Our thanks to the fine folks at Crimson and Cream Machine this week. Donnie Hazlewood was a guest on our podcast Tuesday, where we discussed many of these topics in greater detail. And Matt Hofeld was good enough to trade questions and answers with us this week - you can find the Tennessee portion at their site.
After the Vols were repeatedly beaten over the top by Bowling Green, Tennessee fans are rightfully concerned about the secondary. How much of the vertical passing game did you see in Lincoln Riley's new offense?
I think Riley had to open up the offense more than expected against Akron and take the team vertical. Oklahoma's struggle to run the football resulted in record-setting performances by quarterback Baker Mayfieldand Joe Mixon, who had the most receiving yards by a freshman running back in school history.
What was your biggest takeaway from the decision to play Baker Mayfield at quarterback, and then the way he played against Akron?
The fact that he broke a record that Sam Bradford set in 2007 for the most passing yards in a season opener (388) says a lot right there. I think the biggest things that stood out with Mayfield were his patience and the ability to put the ball on target. I'm not confident that the quarterbacks from 2014 could throw any of the three TDs that Mayfield had last Saturday night.
Oklahoma struggled to run the ball against the Zips, just 100 yards on 33 carries. Samaje Perine had just 33 yards on 11 carries. What do you think was the biggest issue there?
The offensive line was getting beat, plain and simple. I don't think the Sooners tried to do anything special with their running game but the fact that they couldn't just line up and run over a team like Akron says a lot about how much the line needs to improve.
Last year Oklahoma sacked Justin Worley five times and hit him countless others. Eric Striker is the name Vol fans will remember, but how does the rest of OU's pass rush compare to last season?
I think the jury is still out on this one because OU wasn't really tested in pass defense on Saturday. I loved the way the defense line controlled the line of scrimmage,and they did record a couple of sacks, but Akron's plan was to shorten the game by keeping the ball on the ground and they pretty much stuck with that.
Do you make anything of all the chatter this week about Neyland Stadium and the SEC from Striker and Bob Stoops?
I think that Bob Stoops does get annoyed by the onslaught of S.E.C. hype but I don't think that's what he was aiming for this week. I think that he was just trying to make the point that they've played in big road games out of conference with regularity and this wasn't something new to them. Eric Striker on the other hand was just straight throwing some shade. He grew up in S.E.C. country and seems to have come to despise it.
This is a breakthrough opportunity for Tennessee, a still-young team having to deal with pressure on that level. How heavy is the pressure on Oklahoma in this game, and how important is a win for Stoops and Oklahoma's narrative right now after struggling in the back half of 2014?
While fans were certainty pleased with the 38-3 win over Akron in the season opener I'm not sure that anyone is really putting a lot of stock into it. This is the game that will tell us where the 2015 Oklahoma football team is. Last year was a disaster on so many levels and the proof that it's behind them will come on Saturday. The last time we saw OU in a nationally televised game they were getting destroyed by Clemson in the bowl. This game provides opportunity to prove that isn't where this team is anymore, or it provides opportunity for a massive dumpster fire to take shape within the fan base should the Sooners drop another clunker.