War Eagle Extra

Oklahoma weary of eye candy in Auburn’s backfield

Auburn running back Kamryn Pettway practices for the Sugar Bowl at Tulane Yulman Stadium Thursday, Dec. 20, 2016 in New Orleans.
Auburn running back Kamryn Pettway practices for the Sugar Bowl at Tulane Yulman Stadium Thursday, Dec. 20, 2016 in New Orleans.

The talent in Auburn’s backfield isn’t the only concern for Oklahoma’s defense.

The Sooners spent the week preparing for an offense that relies on a variety of packages, personnel combinations and other elements aimed at confusing opposing defenses.

“There are a lot of things in that offense that we have to get used to, misdirection and things like that,” Oklahoma safety Ahmad Thomas said.

Thomas also referenced the consistent pre-snap motion — Auburn has “a lot of things going all over the place” — and wildcat package as elements Oklahoma has to watch out for.

Coach Bob Stoops called his counterpart’s offense “very creative” during a press conference Sunday morning.

‘They give you a lot to read and to figure out, you know, as they try and create their seams and their gaps to run the football,” Stoops said.

It echoed what defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said earlier in the week about Auburn’s running game.

“They're excellent, obviously, running the football but just the different elements of the run game, the formations,” Mike Stoops said. “They give you a lot to dissect and get to your players.”

While Stoops went back two to three years evaluating Auburn’s tendencies on film, he expects Gus Malzahn and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee to break out new wrinkles to test Oklahoma’s defense.

Oklahoma coaches and players all agreed slowing down Auburn’s run game will require the unit to be as physical as they have been all season. It was a buzzword for the Sooners throughout the week with players going back to the term over and over again.

“It’s our job to go match their physical presences because I feel like the game is dependent on the front seven,” Oklahoma linebacker Jordan Evans said. “Whatever front seven comes out and plays the best is going to come out with the win.”

Mike Stoops made it clear where the message orginated from when he conceded Auburn might be the “most physical test” Oklahoma has faced all season.

“There's a little bit of a style clash here, but we faced that playing Alabama three years ago,” Stoops said. “You play a team from the Southeastern Conference; you're going to get a physical football team and a talented football team. I think our players understand that, respect that, and know that we are going to have to play great technique at the line of scrimmage. We are going to have to get off blocks, and that's football. And hopefully they're looking forward to that challenge because it's going to come.”

Michael Niziolek: 334-332-8572, @wareagleextra