One of the biggest rivalries in all of college football will take center stage this weekend as the Texas Longhorns meet the Oklahoma Sooners in Dallas for the 112th time. Texas currently leads the series 61-45-5, but the Sooners have gotten the better of the Longhorns since the turn of the century. This will be the first time Texas and Oklahoma meet with new head coaches since 1947. Could this be the beginning of a new coaching rivalry for years to come?
If somehow you don’t already know, the game is played at the Cotton Bowl in the middle of the Texas State Fair. A neutral site deep-fried in pageantry with the stadium split right down the 50-yard line. The atmosphere is unlike any other in sports. The Red River Showdown will always garner national attention, but even more so when title hopes are on the line.
Despite a bad showing last week, Oklahoma’s goal of a Big 12 title and College Football Playoff birth are still attainable if they are able to run the table. In fact, the Sooners lost an early October game back in 2015 and proceeded to win out, capturing a Big 12 title and spot in the College Football Playoff.
Texas roll into this game at 2-0 in conference play and the Longhorns are looking to preserve their current spot atop the conference alongside the Horned Frogs of TCU. If Texas is able to knock off the Sooners this Saturday, the Longhorns may be positioning themselves for a run at the Big 12 title.
The game will be broadcasted on ESPN or ABC depending on your region. Breaking the trend of the 11:00 kickoff, the game will start at 2:30 for the first time since 2010. Sooner and Longhorn fans making the trip to Dallas have to be ecstatic about being able to sleep in for once. This sets up for the atmosphere at the Cotton Bowl to be even more electric than usual, and we cannot wait.
DATE & TIME: SAT, OCT. 14, at 2:30 PM CT
LOCATION: The Cotton Bowl (Dallas, TX)
FORECAST: Sunny, High 80s
TV: ABC or ESPN
LINE: Oklahoma -7.5
OKLAHOMA (4-1, 1-1)
After Oklahoma soundly beat Ohio State in the Horseshoe, nearly everybody had the Sooners penciled into the playoff. Nobody really expected the Sooners to truly be challenged till Bedlam.
The Sooners went on to route Tulane at home before struggling against the Baylor Bears in Waco. The Sooners were able to pull it out however, avoiding the upset to advance to 4-0. Many expected that sloppy win to be wakeup call for the Sooners, but it was quite the opposite. Oklahoma continued to sleep walk the following week, perhaps looking ahead to the Red River Showdown. Iowa State took full advantage, going into Norman and beating the then third-ranked Sooners. This threw the whole perception of the Big 12 hierarchy out of whack.
Oklahoma now sits at 4-1 and a lot of questions are suddenly floating around the program. Just about everybody who dons the crimson and cream are calling for the termination of Mark Stoops. The fact that Mark Stoops is still the defensive coordinator after last year’s abysmal defensive product is very surprising. Feeling the heat, look for the Sooner defense to put out their best showing since Ohio State this Saturday. Lincoln Riley’s honeymoon is now over and the fingers will begin to point to him if the Sooners fall to their rival this Saturday.
Baker Mayfield has been simply sensational this year. The veteran quarterback has thrown for 1,635 yards with 15 touchdowns and no interceptions, completing a whopping 75% of his passes. We certainly expect the Heisman candidate to pull his weight, but he needs to make sure his teammates are ready to roll.
Trey Sermon has become a workhorse running back for the sooners as the two in a one-two punch with Abdul Adams, and is coming off a strong performance against the Cyclones. He will need to break a few big runs against the Longhorns to keep the pesky Longhorn defense honest.
Mark Andrews has been quiet through most of the year, mostly due to injury. Look for Mark Andrews to find a few soft spots in the Texas secondary to exploit. Oklahoma will need Andrews with the uncertainty of CeeDee Lamb’s status.
CeeDee Lamb has made a huge impact as a freshman for Oklahoma. He gives the Sooners some game breaking speed and agility. Lamb injured his shoulder while scoring a touchdown last week and Lincoln Riley has been reluctant to give any information on Lamb’s status. We expect Lamb to play, but it will be interesting to see if he is 100%.
The Oklahoma defense has been exposed the last two weekends and they desperately need a bounce back game to build their confidence. Luckily for the Sooners, the Texas offense doesn’t exactly blow the doors off of their opponents, but they are improving. Look for Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Parnell Motley to step up and make some plays this Saturday.
TEXAS (3-2, 2-0)
Texas enters this matchup at 3-2, but the Longhorns are 2-0 in Big 12 play for the first time since 2013. Texas laid an egg in the season opener against Maryland causing most people to write the Horns off. Texas rebounded with a 56-0 skunking of San Jose State. The following week, Texas went into the Coliseum and took the highly ranked Trojans to double overtime, but ultimately couldn’t secure the victory in the end. Heading into Big 12 play Texas’ was 1-2, but an inspiring performance against the Trojans breathed a sense of optimism into Longhorn nation. Texas has built off of that optimism and has played well in league play thus far, improving week by week.
First, Texas went into Ames and got a win against the Cyclones of Iowa State. The following week, Texas hosted Kansas State and downed the Wildcat’s behind a monster performance from freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger. Texas now sits atop the conference rankings at 2-0. Although the season is still very young, Longhorn fans everywhere are desperately hoping Texas can hold onto their top spot throughout the rest of the season.
Texas may have solved their quarterback controversy last week after a spirited performance by Sam Ehlinger. The freshman threw for 380 yards with two touchdowns. Ehlinger also racked up 107 yards on the ground as he ran right through the Kansas State defense. The performance was so eye-catching that Ehlinger was named the CBS Sports Freshman of the Week.
The quarterback situation is solved right? Not quite yet. Coach Tom Herman has been hesitant to comment on a starter, insisting he will re-evaluate things when Shane Buechele is fully healthy. This strategy is merely a method of keeping Oklahoma in the dark on which quarterback to prepare for. This may be a pointless tactic by Herman because everyone expects Ehlinger to get the start.
The Texas defense has been dominant since the debacle against Maryland. However, the Longhorn defense came back down to earth last weekend as they gave up 34 points to Kansas State. Texas struggled to stop running quarterback Alex Delton. This is a growing concern for the Longhorn defense, playing their worst games this season against dual-threat quarterbacks. Although Baker Mayfield has not run as often this year as in years past, he is certainly a capable runner. Malik Jefferson and company need to make sure they contain the Heisman candidate if they want to slow down this dangerous Sooner offense.
Texas kicker Josh Rowland has been dreadful so far this season. He missed several key field goals down the stretch last weekend and almost cost Texas the game. Rowland is 4-9 on the year and seems to have lost all confidence recently. Despite his poor play, Herman will continue to ride him claiming that the fault is on the coaches. According to Herman, Rowland went 15-15 at Sunday practice with several kicks beyond 50 yards. Nerves seem to be getting the best of the first-year kicker. Unfortunately for Rowland, the stakes will only be increased this weekend. He needs to grow up fast or Texas will have trouble beating Oklahoma.
KEYS TO THE GAME: OKLAHOMA
WAKE UP – Oklahoma has played down to their competition the last two weeks. Being a rivalry game, Texas always seems to give Oklahoma all they can handle. The Sooners need to be ready for a dog fight. Oklahoma will need to come out fast and bring the fight to the Longhorns. Baker Mayfield needs to channel his natural leadership and light a fire under all of his teammates, particularly the defense.
RUN BAKER – The main flaw with this Texas defense is dealing with read options and running quarterbacks. Baker needs to run the ball at least 10 times to keep the linebackers and defensive line guessing. If Oklahoma executes this game plan, the Longhorn offense will have a tough time scoring with the Sooners.
ATTACK THE QUARTERBACK – Assuming Sam Ehlinger gets the nod, it will only be his fourth collegiate start. The Sooner defense needs to take advantage of his lack of experience and try to rattle him early. An early big hit on Ehlinger can potentially strike doubt into the mind of the young quarterback, making it an uphill battle for the Longhorn offense.
KEYS TO THE GAME: TEXAS
ATTACK THE SOONER DEFENSE – Oklahoma’s defense has looked suspect the last two weeks. Although Texas is the underdog, they need to attack on offense rather than try to play ball control. Texas’ best unit is their receivers and the Longhorns will need to pass the ball early and often. Look for Collin Johnson and Reggie Hemphill to take advantage of a depleted Sooner secondary, particularly attacking Jordan Thomas.
SLOW DOWN BAKER – Texas will need to do all they can to slow down Baker Mayfield. When the Sooners played Ohio State, Baker Mayfield was simply unstoppable. If Baker plays to that level again, Texas will get routed. The front seven will need to generate pressure on Baker forcing him into bad throws and uncomfortable situations. If the Longhorns can force Mayfield to struggle, Texas will probably walk away with the win.
MAKE FIELD GOALS – This game will probably come down to the wire. Texas will need all the points they can get and Josh Rowland will need to be able to make a few clutch field goals. Texas was lucky to overcome their kicking woes against Kansas State. Against the Sooners however, missed field goals will cost you.
Oklahoma comes into this game as a 7.5-point favorite, but expect the line to shrink as kickoff continues to approach. Oklahoma is the favorite and has the better team, but this a rivalry and as we know anything can happen.
Texas has improved while Oklahoma has taken a step back so far in Big 12 play. Also, Tom Herman is known for getting the most out of his players in big games. Last year at Houston, Herman and the Cougars embarrassed Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma. With that said, I am calling the upset.
Texas will win by a touchdown 38-31 and Texas will be “back” for the week at least. This is all based off conjecture however, and make no mistake the safe bet is Oklahoma in this game. This game truly could go either way, and Saturday cannot get here fast enough.