Oklahoma moves into BCS top 10 after win over Tech
NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma moved into the top 10 of the BCS rankings after winning against Texas Tech on Saturday.
Here are three things we learned from that game and from Monday's press conference with Bob Stoops.
1. Everyone loves Trey Millard, but this team can win without him
Of course, you knew that already, but the gushing over Millard has been notable. Stoops opened his press conference congratulating Texas Tech and its staff. He then went into a monologue about Millard and what he does. More praise came from center Gabe Ikard who called Millard the best player on the team.
OK, here's the deal: Millard is a fullback. He's a good one, but he's a fullback. A really good fullback, but still a fullback. And Millard, while versatile, dynamic and more, didn't really get that ball that much. Yes, he's the team's best blocker and is a threat from a number of different formations, yet he really hasmt been utilized at a high-volume rate for as good as coaches and teammates say he is.
Millard's loss is a significant one, in part because, like linebacker Corey Nelson, who is also injured and out for the season, he's a great locker room guy. A senior captain. A player others look to. That's the kind of thing Stoops was talking about being hard to replace.
"As a person, leader and a player, it's going to be hard," Stoops said of moving forward without Millard. "It will be challenging working around all the things Trey did.
However, the Sooners can. Millard went out early in the fourth quarter. From there, OU didn't stop running the ball, the Sooners ran it well. OU went 53 yards in 12 plays and took off 5:56 of the clock. A field goal by Michael Hunnicutt highlighted a drive that featured runs on five of the first six plays .Four of them went for five yards or more. OU had nine rushes on the drive in all.
This team is built to run, and while the Sooners may drop off some in the rushing game, there are enough players who can provide enough extra to overcome Millard. Brannon Green stepped in at the tight end spot and Aaron Ripkowski became the full-time fullback.
"He'll have more of a role now," Stoops said of Green. He'll be one of the guys who will have more opportunities."
2. The OU defense played arguably its best game of the season
Texas Tech had 460 yards. That seems like a lot because it is a lot, but what the OU defense did so well was figure out Tech when it counted most.
Meanwhile, Tech ran for just 2.9 yards per carry and finished with 72 yards on the ground.
The thing to look at is what ultimately will be the deciding factor against Baylor, too – can the Sooners create stops. Against Baylor, a stop could even be considered a field goal attempt. Against Tech, OU got three turnovers and stopped Tech on downs twice.
More importantly, Tech faltered and OU thrived in Sooner territory. Tech threw an interception at the OU 40 in the first quarter, fumbled at the OU 24 in the second quarter, turned it over on downs at the 29 in the second quarter, and after scoring on three possessions in a row, threw another interception and then turned it over on downs once again.
Baylor is the top-ranked offense in the getting 718 yards per game. The Bears are also averaging 63.9 points per country game and are unbeaten and ranked No. 6 in the BCS. They're going to score against OU, however if they turn it over, things change. OU's defense is ranked No. 9 in the country. The defense has also forced 14 turnovers. Baylor also hasn't seen a blitzing defense
3. OU is ranked No. 10. In the nation! Baylor is the one under pressure
You knew that, right? Because around these parts, this team is looked at like a 5-3 team, not a 7-1 team.
Have the Sooners been great on offense? Nope. Not even close, but they do have four ball carriers who can be effective.
Has the Sooner defense been outstanding? Nope. Wouldn't go there, either, but it has been good enough to be ranked in the top 10 nationally as well as in the top 10 in pass defense.
OU dropped a fluke game against Texas, which enabled all sorts of talk about how this team is deficient. However, it has won a road game against Notre Dame. It's won a home game against a top-10 team.
Baylor is a team that hasn't faced the criticism OU has or the competition OU has. The Sooners will be an underdog, but Baylor has played just two teams with a winning record this season (Buffalo and Wofford). The Bears have played two road games – at Kansas and at Kansas State.
Follow Andrew Gilman on Twitter: @andrewgilmanOK