September 13, 2017, 10:06 am
Oklahoma is coming off a 31-16 win over then-No. 2 Ohio State that vaulted to the Sooners to the No. 2 spot in the country.
Tulane is coming off a tough 23-21 loss to Navy. It hasn't been ranked since 1998 and has only two winning seasons since an undefeated season that year.
But the Sooners are trying not to take anything for granted entering their nonconference finale against the Green Wave at Owen Field on Saturday night.
Tulane's option offense has the attention of an Oklahoma defense that very rarely sees such an attack.
"They're really good at it, and it'll be a great test of our discipline and the structure of our defense, and make sure we get people -- somebody on the quarterback, somebody on the drive, somebody on the pitch. That's option football," Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said.
Stoops got some advice from a pretty good source on the option, asking former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer -- the architect of the wishbone -- about defending the offense.
"They get to their bone a lot of different ways, but it's a lot of true wishbone concepts," Stoops said.
The Sooners have to adjust quickly to slowing down Tulane.
"We forget everything we learned last week and start studying the next team," defensive end/linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo said. "You're going to have to be disciplined against this option team."
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the Sooners' hot start has been the performance of its defense.
The Sooners have allowed an average of less than 260 yards of offense through two games, allowing just 20 points total.
While the Green Wave might have a different look offense, there's a good chance they're without one of the key pieces in that offense.
Starting quarterback Jonathan Banks suffered an apparent rib injury and had to leave the game against Navy and was replaced by Johnathan Brantley.
Banks is likely out Saturday after missing practice time early in the week. The injury forced the Green Wave to scale back their offense a bit and while that will get somewhat better this week should Brantley be forced into action, there still will be a difference.
"You've got to change some things because that No. 2 guy just didn't get as many reps as your No. 1 guy does," Tulane coach Willie Fritz said.
Tulane hasn't beaten a ranked team since a win over top-10 Florida State in 1983, though that game was eventually forfeited.
The Sooners haven't lost to a non-Power Five opponent (not including Notre Dame or BYU) in more than a decade and haven't fallen to one in the regular season in more than two decades.
While Tulane's quarterback situation is a bit cloudy entering the weekend, Oklahoma's situation at the position is very clear.
"There are a lot of things they do well," Fritz said of the Sooners. "They've got the No. 1 player in college football (quarterback Baker Mayfield), a really strong defense, are really big up front and physical, they can lock you down and play press coverage and they have a great return game."
Mayfield has thrown for 715 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions through two games.
Mayfield's performance against Ohio State came without his favorite target -- tight end Mark Andrews -- for three quarters.
Andrews, Sooners coach Lincoln Riley said early in the week, is likely available against Tulane though there's a chance the Sooners could hold him back for another week.
Fritz compared Mayfield to a quarterback who threw for 693 yards and six touchdowns against his teams in two games a few years ago.
"When I was at Sam Houston, we played Texas A&M a couple times with Johnny Manziel," Fritz said. "He's that kind of player. He's got great feet and vision, runs the ball well, gets down when he needs to, makes great decisions."
Tulane's players plan on enjoying the challenge of facing not only Mayfield but the Sooners' veteran offensive line, which includes probably high draft pick Orlando Brown at left tackle.
"It's going to be tons of fun," Green Wave defensive tackle Sean Wilson said. "As soon as Navy was over, we've moved on. This will be a good game for us because a lot of our guys want to play in the NFL. If you want to go to the NFL, this game is going to show what you can do."