Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops is fully aware of the important role freshman tight end O.J. Howard plays in Alabama's offense.
“Their tight ends are a big part of their offense, and certainly that has given us problems at times this year,” Stoops said.
Howard, the top-ranked tight end prospect in the recruiting class of 2013, has caught 14 passes this season for 269 yards and two touchdowns.
He only catches a pass or two a game, but those plays are generally big. His only catch in the Crimson Tide's win over LSU was a 52-yard touchdown grab early in the second quarter.
“We're gonna have to spend a great deal of time making sure that we fit the run game and still be able to cover their receivers and tight ends because they're a big part of what they do,” Stoops said.
BARNETT LEARNING TO PUNT IN DIFFERENT CONDITIONS
Oklahoma junior punter Jed Barnett is from California, so the conditions he's been forced to perform in of late are foreign to him.
The Sooners' last two regular-season games — wins at Kansas State and Oklahoma State — were played in freezing cold.
“This is the coldest I've ever played in,” Barnett said after the Bedlam victory. “Kansas State was pretty bad two weeks ago, but this was probably officially the coldest game I've played in. I'm just glad it's over. I'm glad I'm standing somewhere warm now.”
Barnett said the Oklahoma wind was probably the most frustrating thing he had to adapt to after arriving in Norman, but that it's ultimately been good for him.
“It's definitely made me a better punter,” Barnett said. “I'm not as nervous when I go into a windy game because you really kick in it all year round. That's helped me a lot. It's not the ideal weather conditions, but like I said, all around, it's made me a better punter.
“It's added different things to my arsenal. It allows you to help your team out just a little bit more in conditions that once were foreign to you.”
Barnett started his college career as a walk-on at California, but left and took the junior-college route before ultimately arriving at OU last January.
For the season, Barnett is averaging 41.6 yards per punt, with nine kicks going for more than 50 yards. He twice pinned Oklahoma State at its own 1-yard line in that game.
Oklahoma senior safety Gabe Lynn, on what he'd say if anyone asked if he's afraid of Alabama:
“I ain't even going to say anything. That's just foolish. Can't give that no attention.”