On their shoulders: OU offensive line preparing for fight against Alabama’s defense

MIAMI, Fla – It’s no secret that the Oklahoma Sooners have a dynamic and dangerous offense.

Averaging almost nine yards each play, it’s no wonder OU has the top-rated offense in the country.

The Sooners lead the NCAA in the number of offensive touchdowns with 81, which is 11 more than Ohio State, the second best offense in the land.

When looking at the offense on paper, there is no doubt that the Sooners are a force to be reckoned with on the football field.

Now, many football fans are wondering how this star-studded offense will be able to handle a defense like Alabama’s.

“Establishing the run is going to be a big factor for us. We know that we have to run the ball in order to open up everything else. Like I said, we’re just going to make the most of every opportunity and just try to execute every time we touch the ball,” said Trey Sermon, OU running back.

It can be argued that much of OU’s offensive success can be credited to the team’s stellar offensive line, and the offensive linemen say they hope to keep their winning streak going against Alabama.

“I think it all starts with us. We start with the run game and then we move into the passing game, and that makes it to where we’re able to do what we do,” said Ben Powers, OU offensive lineman.

And that’s not a bad place to start. OU’s offensive line recently won the Joe Moore Award, which is given to the nation’s most physical offensive line in the country.

OU’s offensive line poses with Joe Moore Award

Bobby Evans, Cody Ford, Creed Humphrey, Ben Powers and Dru Samia spearheaded the Sooners’ offensive this season by controlling the tempo, and providing protection for Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray.

The Sooners were also the only team in college football with at least 40 rushing and 40 passing touchdowns.

However, critics wonder exactly how the team will fare against a defense like Alabama’s.

The Crimson Tide is ranked 10th in total defense, and is ranked in the top five for defensive touchdowns. The Alabama defense has one of the highest percentages of quarterback sacks in the NCAA, and also holds its opponents to just an average of 178.4 passing yards per game.

Alabama’s defensive players say they are hoping they will be able to read the plays through OU’s offensive line.

“As a safety you can read the offensive line, see what kind of run-pass conflict they give you, and then you just look at the receivers. But the offensive line is pretty telling. Some RPOs look like they’re blocking or running downfield and then you have a receiver, so it’s kind of complex. You just have to do your job,” said Deionte Thompson, Alabama safety.

While OU’s offensive line is known for its power, Alabama defenders say they hope their speed will create chaos for the Sooner offense.

“They can run it real well. They can run it through the gap. They can run it outside, so making them one-dimensional will be a big thing, making them want to throw the ball more, we want to put the game in Kyler Murray’s hands, making them one-dimensional,” said Quinnen Williams, Alabama defensive tackle.

The players say they have been practicing against Alabama quarterback and Heisman finalist Tua Tagovailoa and wide receiver Jerry Jeudy to prepare for the OU offense.

“Like I said, that’s great practice for us, going against Jeudy and Tua because I feel like me personally, they’re the best offensive players in the country and we’re going against the best of the best. They help the defense really get better and prepare for situations like this,” said Dylan Moses, Alabama linebacker.

In a game with championship implications, coaches say they still expect their players to compete.

“They expect to play well even against great teams and in great environments, and they do have an intensity and edge that you need to win and play well in these games. Yeah, we certainly played pretty well in some of those settings. We’ll need to do it again here Saturday,” said OU head coach Lincoln Riley.

“When you get into games like this, any points you can get, first downs you can get, whether you’re running or throwing or penalty, you’re going to take everything,” said OU assistant coach Cale Gundy.

The teams will meet up on Saturday, Dec. 29 in the Orange Bowl to find out who is headed to the National Championship game next month. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. CT.

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