Attempting to slow down Broyles will be one of the keys for the Golden Hurricane. Tulsa is hoping Flanders, a senior with 22 career starts, can hold his own against one of the nation’s top receivers. He had 45 tackles and two interceptions in 13 games in 2010.
Few defensive backs have had success against Broyles, who enters the game as the NCAA’s active leader in catches (266), receiving yards (3,429) and receiving touchdowns (35). In the Sooners' last matchup against Tulsa in 2009, Broyles torched the Golden Hurricane for 11 catches, 128 yards and 3 TDs.
(Note: Flanders has been declared academically ineligible this season.)
Dupy has started 23 games in two years at Tulsa. He is on the Remington Award Preseason Watch List (given to the nation’s top center) and will be a solid test for the Sooners’ interior line.
McFarland arrived in Norman with plenty of hype and attention but has not become a dominant force in the middle of OU’s defense. Entering his junior season, McFarland sits atop the depth chart at defensive tackle and could be poised for a breakout season. Success against Dupy on Saturday could be a good sign for McFarland and the Sooners’ defense this season.
The Sooners’ defensive game plan will be focused on slowing Kinne, the 2010 Conference USA offensive player of the year. He completed 275 of 460 pass attempts for 3,650 yards and 31 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. A transfer from Texas, Kinne brings a combination of mobility and playmaking to the Golden Hurricane offense.
Plenty of eyes will be on Nelson as he tries to replace senior linebacker Travis Lewis, who will miss the first few games of the season with a toe injury. Nelson showed signs of being a playmaker during his freshman season with 21 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss, and a blocked kick in 2010. The sophomore's speed and athleticism will help corral Kinne whenever he escapes the pocket.
Jackson and Nelson starred as freshman in 2010, each earning CUSA All-Freshman team honors. Jackson had 88 tackles -- including a team-high 15.5 tackles for loss -- and added 8.5 sacks and two interceptions. Nelson had 86 tackles and six interceptions while earning FWAA freshman All-American and All-C-USA first-team honors. If Nelson and Jackson can make open field, one-on-one tackles against the Sooners' running backs, OU could face lengthy 3rd downs.
Sooner running backs Brennan Clay, Dominique Whaley and Roy Finch will attempt to open up passing lanes for Broyles and quarterback Landry Jones. OU’s ball carriers will be counted on to win one-on-one battles with Tulsa’s linebackers and safeties. If they do, the Jones-Broyles connection becomes even more lethal. Jonathan Miller and freshman Brandon Williams could also see time in the Sooners’ backfield.