Oklahoma vs. Tulane: Game preview, storylines & predictions

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 04 Armed Forces Bowl - Southern Miss v Tulane
Photo by Bobby McDuffie/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Are you ready for some football?

After one of the most interesting offseasons in recent memory, the No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners are finally on the doorstep of the 2021 college football campaign. To officially kick-off the regular season, OU is set to host the Tulane Green Wave inside the Palace on the Prairie this Saturday morning.

As many are already aware, this season opening game was originally scheduled to be played in New Orleans, but due to the effects of Hurricane Ida, both sides agreed to move this contest to Norman. Speaking of which, here is Tulane’s preferred relief fund if you’d like to help out.

Check out this awesome gesture from Oklahoma’s athletics field crew. Our hearts and thoughts are with the Tulane faithful and all of those who have been directly impacted by this devastating storm in the Southeast Louisiana area.

Date, Time & TV: Saturday, Sept. 4 at 11 a.m. CT on ABC

Line: Oklahoma -31.5 (as of Friday at 3 p.m. CT)

O/U: 69

OU-Tulane Preview Podcast with Fear the Wave

Gambling Picks from Allen & the Skinny

2021 Game Day Polices & Procedures

Lincoln Riley Week One Presser Notes

OU Depth Chart Against Tulane

2021 OU Team Captains — redshirt senior H-back Jeremiah Hall, redshirt senior LB Caleb Kelly, redshirt sophomore QB Spencer Rattler, senior S Patrick Fields

Major Storylines for 2021

Will Oklahoma pick up where it left off in 2020?

After a shocking 1-2 start to last season, Oklahoma rebounded in a big way by winning its final eight games of the season, including a sixth consecutive Big 12 title over Iowa State and a victory over Florida in the Cotton Bowl Classic. Now entering 2021, expectations for Lincoln Riley’s ballyhooed squad couldn’t be higher. Of course, even with a win, nothing definitive will be answered this Saturday as far as the Sooners’ overall goals are concerned, but it’ll be important to start off on the right foot with the spotlight as bright as it currently is.

Will the Sooners’ defense dominate as expected?

Alex Grinch took over as OU’s defensive coordinator in 2019, and in just two seasons, he has completely transformed the confidence and culture on that side of the ball. ‘Speed D’ is a very real thing, and it’s obvious to anyone that his players have totally bought into that mantra. Nevertheless, the real test will come against playoff caliber competition and only then, but in order to earn that opportunity, the Sooners must first take care of business week to week, starting this Saturday.

Will a third running back option emerge?

Right now, Oklahoma’s running back depth chart looks like Kennedy Brooks, Eric Gray, and a whole lot of questions marks. This offseason wasn’t too kind to DeMarco Murray’s group, with several defections for a multitude of reasons. Still, as the old adage states, it’s simply the next man up. So who will step up as the third back for Riley’s offense? Will it be Jaden ‘Weatherman J’ Knowles, or possibly Todd Hudson? Could someone who normally plays a different position emerge as a viable option (possibly WR Brian Darby)? What happens this weekend against Tulane could go a long way in answering those questions, but for now, the situation remains a shaky mystery.

Can this team show a killer instinct?

Far too often, Oklahoma has built a lead only to see it threatened or even erased completely. That tendency cost them against Kansas State and ISU last season, and it very nearly cost them again against Texas and in the Big 12 Championship Game. If this team wants to prove its worth among college football’s elites, it will be up to Lincoln Riley and the leaders on this team to make sure any late-game or second half lead is maintained through 60 minutes. Saturday might not be the best barometer, mind you.

Is Spencer Rattler ready to lead OU back to the playoffs?

No player is coming into the 2021 college football season with more expectations than second-year starter Spencer Rattler. He’s the preseason Heisman Trophy favorite, he’s on every QB award watch list, and he’s been projected to become the first overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Plus, for the last two months, he’s taken full advantage of his newly granted NIL rights. Needless to say, Rattler is the big man on campus, and considering how strong his play was to close last season, the ceiling is the roof (it’s a reference, look it up) for this young man. If he has indeed made improvements to his game since his last live game rep, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t have his Sooners back in the CFP competing for a national championship.

Prediction

I predict the Sooners will come out fast right away in the first quarter, both offensively and defensively. Rattler will pick apart the Green Wave’s defense with surgeon-like precision, while Nik Bonitto and company will overwhelm Willie Fritz’s O-line with an unrelenting pass rush. Truthfully, I don’t see Tulane finding the end zone at all, but they’ll manage to get into decent field goal range a few times. Meanwhile, the balance that Oklahoma will display on offense will be a spectacle to behold. Expect half-a-hundred points for the Crimson & Cream, and don’t be surprised if you see a little more.

Oklahoma 52, Tulane 9

Follow Crimson & Cream Machine on Twitter!