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Scouting The Competition: OU & A&M Football

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I watched both of their games from whistle to whistle yesterday. I saw some things that raise eyebrows with respect to A&M and some things to cause sphincter puckering with respect to OU.

A&M

Offense:

In my A&M pre-season preview, I asked if Stephen McGee was a running QB who can throw a little (Scott Frost) or a passing QB who likes to run (Drew Henson). Unless he tore his tricep again flexing in offseason media shoots, he's Frost -- whether by ability or offensive design. He ran the ball very well and made excellent decisions in the option game when they ganged up on Goodson (who has been bottled up to date), but he's not lighting up the sky in College Station. A&M's straight zone and iso blocking looks with Big Boy Lane are effective. He's getting holes and dude is a fat ballerina between the tackles and money in short yardage. He also had a couple of nice runs when the A&M offensive line just blew Fresno State off of the ball and J-Train was able to run free before he was tackled by pizza cravings and angina.

The A&M passing offense is putrid. This is a dink-and-dunk passing offense and though they have identified Tellus in the passing game, he's the only receiving threat on the entire roster. He's also catching most of his balls 5 yards from the LOS. To say that their WR corps is putrid is an insult to raw fish guts stored in Roseanne Barr's snatch on an August day in a Riyadh tanning bed. McGee was 13 of 24 for 79 yards against FSU with a long completion of 13 yards. Six yards per completion. I really can't conceptualize how a Division I wide receiver can't beat a WAC CB in one-on-one coverage at least 50% of the time, but I can't conceptualize Dennis Kucinich For President either, so forgive me.

The OL played well and Tellus is an animal run blocker, but as defensive disrespect mounts for the Aggie passing game, you'll begin to see teams gang up and outnumber their fronts substantially - from the inside out. This will have two primary impacts on A&M's offense: 1. This will limit Lane running inside, which he did well against FSU and Montana St 2. It will increase McGee's carries as they run more traditional spread option with Goodson to open the field horizontally since they can't do so vertically. Hits on McGee will rise markedly as will his potential for injury. Perhaps McGee has the VY indestructible gene, but assuming he's human, this could pose a problem down the road.

A&M becomes a completely different football team if they can develop just one meaningful downfield receiving threat in their WR corps. But that guy hasn't shown his face yet.

Defense

Bend-but-don't-break continues to hold sway in College Station. The front four is being used as space eaters and make very few plays directly. Tupe and Dodge are continuing to line up deep and A&M does a nice job of funneling the run game to them where they cleaned up reasonably well against the Bulldogs; the outside safeties in the 4-2-5 are handling the exterior run game capably. The pass defense is another story. It's not so much that Fresno State had guys running completely uncovered, it's more that A&M's defensive backs don't have the ability to make plays on the ball or have sufficient confidence in their recovery speed to clamp down in their zone coverages. If you execute against A&M, you can roll down the field at 10-12 yards a clip. Part of A&M's defense is predicated on the notion that - evident in the first half against Fresno - college offenses can't make 80 yard drives without drops, holding penalties, turnovers. But when an offense doesn't make stupid mistakes - see the second half - A&M may as well roll out some mannequins mounted on remote controlled cars to play defensive back. I haven't quite figured out if their issues are schematic or personnel based. Or which may be causing the other. More games and more snaps will tell the tale.

Oklahoma

Offense

Sam Bradford can throw the ball. That is to say, he can throw all of the Jason White routes - slants on the money, straight flies with nice air to let the WR run under, screens with the ball perfectly placed for the offensive player to make his move, nice accuracy, nice placement, nice timing, nice poise. Most of these off of the three step drop with the ball out of his hands in about 2 seconds. These are the things that rip the asshole of mindlessly blitzing defenses or passive zone teams. We sort of alternate between those two in our schemes, in case you're wondering. If you have elite personnel at DB, you can jump those routes and choke off their passing game before it even gets started (see USC '04), but no one in the Big 12 has those guys this year. Troubling.

Malcolm Kelly is probably the best WR in the league. Physical, huge, hard to tackle, explosive, sure hands. I'm not blown away by their other guys, but they're perfectly adequate and they can do some things to keep the attention from being solely on Kelly. Gresham is a huge target and he's starting to reveal himself as a reliable guy on 3rd and intermediate - a chain mover. There's a completeness and sharpness to their passing game that is surprising.

The OU backs are a hydra. In order of ability, I'll place DeMarco Murray first, Chris Brown second, and Allen Patrick third. The OU OL is massive and though they're not extraordinary, I see Bradford throwing in a lot of easy pockets and I saw a Miami defense getting beaten down by their size over the course of the game. My guess is that the running game will come as opponents stop testing Bradford to beat them. He seems to have demonstrated rather emphatically that he can.

Defense

I don't think Miami is a great test for any defense as they have have deeper issues than Owen Wilson, but OU's DL rotation is solid and was fairly disruptive. Ryan Reynolds is a playmaker and OU seems to churn out these hyper fearless LBs with some regularity. The secondary is solid across the board but I'm not convinced that they have the lockdown guys at CB they're alleged to have - but perhaps I'm just looking for a nit to pick. That said, they're playing like a Stoops OU defense: highly opportunistic, physical, bullying, great at punishing you for your mistakes.

If I had to handicap the Big 12 with a gun pressed to my pet rock's head, it's pretty clear that OU is the class of the conference. Given two games of data, the value of that statement is worth a shrug.