Players to Watch: Oklahoma

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Tyler Woodward | OU Daily

Running back Samaje Perine

Sophomore running back Samaje Perine is already building a strong follow-up season to a dazzling freshman year. Perine ran for 1,713 yards as a freshman with 21 touchdowns, and he also racked up 15 receptions for 108 yards. He already has 328 yards on 72 carries this year for the No. 10 Sooners. Perine broke the school-record 2,000 career-yard mark in a 44-24 win over West Virginia in Week 4, making him the fastest Sooner to hit 2,000 career yards in the Bob Stoops era. After a quiet 65-yard performance against the Mountaineers, Perine could have a heyday Saturday against a Texas defense that allowed TCU’s offense to take control of the field and run up 604 yards of total offense last week.

Quarterback Baker Mayfield

The junior from Austin made an impact for Texas Tech before transferring to Oklahoma his sophomore year. Mayfield started seven games for the Red Raiders in 2013, completing 218-of-340 passes for 2,315 yards and 12 touchdowns. He sat out his sophomore season at Oklahoma due to NCAA transfer rules, but has proved himself an asset to the Sooners’ offense through four games this season. Mayfield has already passed for 1,382 yards and 13 touchdowns, completing 88-of-135 throws. He also has 138 yards on the ground and ran for four touchdowns. TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin gashed Texas’ defense for 332 yards and five touchdowns last week, and Mayfield could do the same in the Cotton Bowl after putting up Boykin-like numbers all season for the Sooners.

Wide receiver Sterling Shepard

Senior receiver Sterling Shepard has been a consistent piece in the Sooners’ offense with 2,515 career yards and 18 touchdowns. Shepard won the game for Oklahoma in double overtime against Tennessee in Week 2, as he caught the game-winning touchdown pass and burst through two defenders into the end zone to seal the win at 31-24. He is averaging 16 yards per reception with 321 yards on 20 catches. Expected to be one of the top wide receiver prospects for the 2016 NFL draft, Shepard is rated No. 9 out of 401 wide receivers, according to NFL Draft Scout. As Shepard looks to finish his final collegiate season strong, he’ll likely take advantage of a Texas defense that allowed TCU receivers 376 yards and six touchdowns last week.

Linebacker Eric Striker

Texas redshirt freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard could be in big trouble as he tries to avoid Oklahoma senior linebacker Eric Striker – one of the most feared pass rushers in the country, according to Gabriel Baumgaertner of Sports Illustrated. Striker forced a fourth quarter fumble last week against West Virginia that allowed Oklahoma junior linebacker Jordan Evans to run the ball back 40 yards for the Sooners’ final touchdown of the game. Striker finished the game with 13 tackles and two sacks and has 29 tackles on the season – bad news for a Texas offensive line that has struggled to protect the quarterback all season.