Oklahoma running back Chris Johnson has had a pretty bad season.
He is the fourth-leading rusher in the Big 12 and the most efficient rusher in Oklahoma State history, but he has missed all but two games.
He has been suspended for the second straight game and his suspension ends Saturday night.
Oklahoma is 5-7 in his absence.
It is not hard to see why.
The Sooners’ offense has struggled to find an identity, which is probably why the team is 5th in the nation in scoring (28.8 ppg).
The offense is still young, and it is still learning how to play in the passing game.
Oklahoma also ranks 20th in passing yards per game (284.4), 21st in rushing yards per contest (223.3) and 22nd in total offense (5,058 yards).
So the Sooners have struggled to run the ball consistently.
Oklahoma State has scored only 38.5 percent of its offense in Johnson’s absence.
That is a big issue.
The offense was supposed to be a top-notch passing attack, but it has not produced a ton of production.
The defense has played great at times this season, but that is not what Oklahoma wants to be known for.
The quarterback situation is one of the biggest issues, and there is no clear answer for the offensive line, which has allowed multiple sacks and two fumbles.
Oklahoma’s passing game has struggled in 2016.
Johnson is the biggest beneficiary of the passing problems, as his 687 rushing yards lead all FBS players.
Oklahoma has only averaged 7.8 yards per rush in its past five games.
Johnson has struggled early in his career, and he was a redshirt sophomore in 2015.
He was one of five starters who started at least one game last season.
Johnson rushed for just over 3,000 yards in his first two seasons, but the Soonas’ offense is not going to have many opportunities to show what they can do with Johnson back.
It may take a while to get to that point.
Johnson was suspended for his role in a domestic violence case, which could affect his ability to play.
It would also hurt the offense if he gets suspended for something else.
Oklahoma will face a lot of tough decisions going forward.
If Johnson is suspended for this game, he is going to miss a lot.
It will be difficult for the offense to get going again, and Johnson will be limited in what he can do.
That means the Soonays will have to rely on their defense.
The Aggies’ defense has given up a league-high 32.8 points per game.
It has given UP 28.8 percent of the total offensive yardage in games against Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, and has allowed 29.4 points per contest.
Oklahoma was also the top scoring defense in the country in 2016, giving up a combined 17.8 per contest, but has given away 23.9.
This could be the biggest game of Johnson’s career.
It seems like the Soonals are going to need him, and if he does not come back, the offense will need to find another quarterback.
It’s not clear who the best quarterback is going be.
It could be a freshman, a transfer or someone else.
But Johnson has not shown he can play a major role in the offense, so it would be a shock if the offense was not up to the task.
Oklahoma had an outstanding season last year with a balanced attack.
Johnson had a big role in that, as he led the team with 459 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns.
Johnson will get a chance to do that again, especially with the possibility of a red-shirt freshman starting at quarterback.
The first three games are all against FBS opponents, so Oklahoma should have the best chance of winning any game this season.
Oklahoma fans have to hope the defense gets better and the offense gets more consistent.