Even though it feels like the college football world has all the questions for us this week, we get to double down on the whirlwind surrounding Scott Frost’s firing by enjoying our second Oklahoma week since we left the Big 12. Most Husker fans are bravely hoping for the best, but expecting the worst not because Scott Frost was fired but because Defensive Coordinator Eric Chinander inexplicably remains gainfully employed. For this reason, we put our chances between slim and none and slim is being sexually assaulted by wild goats out by the dumpster.
However, Oklahoma is also a program going through a great a deal of change from a coming conference change of their own to a new head coach…and quarterback. Jack Shields of Crimson & Cream Machine, SBNation’s Oklahoma site, as always was generous enough to answer a few of our questions leading up to the big game. Many, many thanks to Jack and away we go.
(I rarely pop in on the answers, but I actually did a couple of times here because - great stuff from Jack.)
1. Maybe I’m just hanging on to whatever nostalgia I can, but as Oklahoma prepares to say goodbye to the Big 12 as Nebraska did 10 years ago, I feel despite the fact it will endure, the old Big 8/Big 12 is truly dead with only half of the original members of both remaining. While I realize it would never be an annual thing, do you believe the schools would be open to home and home every 3-5 years or so?
A lot of Oklahoma’s future non-conference scheduling space has been freed up as of late, so the answer on OU’s end is probably ‘yes’. When you add in the fact that Oklahoma State seems determined not to continue Bedlam in a non-conference arrangement, I think Oklahoma fans would absolutely love to make Nebraska a regular opponent (and eventually a permanent non-con opponent). Hell, play on Thanksgiving weekend during Rivalry Week like they used to back in the day.
(Andy: We’d dump Iowa for you in a heartbeat on those Black Fridays)
2. By most accounts, the Sooners staff successfully recruited the Big 12’s top incoming transfers class. After Dillon Gabriel, who addressed the most glaring need after losing Spencer Rattler and Caleb Williams, which transfer has made the biggest impact after just 2 games?
At this point it would definitely be Tulane NG transfer Jeffery Johnson. As far as the interior defensive line is concerned, he’s been able to create the most disruption. OU fans actually had a sneak peak of this last year when the Green Wave rolled into Norman, as he gave Oklahoma’s offensive line all it could handle and then some. Another guy to watch this week would be Mizzou TE transfer Daniel Parker, who made his season debut this past weekend. He’s definitely more of a blocking tight end, but he’s been a pleasant surprise as a safety net in the passing game (both in offseason camp and against Kent State).
3. Speaking of Gabriel, in the first two contests against weaker teams, he has already been sacked 5 times. Not that Nebraska has been able to tackle a damn QB yet let alone pressure one, but is that a concern going forward?
I would say this speaks more to the offensive line’s early struggles. Yes, he could probably throw the ball away a bit more often, but he’s been very careful with the football thus far, and he really just isn’t forcing anything. Having said this, he’s definitely not a Kyler Murray, a Jalen Hurts, a Caleb Williams or even a Baker Mayfield as far as pocket elusiveness is concerned. I’m interested to see how he responds against Kansas State, who should be able to get ample pressure when they meet on the 24th.
4. An off-season, spring ball, fall practice and two games into his tenure - how is Oklahoma feeling about Brent Venables? Does he still need an assistant to keep him off the field?
I would say that the honeymoon ended in the first half of the Kent State game, but the early returns are generally promising. The main improvement we’ve seen has been in the area of tackling. It may sound like an oversimplification of things, but you really haven’t seen a lot of yards after contact. Suffice to say, this is a bit of a departure from what we’ve seen in recent years, and it’s a refreshing sight. And yes, you might see the get-back situation on Saturday. It’s glorious.
5. Due to Frost being the first significant firing of the season, apparently anyone with a pulse and a coaching resume is on the table. Help us out and pick the Huskers’ next head coach.
Hire Paul Johnson, you cowards! (Andy: You bastard. Our honeymoon is over.)
But seriously, Leipold might be the move here. I won’t go so far as to call the Kansas rebuild Snyder-esque (our friends at Bring On The Cats might end me for that), but he clearly has a team that has bought in entirely and has improved the roster enough to be competitive against P5 teams. Anyone who has watched that program over the past decade-plus understands how impressive that is in such a short amount of time. If he can make the Jayhawks respectable in two years, he should be able to make Nebraska a Big Ten West contender in a relatively short amount of time. It seems like a high-floor move, which is probably what y’all need right now.
6. With an Oklahoma week in the Twitter/YouTube/Tiktok era, videos from old games are popping left and right. Having no idea how old you are, do you have a favorite NU/OU memory?
I was born in 1989, so my early memories of OU football are of Tommy Frazier or Ahmad Green running wild against the Sooners. With that in mind, I really had never experienced OU football success until Bob Stoops arrived, so you can imagine how special the 2000 National Championship still is for me. The defining moment of that season was the win over the Huskers, which served as catharsis for OU fans of all ages. I was one of the thousands who stormed the field that day – something that hasn’t happened on Owen Field since then. Oranges flying through the air. People singing “We Are the Champions” after a regular season game. I’ll never experience anything like that again.
(Andy: I was at the game and still tell stories despite being on the wrong end of the score. There was also pepper spray and other craziness but I remember being treated well in Norman for the 3rd time and 100% understanding the town going batshit)
7. Pickin’ time. Huskers in early turmoil coming off a firing vs. an Oklahoma with a new coach, new QB and two warmups under their belt - who’s the winner and what’s the score?
Man… my gut feeling is that the Huskers are going to access something inside of them and just play out of their minds. This is also something that tends to happen to OU’s opponents quite a bit. On top of that, Nebraska as of late has tended to play to the level of its opponent (for better or worse), so I really think this is going to be a close game in spite of how it looks on paper. OU’s offensive line is incredibly vulnerable and doesn’t seem like it can really have its way with anyone. I’ll go with the under and Nebraska covering for sure. I’ll go Oklahoma 31, Nebraska 27