Three things to watch as Oklahoma takes on TCU

The No. 11-ranked Sooners have already had two quarterbacks, four victories, a road win and an overhaul on defense.

So, what’s next as Oklahoma takes on TCU at 6 p.m. Saturday in Norman?

Here are three things you should keep your eye on:

1. Blake Bell’s rushing attempts
Everyone is quick to be excited about the fact the Sooners have a quarterback who isn’t scared to run it. And that’s good. So good, in fact, Bell doesn’t just run it when he has to – he’s good enough there are a number of designed plays where he takes off.

And he’s been successful. Bell has already had seven runs of 10 yards or more. Last season, OU quarterbacks had a total of four runs longer than 10 yards. So, with the early season yardage coming fairly easily does that mean more runs?

It could and that certainly increases the chance for injury. Already Bell had to take time off due to cramps and Trevor Knight missed at the Tulsa game with a bruised knee sustained when he took off on a run and was hit against West Virginia.

Bell is a runner. He had 24 touchdowns in the previous two seasons rushing and has had a lot of success in short-yardage situations. This year Bell already has 26 carries. Knight has 22. And while the Sooners established Bell as a capable passer (413 yards against Tulsa; 30 attempts, 232 yards against Notre Dame), but what makes him dangerous is his ability to move.

The OU has changed. The coaches want Bell to throw first and run second, but harnessing him is hard to do. Watch Bell Saturday. If he’s throwing with positive results, you likely won’t see him running. If he’s running often, it means Bell and the offense are looking for that extra edge.

2. OU’s defensive line against the run
Simply put, if OU’s defensive line continues its strong play against TCU, this game will be lopsided. OU’s defense is ranked No. 17 in the nation in yards allowed at 299 per game, including 130 per game against the run. TCU wants to run the ball. Trevone Boykin, while completing 60 percent of his passes, is a natural runner, who is dangerous when he takes off.

If OU can limit the run early – TCU is averaging 149 yards per game – the defensive line can anticipate Boykin and the quarterback run. He’s not a good enough thrower to consistently gain yardage when he is forced to pass.

The Oklahoma defense hasn’t been great rushing the quarterback, but they got to Notre Dame’s Tommy Rees early when Eric Striker hit hiim and forcing a fumble. Overall, though, the defensive line has a total of just two sacks through four games. Expect that number to increase if Boykin is forced into an extended amount of passing situations.

3. Turnovers
Lots of talk this week about how this is a “trap” game for the Sooners – after a big win over Notre Dame and before a big game against Texas. That means focus will be scrutinized as much as anything.

OU hasn’t turned it over the past two games, including in a tough spot at Notre Dame. Bell has yet to throw an interception.

The Sooners should win Saturday and but turnovers will be an indicator of how serious Oklahoma is taking this game. Obviously interceptions happen, but we’ll see if OU can hold onto the ball.

Meanwhile, if OU continues to force take-aways, expect this game to get out of hand. Already, OU has eight and has turned five of them into touchdowns, including all three last week against Notre Dame. Of OU’s five give-aways on the season, none have led to any points.

Pretty easy to conclude that if Bell continues his solid play at quarterback, the Sooners won’t have any issue improving to 5-0. TCU

Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK