We’re officially three hours from the 9:30 p.m. central (8:30 p.m. local time) kickoff at Sun Bowl Stadium, so here’s the first post in what I hope becomes a fun feature that helps both you, and me, get ready for the game.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
3. Oklahoma offensive line vs. UTEP defensive line
The Sooner offensive line has been through a lot in the last month with the losses of Ben Habern, Tyler Evans and the 59 career starts between them. Of the five starters, junior Bronson Irwin is the only one making his first career start. The others all have at least five. Sixth man Tyrus Thompson, a tackle, has only made five career appearances and after that, it’s pretty barren as far as experience goes. UTEP’s defensive line has improved drastically in the last couple of years, and with Greg Watkins, Horrace Miller and James Davidson, the Miners could wind up with one of the best pass-rushing teams in Conference USA. Seems like a solid first test for an Oklahoma line heavy on talent, but very light on game experience.
2. Oklahoma secondary vs. UTEP passing attack
Watch the two seniors wearing jersey No. 6 — OU cornerback Demontre Hurst and UTEP receiver Michael Edwards. They’ll probably go head-to-head frequently tonight; Hurst was a second-team All-Big 12 selection a year ago, and Edwards led the Miners with 50 catches, 657 yards and three touchdown catches in 2011. UTEP has also got sophomore wideout Jordan Leslie back after his strong freshman season. The Miners’ Nick Lamaison is a veteran and could become one of Conference USA’s top quarterbacks as a senior, although coach Mike Price has said junior backup Carson Meger will play Saturday, as well. The much-maligned OU secondary, responsible for many of the defensive failures that cost the Sooners three games in 2011, certainly isn’t going to satisty all doubters in this season opener, which should be won handily by OU. But if they can force a few turnovers and stop what is a pretty decent UTEP passing attack, it could begin to make some people feel better. And in these early nonconference games, that’s as important as anything.
1. Oklahoma defensive line sans Casey Walker and Stacy McGee
After news that Walker, a senior starter at defensive tackle, didn’t travel with the team to El Paso, the already-thin defensive line will be under even more pressure. JaMarkus McFarland and David King will start on the line’s interior, with R.J. Washington and Chuka Ndulue on the ends. Those guys aren’t what Sooner fans should be worried about, though: It’s depth, and the experience in that depth. Redshirt freshman Jordan Phillips is still developing and will benefit from the game action he’s sure to see tonight, as will backup defensive ends Rashod Favors, Michael Onuoha and Charles Tapper. Again, this game isn’t going to definitively prove or disprove anything about any part of Oklahoma’s 2012 team, but it should give everyone an idea of what to expect from some of the position groups that have raised questions this preseason.