Well, here we go.
The College Football Playoff is tomorrow, starting off with the #4 Oklahoma Sooners taking on the #1 LSU Tigers in Atlanta.
Oklahoma is pretty widely considered to be a large underdog against LSU. After all, the Tigers have the best quarterback in college football in Heisman-winner Joe Burrow, the Biletnikoff-winning receiver in Ja’Marr Chase, the best offensive line in the country, and the coach of the year in Ed Orgeron.
They have been extremely impressive all season long, and are fully deserving of the #1 ranking that they hold.
So, how can they be beat? For Oklahoma to pull the shocker, here are the keys:
Ball Control, Ball Control, and Some More Ball Control
There are several things that Oklahoma needs to do well to win this game but maybe no single thing is more important than trying to handily win the time of possession.
Yes, the Oklahoma defense is a lot better this season than years’ past. But, nobody has been able to stop this LSU offense, and with Ronnie Perkins and Delarrin Turner-Yell missing this game, the offense needs to help out the other side of the ball as much as they can.
It would be massive if the Sooners are able to put together some long, sustained touchdown drives of 11, 12 plays or more. Bleeding that clock and making the game shorter helps Oklahoma in a big way.
Limit the amount of possessions Joe Burrow has to work with, and you have a shot.
Unfortunately for Oklahoma, they lost their #2 running back in Rhamondre Stevenson. Fortunately for Oklahoma, Jalen Hurts is the best running quarterback in the country, and Kennedy Brooks has had another sensational season.
OU is fully capable of dominating the time of possession in this game, and they’ll need to do just that to give themselves a very real chance.
Get Some Pressure on Joe Burrow
This won’t be easy for a plethora of reasons, but I really feel like the biggest single key to slowing down the LSU offense is to put Joe Burrow on the turf.
Now, LSU has the best offensive line in the nation, and Oklahoma is missing their best pass rusher in Ronnie Perkins. So, the formula to getting some sacks on the board isn’t at its best.
The pressure largely falls to Kenneth Murray who has had a brilliant season. In the Big 12 Championship, he made several splendid defensive plays that made a huge impact on that game.
That includes a sack of Charlie Brewer that very possibly could have been the hit, or at least contributed, to Brewer being forced to leave that game early.
If you are an LSU Tiger fan, that has to concern you at least a bit. Murray is a freak of nature, you don’t want him getting a clean look at Burrow at any point.
Another guy who Alex Grinch is going to need in a big way is Jalen Redmond, who is second on the team in sacks after Perkins.
Getting LSU behind the chains and forcing Burrow to get rid of the ball early is going to be paramount to Oklahoma getting some defensive stops tomorrow afternoon.
CeeDee Lamb Needs to be the GOAT
The debate between CeeDee Lamb and Ja’Marr Chase for the Biletnikoff was a great one with no wrong answer.
Chase ended up getting the nod as the best receiver in college football.
Not that he needed more motivation, but do you think CeeDee Lamb is ready for this game?
Lamb has been beyond unreal all season long, frequently making plays that just make your jaw drop. Get him the ball in any kind of space and watch out.
While I do think grounding and pounding the ball and eating clock is the biggest key to OU’s success, when Lincoln Riley is looking for a big play it’ll be Lamb who he turns to.
The question then becomes can Lamb make the plays in the biggest game of the year when they have to have them, in which the answer is 1000% yes.
Look no further than the Big 12 Championship 3 weeks ago, where Lamb had multiple sensational plays.
Or maybe if that doesn’t convince you, perhaps last year’s Orange Bowl should serve as a reminder. Lamb had 8 catches for 109 yards and a touchdown against Alabama, and it felt like it could have been more had they just gone to him every single play.
Alabama had absolutely no answer for Lamb a year ago, and CeeDee is even better this season.
LSU’s pass defense isn’t the best, ranking 56th in the country, so this could be a situation where it’s “Nobody Safe” once again and CeeDee Lamb makes plays all game long.
How can we talk about an Oklahoma game and not talk about forcing turnovers.
It’s been the talk of the Speed D system under Alex Grinch going all the way back to when he was hired.
From the Spring Game, to Big 12 Media Days, to the season opener, to now – the questions regarding Oklahoma’s ability to force turnovers have always surrounded them.
LSU has only turned the ball over 12 times all season: 8 fumbles lost and 4 interceptions. That’s top 10 in the country.
For Oklahoma to win this game, it definitely feels like they will need a few big momentum-swinging plays coming from a turnover.
Whether that is trying to intercept Burrow or make someone fumble, it just needs to happen.
It’s been a storyline with Oklahoma all season long, so it seems only right that it could be a big deciding factor in if the Sooners can find a way to win their first CFP game.
Oklahoma is a big underdog against LSU, and that’s fair for all the reasons I have said already – Joe Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, the O-line, etc.
It has been surprising though, to me at least, just how little chance Oklahoma has been given in this game.
Between national media writing this game off as an easy LSU win to several Tiger players essentially admitting they couldn’t be less worried about what Oklahoma brings to the table, the Sooners winning tomorrow has been made out to be an all-time stunner if it happens.
LSU is probably going to win this game, I have considered them the best team in college football all year long. They were going to be extremely hard to knock off without the suspensions and injuries that are hindering Oklahoma.
But, I think the Sooners have a real shot tomorrow simply because they match up pretty well. If OU can control the time of possession like they are capable, some people around the country may be in for a surprise.
OU has a much better chance of beating LSU tomorrow than they did of beating Alabama almost exactly one year ago. They will just need to have play their best game of the year when they need it the most.
The Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl/College Football Playoff Semi-Final #1 is tomorrow afternoon at 3:00 CT at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on ESPN, and can be heard over the air as always right here on 107.7 The Franchise.