With the College Football Playoff now less than 10 days away, the four participating teams are starting to really ramp up their preparation for their crack at a national title.
The time off from the end of the season to December 28th is a great opportunity to get healthy, and get lots of time to work out some kinks. Oklahoma, meanwhile, is going backward, losing key players ahead of the looming showdown with LSU.
SoonerScoop.com reported yesterday that sources can confirm that at least three Sooners are going to miss the Peach Bowl, and they aren’t low contributors.
Ronnie Perkins, Rhamondre Stevenson, and Trejan Bridges will be a no-go next Saturday, and possibly for the National Championship Game should Oklahoma pull the upset.
Anybody who watches Oklahoma with regularity is very familiar with these three names, but let’s take it one player at a time to really dissect just how much these suspensions damage the Sooners’ chances of breaking free of their CFP woes.
This one is the biggest loss, in my opinion, and I think most people would agree with that.
Perkins is a monster, and is one of (if not the) most effective pass rushers on the entire team – leading the way with 6 sacks this season. He’s also second on the team in tackles for loss behind only Kenneth Murray.
It can definitely be very convincingly argued that Perkins is the second-best defensive player on Alex Grinch’s unit in general, so it doesn’t take a genius to know him being out is no bueno for OU.
Not to mention the fact that not only are you removing his production, but the production of all the others around him now will likely dip.
As I mentioned, Perkins is a monster, and opposing teams know that. The attention he draws opens it up for Kenneth Murray, Neville Gallimore, etc. It’s all more difficult now that Perkins will not be out there.
Going into this matchup against the #1 LSU Tigers, it feels wildly important to Oklahoma’s success that they get some level of pressure on Heisman-winner Joe Burrow.
Well, that is really Perkins’ department.
So now the pressure really falls on Jalen Redmond, LaRon Stokes, and others to have the biggest performances of their careers to try and fill that void.
Do some of those younger players have it in them to fill the chasm left by Perkins in Atlanta? The answer to that question may be the deciding factor on if Oklahoma can hang with, and try to upset, the Bayou Bengals.
Rhamondre Stevenson has been one of my favorite Sooners to watch this season. Way back after the season opener against Houston, I wrote on the high level of potential that I felt he possessed.
He still has it, obviously, but this suspension is such a massive missed opportunity for him to really burst onto the scene nationally.
I firmly believe he has the ability to be a truly great running back for Oklahoma, so him not getting the chance to face LSU is a bummer just as a fan of the sport.
As far as it how it affects Oklahoma overall…it ain’t good.
Kennedy Brooks and Stevenson have formed a really nice 1-2 punch in recent weeks, which was a concern after Trey Sermon went down for the season.
Stevenson has not only been serviceable relieving Brooks so he can rest, he’s been legitimately quite good.
He is averaging 7.9 (!) yards per carry this season. For point of reference, that is over a full yard better than Kennedy Brooks.
Yes, obviously, Brooks has more carries this year but Stevenson has carried the rock 65 times, so that is a pretty good sample size of quality carries. The impressive YPC goes along with 6 touchdowns, which is also more than Brooks.
I am not sure how many people would guess Stevenson has more TD’s this season than Kennedy Brooks.
So, similar to the Perkins situation, the big question is who on Oklahoma can step up? Obviously the fact that Jalen Hurts is the leading rusher on the team helps a lot, but you still need a second back.
The most obvious name people have been throwing out there is TJ Pledger. Which, I get where people are coming from, Pledger is a promising and fun player.
But, I mean, he has 8 carries this season. He’s barely played. Now Oklahoma is gonna rely on him to get them important yards/carries against the #1 team in the nation?
Same can be said for Marcus Major, another young gun who simply has not played much.
I think the sneaky answer here could be H-back Jeremiah Hall. He is an athlete, and he could give you some quality runs if you pick your moments wisely. Watch for him to be a potential x-factor in Atlanta.
Trejan Bridges being suspended is obviously the distant third as far as “most impactful” of the suspensions relative to the matchup at hand against the Tigers.
But, it is not just a throw away either, by any means.
Yes, Bridges in his true freshman season has not really had much impact on offense or defense just yet.
But, it could certainly be argued that he has been maybe the Sooners’ best special teams player this entire season (not counting Gabe Brkic).
Just let your mind wander back throughout the season, how many times can you recall Bridges making a nice tackle on a kickoff return? I bet you can think of at least a couple.
Not saying that Bridges being out immediately means LSU is going to be running back kick offs all over the place. But, if it does happen, I expect full credit and for you to reference back to this article.
Final Thoughts on Suspensions
The suspensions are a bummer, obviously.
Just as a fan of college football, you want all the teams to be at their best at this point. It’s the College Football Playoff, it’s the four best teams in the country, let’s see them collide at full strength.
LSU’s leading rusher, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, is battling a hamstring injury that could cause him to potentially miss the game as well. Also, quite the bummer.
Nevertheless, the game will be a sight to see and the weeks of build-up are hopefully worth it with the game living up the hype (although nationally it seems Oklahoma is given very little chance to upset the Tigers).
The College Football Playoff is still over a week away but have no fear, the bowl season finally begins tomorrow afternoon when Buffalo takes on Charlotte in the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl.