The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor
GAME NOTES: The eighth-ranked Oklahoma Sooners finish up the non-conference portion of their 2010 schedule, as they take on the defending Big East Champion Cincinnati Bearcats this weekend at Paul Brown Stadium.
Bob Stoops' Sooners are undefeated on the young season, but it hasn't come easy. After outlasting Utah State in the opener (31-24), the team made light work of Florida State (47-17). However, Air Force gave Oklahoma all it could handle last weekend, with the Sooners posting a hard-fought 27-24 victory.
The Bearcats are under new leadership and things haven't gone quite according to plan for Butch Jones. Cincinnati has dropped two of its first three games in 2010, with losses to Fresno State (28-14) and NC State (30-19) sandwiched around a win over FCS foe Indiana State (40-7).
No one is hanging their heads following last week's loss to NC State, according to Jones.
"We made some mistakes against a very good football team. There's a reason they're ranked first in the ACC in total defense. Nobody on this team is going to feel sorry for themselves. It's a long football season, and we'll be back."
These two teams have met just one prior time, with Oklahoma posting a 52-26 victory in 2008.
The Sooners were able to slide by Air Force last weekend thanks to tailback DeMarco Murray, who rushed for 110 yards and added 38 receiving yards, with three touchdowns. OU's ground attack is averaging a steady 133.7 yards per game thus far, with most of that coming from Murray (123.0 ypg), who has scored all six of the team's rushing TDs to date.
Sophomore QB Landry Jones has been solid in terms of passing as well, completing 61.9 percent of his tosses, for 851 yards, with seven TDs and just two INTs. It certainly helps to have one of the nation's premier receivers getting open at will downfield in All-American candidate Ryan Broyles. The 6-0, 200-pounder already has 31 catches on the year, for 382 yards, with three TDs.
The Sooners got torched by the nation's top rushing attack last week, as Air Force churned out 351 yards on the ground.
Still, playmakers are found throughout the OU defense, starting with All- American candidate Travis Lewis at linebacker. Lewis paces the team with 27 tackles, with one INT. DBs Jamell Fleming and Jonathan Nelson are next in line with 25 stops apiece. Fleming leads the team with two INTs. All-American candidate Jeremy Beal is one of the top rush ends in the nation. Of his 15 total tackles thus far, a third have come behind the line of scrimmage, including 2.5 sacks.
The Bearcats have moved the ball at times this season, with a balanced attack that features 117.7 yards per game rushing and 219.7 yards passing.
Quarterback Zach Collaros is the obvious leader on this side of the football and has been efficient thus far, sporting a 145.1 efficiency rating, having completed 60.7 percent of his passes thus far, for 659 yards, with six TDs and no INTs. A pair of receivers have stood out in DJ Woods (17 catches, for 264 yards, three TDs) and Armon Binns (16 catches, for 209 yards, two TDs). Despite the success through the air, a real area of concern has to be the lack of pass protection, with Cincy allowing a disturbing 15 sacks over the first three games.
Defensively, the Bearcats are led by JK Shaffer. The junior LB has been all over the field thus far and has recorded a team-high 32 tackles. Sophomore LB Maalik Bomar is a distant second in stops with 17.
In all, Cincinnati is yielding 21.7 ppg and has been particularly vulnerable to the pass. That isn't a good thing with Oklahoma's ability to get the ball downfield.
Despite Cincinnati's slow start, Stoops is not overlooking the Bearcats.
"First road game, going to Cincinnati and a team that was picked to win the Big East Conference, undefeated in the regular season a year ago. A team that had 18 straight regular season wins coming into the year. A team that's really built a strong tradition in the past several years and is used to winning. Going to their place will be a challenge but we're going to be on the road as we go through the season so it'll be a huge test just to start the year, to handle the crowd, to have the maturity and discipline to go on the road and play a good solid game."