BN: How do they feel about the recent improvements on defense? Will this close the gap and get them closer to a national championship?
C&CM: At this point, I’m cautiously optimistic. This team appears to be much more physical than it was a year ago, and the guys appear to be more assignment-sound than in years past. However, we saw some pretty solid early-season performances from this squad a year ago -- most notably in a win at Ohio State. So there’s plenty of reason for optimism after shutting out a Lane Kiffin offense for a half, but I’m ready to see how they fare against a better QB or offensive line.
BN: Is their Kyler Murray the man of the future or the man of the hour?
C&CM: He’s an exceptionally talented kid who is in position to have an incredible season in a QB-friendly offense, but it’s tough to call him the “man of the future” when we all know full well that his future as a football player only lasts through this season. Having said that, he has a very legitimate opportunity to end up in New York for the Heisman ceremony. Provided that he stays healthy, he’s probably not going to be hurting for that “Heisman moment” as he has a bit of Johnny Manziel in him as far as playmaking ability is concerned. One thing that people often forget is that he has a cannon for an arm, so I’m expecting big numbers from him this year. Having said that, I’d still like to see how he does in pressure situations. Mayfield was nails when push came to shove, but the jury is still out on Murray in that regard.
BN: Kirk Herbstreit recently said that Lincoln Riley was, “the best offensive coach by far in college football today.” Do you agree?
C&CM: I would say so, and NFL franchises seem to agree. He’s definitely the hottest name out there right now. Pretty much every organization in the league has tried to pick his brain since January, so I think it’s only a matter of time before someone tries to poach him. However, there have been times in which he has been a bit too cute with his play calling, with the best example being overtime of the Rose Bowl. But I will gladly take the very good with the potentially bad any day of the week. The guy has morphed into something entirely his own. He obviously still incorporates Air Raid principles, but you’ll also see the offense utilizing Georgia Tech-esque counter schemes. It’s incredible, honestly.
BN: What is the main key for Oklahoma to hear their name called as one of the four playoff teams on December 2nd?
C&CM: As you might expect, it comes down to this defense. The offense is going to put up points, but they shouldn’t be in a position in which they seemingly have to score on every possession (as was often the case in 2017). If this defense can finish in perhaps the top 35 in defensive S&P+, the team has a great shot at a CFP berth.
BN: Who should Bruin fans pay most attention to when the Sooners have the ball?
C&CM: That’s a tough one. With all due respect to Bryce Love, Rodney Anderson might be the best running back in college football. He really has no weakness as a player. I don’t say this lightly, but he really might be the most complete back we’ve seen at this university. At wide receiver, you also have Marquise “Hollywood” (the one in Florida) Brown, who can take the top off of any defense. The most important piece, however, is this offensive line as a singular unit. All of these guys have played with each other for years and have mentored by Bill Bedenbaugh, who is a master of his craft.
BN: Who is the defensive player most likely to wreck havoc on the UCLA offense?
C&CM: A week ago, I might’ve said Addison Gumbs, but he has since suffered a season-ending injury (last Friday) and left the program (Wednesday). I’ll go with junior defensive lineman Amani Bledsoe, who was able to help Oklahoma getting a great push at the point of attack last weekend. Another would probably be safety/nickel Brendan “Bookie” Radley-Hiles, who is still relatively unproven as a true freshman but is just an impact play waiting to happen.
BN: What is the Sooners’ biggest weakness?
C&CM: Right now, it’s probably the safety position just because of how unproven the personnel happens to be. OU has Kahlil Haughton (a senior whose potential has yet to really materialize), Bookie (a true freshman) and Justin Broiles (a redshirt freshman who converted from CB). They have some talented guys behind them, as well, but the jury is still out.
EXTRA POINT: Predict the final score.