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Sports Analysis: Oklahoma's offense sputtering and three other observations from Week 3

16:21  19 september  2021
16:21  19 september  2021 Source:   usatoday.com

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Sometimes you have to walk the walk. Right now the Oklahoma offense is crawling and it's the biggest reason why the Sooners, who talked themselves up as national championship contenders and others did the same, are nowhere close to being able to think about making a run to the playoff.

Saturday against Nebraska, a team that gave up 30 points to Illinois in its opener, Oklahoma managed just 23 points and 408 yards in a closer-than-necessary 23-16 defeat of the Cornhuskers.

Those numbers wouldn't raise alarms for some teams, but the Sooners have been one of the best offenses in the country in the previous four years with Lincoln Riley as coach, averaging at least 42 points per game and ranking at least sixth in scoring.

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Whatever worked in the past isn't working now. Spencer Rattler entered the season as a Heisman Trophy favorite and looks nothing like the player that finished last year with a flourish. He's missing receivers, showing poor pocket awareness and forcing the ball into coverage.

Nebraska showed the blueprint on how to slow Oklahoma. Play deep in the secondary to take away big plays and force Rattler to be patient, something that doesn't come naturally. Until the Sooners offensive line shows the ability to create space for the running game, the results against this scheme will be disappointing.

a football player holding a football ball: Nebraska safety Marquel Dismuke (9) tackles Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler (7) during the second quarter at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. © Kevin Jairaj, USA TODAY Sports Nebraska safety Marquel Dismuke (9) tackles Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler (7) during the second quarter at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

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The coaches in the Big 12 surely have been taking notes and the conference season starts next week against West Virginia. It's time for a new approach by Riley and Oklahoma because all those plaudits from the offseason don't give you any points on the field.

Here's three other observations from Week 3:

State of Michigan is on the rise

Three weeks and six wins have given Michigan and Michigan State a perfect start. Just like everyone predicted. While much of the attention in the Big Ten East was given to Ohio State and Penn State and Indiana were also in the preseason USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll, the Wolverines and Spartans started out overlooked in the division race.

The early success for Jim Harbaugh and Michigan was needed with pressure to turn things around after a 2-4 season. The biggest positive has been the rebirth of the team's running game with Blake Corum surpassing 100 yards in each of the three wins.

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Mel Tucker faced a bigger rebuild with Michigan State after succeeding Mark Dantonio. There were expected growing pains last year, but he is starting to put his imprint on the program with the help of Wake Forest transfer running back Kenneth Walker, who has 436 combined rushing yards in wins at Northwestern and Miami (Fla.).

The ACC continues to disappoint

It's easy to point out Clemson and its struggles on offense this season. The Tigers have been held to 17 combined points in its two games against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents. They look like a shell of the team that previously had Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence running the offense. The crazy thing is that they still might be the best team in the conference.

Virginia Tech appeared to be the biggest challenger to Clemson after beating North Carolina in its opener. Then the Hokies lost at West Virginia this week. But that wasn't the worst non-conference showing Saturday. Miami fell for the second time, by 21 points at home to Michigan State. Pittsburgh dropped a game at home to Western MIchigan one week after beating Tennessee on the road.

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About the only consolation to the weekend was Louisville's upset of Central Florida, which is telling in that the Cardinals were an underdog at home against a Group of Five opponent.

Where this conference race goes is anybody's guess. It's hard to see that destination being the playoff for the ACC champion.

Brigham Young is at it again

Maybe it wasn't all Zach Wilson behind last year's run by the Cougars that had them in contention for the College Football Playoff.

BYU took down No. 21 Arizona State for its second win against a ranked opponent in consecutive weeks after beating then-No. 18 Utah last Saturday. The Cougars also beat Arizona in the opener, giving them three Pac-12 victories to start the season. Could that be why they never got an invite from their closest geographic Power Five league?

Jaren Hill, the replacement for Wilson, has been stellar with his throwing and running. The defense has been opportunistic by forcing turnovers and holding all three opponents to 17 points or less.

Unlike last year, when its schedule blew up with teams canceling non-conference games, the remaining slate for BYU is full of Power Five teams, including Southern California, Baylor and Virginia. BYU also has Boise State. Should the Cougars keep winning, there will be playoff talk and rightfully so.

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Follow colleges reporter Erick Smith on Twitter @ericksmith

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Analysis: Oklahoma's offense sputtering and three other observations from Week 3

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