Sep 17, 2022; Lincoln, Nebraska, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers quarterback Casey Thompson (11) reacts during the first half against the Oklahoma Sooners at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
No question about it. The Oklahoma football team that showed up and showed out at Nebraska on Saturday was not the same team we saw in the Sooners first two wins of the season.
And that’s not meant as a criticism of Oklahoma’s first two games. But this week it was Nebraska and at their place, where the fan base is one of the very best in college football, making Memorial Stadium in Lincoln as difficult a place to win as anywhere, no matter what Cornhusker team is on the field.
Granted, this is not the same Nebraska team we came to know in its heyday under head coaches Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne. The Cornhuskers were playing their first game under interim head coach Mickey Joseph following the firing of Scott Frost after three games. You’re never really sure what impact a coaching change, especially in the course of the season, will have on a team.
Oklahoma’s 49-14 pounding of Nebraska, and in front of the Cornhusker faithful in the house that legendary Nebraska gridiron gladiators of the past built, left us with two distinct impressions: Nebraska is really bad, or maybe the Sooners are really very good. And perhaps the answer is both.
It was obvious that Oklahoma came to play — although during the first four minutes of the contest, some of us, admittedly, had our doubts — and the Sooners obviously brought with them a much deeper and more wide-open offensive playbook.
Reggie Bush changed his tune about Oklahoma quickly at halftime after picking Nebraska.
"Man, Oklahoma looks really good. They look like a playoff team right now."#OUDNA | #BoomerSooner pic.twitter.com/dykvWj8x3d
— 𝕆𝕂𝕃𝔸ℍ𝕆𝕄𝔸-𝕍𝕊-𝕋ℍ𝔼 𝕎𝕆ℝ𝕃𝔻 (@soonergridiron) September 18, 2022
The Sooners produced 580 yards of offense against the Cornhuskers, their best offensive performance of the season. And once again, it was highly balanced, with 312 yards rushing and 268 passing. The OU defense was impressive again for the third straight week, holding a Nebraska offense that had averaged close to 500 yards in its first three games to a season-low 327 total yards on Saturday.
Oklahoma is playing complementary football for the first time in quite a while, and that alone is going to win them plenty of game if they are able to maintain it as the competition ramps up from this point forward.
The Sooners have not given up a play longer than 32 yards in any of their three games, which is a big contrast from recent seasons when big plays by opponents plagued the Sooners.
On repeated occasions in the FOX TV broadcast of the OU-Nebraska game on Saturday, members of the broadcast announce team, which included Gus Johnson, Joel Klatt and later Brady Quinn, said the Sooners looked like a legitimate College Football Playoff team
They certainly played that way on Saturday, but so too did every other team ranked ahead of the Sooners this week in the AP and Coaches Poll. So, with nine more games remaining in the regular season, it’s probably a bit premature to put Oklahoma in one of the CFP national semifinal games on the basis of one game and a 3-0 record. And certainly considering that the Sooners 3-0 record has been fashioned against teams with a collective 3-8 record.
There is clearly a lot to like about the new-look Sooners under Brent Venables leadership.
“Tough. Resilient. Edgy. Hungry.” Those are the words Venables used to describe this Sooners’ team after the convincing road win over Nebraska.
“These guys are really hungry, and they want you to coach them hard,” Venables told reporters in the postgame press conference after the Nebraska game.
“We coach them very hard, and we hold them accountable,” he said. “We still have a long way to go, but we are making steady improvement and that is what it looks like and that is what it is about.”
Oklahoma will need that steady week-to-week improvement the next three weeks when the opponents will be Kansas State at home, TCU at Ft. Worth and the annual Red Rive Showdown with Texas in Dallas, where OU is being viewed in advance as an underdog to the Longhorns.
It is obviously still very early in the 2022 college football season, but there is growing optimism about how good this Oklahoma team really is. At least two national outlets, ESPN (college football writers Mark Schlabach and Kyle Bonagura) and College Football News, project the Sooners to play in the New Year’s Six Sugar Bowl as the top Big 12 representative in the conference’s postseason bowl pecking order.
Interestingly, Texas is only the third or fourth Big 12 representative, according to the rolling Week 3 predictions by both of these outlets
Here’s hoping that three weeks from now, we can all pump out our chests and proudly shout out for everyone to hear: “Do you believe in us now?”
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