likely be out this weekend, unfortunately. In short, they’ve been lost in his absence. With that said, one guy to watch at the safety position is freshman Robert-Spears Jennings. He finally got his chance against Kansas, and he absolutely looks the part of an elite safety from a physical standpoint. His physicality in the run game was refreshing, to say the least.
5: Do you believe in the Nebraska curse?
Ha! Honestly, the Cyclones were a lot better than their record last year, too! Close games come down to a mixture of luck and mental toughness, but I really don’t think Iowa State lacks the latter. It goes without saying that Nebraska has lacked the latter, both on the field and on the sidelines.
6: After coming back from concussion Dillon Gabriel threw for over 400 yards against KU, how vital is he to the offense and do you expect another big performance from him in Ames?
As enormous as it gets. He’s FAR from perfect, but he at least allows for the threat of the downfield game. If you watched OU with Davis Beville, you saw how impactful that absence was. OU would probably get goose-egged again this Saturday without Gabriel, honestly.
As I mentioned early, it’ll come down to how well things go on first down. I’m expecting mixed results and a tight game.