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Is Oklahoma the monster we're making it out to be?

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The Sooners are really, really good. But are they scary good?

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Hear me, Sooners fans. Oklahoma's a great, great team. Right now, they're much, much better than Tennessee. That said, I wonder: Is Oklahoma the monster we're making it out to be?

Look, we're Tennessee. We eat frightening for breakfast. Take our 2012 Alabama game preview, in which we discovered that the Monster was #1 nationally in 5 of 7 defensive categories. Or take our preview of the 2013 game at Eugene against Oregon, when we learned that the Monster was in the top three in 4 of 8 offensive categories. There are several other examples, including most of our recent annual previews of Alabama games.

We know scary when we see it, so we don't startle easily. And although there are aspects of this Oklahoma Sooners team that are downright intimidating, I'm not yet convinced that the team on the whole is on the same level of scary to which we've become accustomed. That doesn't mean they won't beat us. It doesn't even mean that they won't beat us badly. After all, Stoops may attempt to pummel us just because he's jealous of our older, more experienced brothers, and if he has his way and gets us pinned to the mat unable to move and just continues to wail on a victim he's already rendered helpless, well we may put him in the Monster Hall of Fame next week. But I just don't think that's going to happen.

So what are the keys to Tennessee making this a game and avoiding the Great Pummeling?

Prepare for the worst. The only downright frightening aspect to this game is Tennessee's run game against Oklahoma's run defense. The Sooners' run defense is unlike anything we've seen so far this year, and making matters worse, UT's offensive line and rushing offense has not exactly been setting the field on fire. We'll be lucky to get 100 yards on the ground, and we just need to get our minds around that, figure out a workable Plan B, and then milk that thing 'til it's dry.

Plan B -- Pass the ball. Oklahoma's pass defense so far this season really doesn't look like anything special despite the fact that its first two games came against Louisiana Tech and Tulsa. Combine that with the fact that Tennessee's effectiveness on offense is almost certain to come through the air, and you have what is probably the most important matchup for the Vols. If Justin Worley can stay on target and perhaps even stretch the field, then the big and talented receivers can do the rest. Help us, Marquez Pig Smith Kenobi. You're our only hope.

Mitigate on defense. There's no real advantage here; it's more a feeling that the perceived disadvantage is not as troublesome as we're making it out to be. The Sooners are averaging 222 yards on the ground against the early slate, and while that may sound like a lot, consider that 39 other teams are averaging more rushing yards per game, including teams like Indiana (1st, with 455 per game) and Texas St. (This is a team? Yes, and they rank 3rd with 378 per game.) And the Sooners are putting up only 286 passing yards per game. Compare and contrast that with kidB's favorite quarterback Justin Worley, who's putting up 260. Chest bump for the three-touchdown underdog. If Tennessee can minimize the damage here and just keep from getting pinned and pummeled, then it's just up to Worley and the receivers.

Predictions. Tennessee: 90 yards rushing, 250 yards passing, 17 points. Oklahoma: 170 yards rushing, 240 yards passing, 35 points. Forecast? Most likely a sound beating, but a fair chance of avoiding the Pin and Pummel and a slight chance of Something Really Interesting.

Here's a closer look at Oklahoma's schedule, stats, and players.

National Unit Rankings

OFFENSIVE RANKINGS
Statistic National
Rank
Conference Rank Value National Leader Value Conference Leader Value
Rushing Offense (124 ranked) 40 4 222.0 Indiana 455.0 Baylor 263.0
Passing Offense (124 ranked) 40 5 286.0 Washington St. 460.5 Baylor 384.0
Total Offense (124 ranked) 29 4 508.0 Texas St. 697.0 Baylor 647.0
Scoring Offense (124 ranked) 9 2 50.0 Texas St.
Florida
65.0
65.0
Baylor 57.5
Team Passing Efficiency (124 ranked) 64 7 137.43 Army 250.00 Baylor 179.88
Passing Yards per Completion (124 ranked) 40 3 13.30 LSU 24.45 Baylor 16.70
Passes Had Intercepted (122 ranked) 34 3 1 33 teams tied 0 West Virginia
Kansas
0
0
Sacks Allowed (124 ranked) 7 3 0.50 6 teams tied 0.00 Baylor
Texas Tech
0.00
0.00
Tackles for Loss Allowed (124 ranked) 3 1 2.00 Western Mich. 1.00 Oklahoma 2.00
Red Zone Offense (124 ranked) 50 6 0.900 42 teams tied 1.000 5 teams tied 1.000

DEFENSIVE RANKINGS
Statistic National
Rank
Conference Rank Value National Leader Value Conference Leader Value
Rushing Defense (124 ranked) 13 2 74.0 Baylor 27.0 Baylor 27.0
Passing Yards Allowed (124 ranked) 53 6 212.5 Florida 45.0 TCU 56.0
Team Passing Efficiency Defense (124 ranked) 26 5 100.70 LSU 50.58 Texas 61.03
Passes Intercepted (67 ranked) 7 2 4 Central Mich. 6 Texas 5
Total Defense (124 ranked) 28 4 286.5 Florida 125.0 Baylor 134.5
Scoring Defense (124 ranked) 14 2 11.5 Texas St.
Florida
0.0
0.0
Baylor 3.0
Team Sacks (111 ranked) 58 5 2.00 Baylor 6.00 Baylor 6.00
Team Tackles for Loss (124 ranked) 90 8 4.5 TCU 13.0 TCU 13.0
Red Zone Defense (88 ranked) 18 2 0.600 Florida
Texas St.
0.000
0.000
Kansas 0.500

SPECIAL TEAMS AND TURNOVERS RANKINGS
Statistic National
Rank
Conference Rank Value National Leader Value Conference Leader Value
Net Punting (123 ranked) 81 7 36.57 Alabama 51.00 Kansas 46.00
Punt Return Defense (124 ranked) 35 6 1.50 TCU -4.00 TCU -4.00
Punt Returns (124 ranked) 68 5 7.20 San Jose St. 36.50 Iowa St. 29.25
Kickoff Return Defense (124 ranked) 58 6 19.83 Indiana 0.00 TCU 6.00
Kickoff Returns (121 ranked) 23 4 26.40 Georgia 55.00 Baylor 34.50
Turnover Margin (124 ranked) 19 2 1.50 Florida 5.00 Kansas 3.00
Fewest Penalties Per Game (124 ranked) 15 1 4.00 Wyoming 1.50 TCU
Oklahoma
4.00
4.00
Fewest Penalty Yards Per Game (124 ranked) 51 5 47.00 Wyoming 9.50 Iowa St. 43.00

Players to Watch

Category Player National
Rank
Value
OFFENSE
Rushing Yards (200 ranked) Keith Ford
Alex Ross
Samaje Perine
82
99
123
138
126
110
Rushing Yards Per Game (197 ranked) Keith Ford
Alex Ross
Samaje Perine
89
107
129
69.0
63.0
55.0
Rush Yards Per Carry (167 ranked) Samaje Perine 88 4.78
Rushing TDs (16 ranked) Keith Ford
Alex Ross
5
16
4
3
Passing Efficiency (115 ranked) Trevor Knight 56 138.6
Completion Percentage (115 ranked) Trevor Knight 73 0.588
Completions Per Game (147 ranked) Trevor Knight 49 20.00
Passing Yards (150 ranked) Trevor Knight 28 552
Passing Yards Per Game (149 ranked) Trevor Knight 31 276.0
Passing Yards per Completion (115 ranked) Trevor Knight 25 13.80
Yards per Pass Attempt (115 ranked) Trevor Knight 39 8.12
Passing TDs (30 ranked)
Receiving Yards (150 ranked) Sterling Shepard
Durron Neal
12
139
226
112
Receiving Yards Per Game (198 ranked) Sterling Shepard
Durron Neal
15
155
113.0
56.0
Receptions Per Game (197 ranked) Sterling Shepard
Durron Neal
53
145
6.0
4.0
Receiving TDs (17 ranked) Sterling Shepard 17 2
Points Responsible For (199 ranked) Keith Ford
Trevor Knight
Mike Hunnicutt
Alex Ross
51
51
97
114
24
24
22
18
Points Responsible For Per Game (199 ranked) Keith Ford
Trevor Knight
Mike Hunnicutt
Alex Ross
60
60
117
137
12.0
12.0
11.0
9.0
Scoring (150 ranked) Keith Ford
Mike Hunnicutt
Alex Ross
Sterling Shepard
14
44
64
150
12.0
11.0
9.0
6.0
Total Offense (200 ranked) Trevor Knight 35 302.0
Category Player National
Rank
Actual
DEFENSE
Interceptions (39 ranked) Zack Sanchez
Caleb Gastelum
Geneo Grissom
4
39
39
1.0
0.5
0.5
Passes Defended (20 ranked)
Sacks (98 ranked)
Solo Tackles (111 ranked)
Tackles For Loss (95 ranked)
Total Tackles (218 ranked)

Category Player National
Rank
Actual
SPECIAL TEAMS
All Purpose (197 ranked) Sterling Shepard
Alex Ross
Keith Ford
51
58
123
132.00
128.00
101.50
Blocked Kicks (0 ranked)
Combined Kick Returns (98 ranked) Alex Ross 65 99
Field Goal Percentage (100 ranked) Mike Hunnicutt 1 1.000
Field Goals Per Game (89 ranked) Mike Hunnicutt 26 1.50
Forced Fumbles (33 ranked) Jordan Evans 33 0.50
Fumbles Recovered (11 ranked) Jordan Phillips 11 1
Kickoff Return TDs (1 ranked)
Kickoff Returns (101 ranked)
Punt Return TDs (1 ranked)
Punt Returns (83 ranked) Sterling Shepard 43 9.0
Punting (78 ranked)

Schedules

Oklahoma Logo
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 8/30/14 win 48-16 coverage
Tulsa Golden Hurricane 9/6/14 win 52-7 coverage
Tennessee Logo
Utah State Aggies 8/31/14 win 38-7 coverage
Arkansas State Red Wolves 9/6/14 win 34-19 coverage