The 113th Red River
Rivalry Shootout Showdown will take place this weekend, and there is no shortage of conference implications. The annual meeting that takes place in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas has been historically Texas’s series, but recently it’s been all Oklahoma. This year’s edition features a national championship threat in Oklahoma and a red hot Texas squad.
The Sooners have a lethal offense behind Kyler Murray and the Longhorns have been riding the great play of their defense lately. There’s a lot of hype for this one as the ESPN’s College GameDay will be heading to the Texas State Fair. This one has the makings of an instant classic.
Oklahoma Sooners (5-0, 2-0)
The Sooners have taken care of business to open the season. Oklahoma has been the conference’s premier team, and they have played like it so far this season. After wins against FAU, UCLA and Army, the Sooners won both conference games against Iowa State and Baylor.
Not only has Oklahoma been winning, they have been winning by an average of 25 points per game. The offense has been putting up just under 50 a game – mostly due to the quarterback, Kyler Murray. He has thrown for 1,460 yards with a 70.6 percent completion percentage. He has also rushed for 285 yards and has combined for 21 touchdowns.
After the Sooners lost Rodney Anderson for the season, some wondered if the offense could keep up the pace they have been. So far, the answer is yes. Trey Sermon has been more than servicable by averaging 5.3 yards per carry, and has rushed for 5 touchdowns this year.
The wide receiver duo of Marques Brown and Ceedee Lamb is lethal. Brown has the nickname “Hollywood Brown” for a reason. He leads the team in receiving yards and all of it is from his big play ability and speed. He has 544 yards and five touchdowns. Lamb is just as impressive, he’s totaled 348 yards and five scores as well. The two combine for a dangerous one two punch. Add in Murray’s arm and you have a passing attack no one wants to face.
The Oklahoma defense has had a up and down start to the year. In the out of conference slate the defense played great, but in Big 12 play they have given up 27 points to a treacherous Iowa State offense and 33 to a struggling Baylor team. The Sooners need to improve in this area if they want to win the Big 12. Against teams like ISU and Baylor a poor performance can still be a winnable game, against WVU and Texas it won’t be.
Kenneth Murray and Curtis Boltin combine for 120 tackles, even though about 50 of them came in the Army game it’s still a unreal amount of tackles. Parnell Motley has been lockdown in coverage and has added two interceptions and four pass break ups. Mark Jackson Jr. is third on the team in tackles with 33 and Kahlil Huntington also has 30. But the defense gives up 405 yards per game, they can’t do that against Texas.
Texas Longhorns (4-1, 2-0)
The Longhorns started the year with a disheartening loss to Maryland. Since then though, they are 4-0 and have two top 25 wins. After a hard fought road win in Manhattan against Kansas State, and the two previous wins vs USC and TCU, Texas is right back into things.
That surge has benefited from the new-found success of Sam Ehlinger. It hasn’t been electric; it’s just been smarter play, less turnovers, and smarter throws. He’s also letting Lil’Jordan Humphrey just go and make plays. Humphrey leads the team in receiving yards with 402. Collin Johnson also is talented and has totaled 350 yards from the wide receiver position.
The run game hasn’t been deadly, but it’s been productive enough. The Longhorns average 3.8 yards per carry as a team and most of those carries come from Ehlinger and running back Tre Watson. Watson averages 4 yards per carry and backup Kaeontany Ingram is a big play threat averaging 6.1 yards per carry. The offense isn’t great, but they have long drives that rest the defense and can put up about 25 points a game.
The defense is where this team shines. And the pass defense is where this team really, really shines. The Longhorns give up just over 200 yards a game and only allow completions on 55% of opponent passing plays.
Chris Boyd and Davonte Davis are senior corners and it’s hard to beat them in coverage. Brendon Jones and Gary Johnson are the teams leading tacklers. They both have 30+ tackles and combine for 9 tackles for loss. The defense also does not commit a lot of penalties, and forces about 1.5 turnovers per game. The run defense is also really solid, they only allow 3.4 yards per carry. All three defensive linemen are seniors and Breckyn Hager stands out. He isn’t afraid to speak his mind and it’s warranted when he plays as well as he does on the field. The Longhorns defense is going to be the deciding factor in this one.
3 Keys for Oklahoma to win
Embrace The Moment – Kyler Murray has had a unreal start to the year and is a Heisman candidate. His first real test in my opinion is right in front of him. The neutral site atmosphere gets to a lot of quarterbacks, Murray can’t let that happen. He has had some pretty good games so far, this needs to be his best. I think Texas plays really well and keeps OU on the ropes all afternoon, Murray just needs to stretch the defense and play well. If Murray has a big game I don’t see a way Texas wins.
Hold Texas To Under 30 – The Oklahoma defense has not looked very good recently. Texas isn’t a offense powerhouse but they can score points in storms. TCU had a lead before Texas scored 21 points in a couple minutes two weeks ago. Oklahoma needs to keep them under 30, that way the offense doesn’t NEED to have a great game against a very good defense. If this defense can tackle and not allow the big play they should be fine in the points against department.
Come Out Strong – Texas is going to be ready for this one, if Oklahoma can give them a sucker punch in the opening minutes it’ll just kill the Longhorns. In another top 25 game last week WVU came out and took a early 21-0 lead against Texas Tech and that ruined any pre game mojo the Red Raiders had. If I’m Oklahoma I want the ball first, just so OU can get a quick score and quiet the Texas fans and team.
3 Keys for Texas to win
Score Early – Texas has a very good defense, I think OU doesn’t score that many points. If Texas can take advantage of a consistent Sam Ehlinger and a struggling Oklahoma defense then there’s no reason why they can’t win. That’s going to be a tough task but after four huge wins in a row the Longhorns offense should feel confident heading into this one.
Win In The Trenches – Oklahoma has the better athletes, especially down low. Texas is more of a skill position team and a huge worry for the Longhorns has to be the disadvantage in the trenches. Texas needs to run the ball, they can’t fully rely on quarterback play because, frankly, it’s not good enough to beat Oklahoma. Defensively, Texas pass defense is very good, they need to force Oklahoma to pass on third downs and not allow the OU run game to dictate how this one goes.
Play Smart – Texas can’t turn the ball over or commit stupid penalties. The Longhorns are the underdog and cant make their task that much harder. Emotions will be high, they can’t let it effect the team in a negative way. Texas can’t afford any of the funny business on Saturday. Tom Herman needs to get his squad ready for a emotional roller coaster.
Texas is red hot, and I really expect them to want this one. Texas should keep this game competitive; as all rivalry games usually are. I think Ehlinger plays his best football yet, and Texas even have a fourth quarter lead. However, even though I think Kyler Murray may struggle in this one, he’ll get it done late in the game. This should be a nail biter, but Oklahoma is just way better than the Longhorns. Texas isn’t back yet folks.