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Texas Football: Previewing The Red River Showdown

The Longhorns are looking to defend the Golden Hat, while also looking to avenge the loss in the Big 12 Championship game. Previewing the Red River Showdown from the Texas side.

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Sam Ehlinger of the Texas Longhorns during the 2018 Red River Showdown - Getty Images - Ronald Martinez
Getty Images - Ronald Martinez

It’s that time of year again when Burnt Orange of Texas clashes with that faux Crimson of Oklahoma. A 100,000-plus fans split right down the middle, which is referred to through tradition as “The Battle Line”.

The Battle Line is one of the aspects of this rivalry game that makes it so unique and intense. The inherited hate and passion in this game is another one of those aspects, for example most of the young men taking the field Saturday morning, not only grew up watching and hearing about this rivalry game, but dreamed of being a part of it.

The immense amount of emotion, preparation, and build up in the AT&T Red River Showdown is nearly indescribable. Every little detail of history, every stat, the storylines, tweets, and subliminal jabs pile on top of each other, and that begins the Sunday following the game. Here we are, a few days short of twelve months of The Golden Hat hanging proudly, displaying all of Texas’ grandeur and dominance on the horns of Bevo.

It’s enough to get the blood pumping. It initiates the hair-standing, head-bobbing, then distant stare, thinking and anticipating what is to come Saturday morning at The Cotton Bowl. Let’s take a look back and see where Texas and OU stands heading into the weekend. It’s #11(snubbed) Texas versus #6 Oklahoma.

Texas leads the rivalry with an all-time record of 62-47-5. Including a huge win last year after a 21-point surge from the Kyler Murray led Sooners. However, the Sooners did get the last laugh, beating the Longhorns in the Big 12 Championship. 

That was then, this is now. A Sam Ehlinger led Texas offense with a banged up secondary coming off a high in Morgantown, going head-to-head with a Jalen Hurts led Oklahoma Sooners offense that is firing on all cylinders. Yet again, could be a preview of the Big 12 Championship game. However, let’s get through this weekend first.

Game Details

  • When: Sat, Oct 12 at 11 AM CT
  • Where: Cotton Bowl, Dallas, TX
  • Forecast: Sunny, High of 67°F
  • TV: FOX
  • Stream: Fox Sports Go
  • Betting Lines: OU -10.5, O/U 75.5

The Road So Far…

Oklahoma’s average for points allowed per game is 19.0. However the age old, sometimes annoying, “who have you played” question comes to mind. With the Sooners, this question jumps off the paper.

The first and only well-rounded and complete team they played was Houston. Who oddly enough put up 31-points on the Sooners. Since then, they’ve played the likes of nobody and a rebuilding UCLA. The Texas Longhorns have played a Top 10 team already, sure they lost, but only by one possession. That Top 10 team being LSU, who’s the number 1 scoring offense in the country, and again only one possession was the final. So slow down Sooners fans if you think that -10.5 is going to be the story on Saturday. Texas has proven, even with a dilapidated secondary, that they can stay in and be in position to win big games. Oklahoma has not proven that this year, no matter what you want to tell yourself. Saturday they’ll get their chance, and if Texas does win, it will really say a lot about how “dominant” their offense is when Texas rolls out 2nd and 3rd string defensive backs as starters. Oklahoma will get their yards, sure no doubt about it, but will it be as unrelenting as it’s been all year against lesser opponents? Time can only tell. Doubtful, but we’ll see.

There’s 190.5 miles that separates the Oklahoma campus from the Cotton Bowl, and 195.8 miles is the range Texas must cover. Roughly it’s right in the middle. This split in distance mirrors the split in the stands. 50/50. Just like the realistic odds every year in this matchup. Sure ESPN’s computer can crank out 80% in favor of Oklahoma, but anybody who’s been around this game knows that’s inflated. There’s been blowouts, but traditionally these showdowns have been close, and always a coin toss.

Texas comes into the weekend averaging over 30 minutes of time of possession. Ehlinger has been methodical with his offense, wisely taking shots down the field as well as, taking what the defense gives him and trusting his guys to make plays. The Sooners haven’t been tested like that, their new “Speed D” is something they won’t be able to play very long, like they changed in the game against Kansas. They ended up bringing the SAM linebacker back into the fold. Against Texas it’ll be the same. An extra cornerback out there will just be dummy practice for fullback built Ehlinger to outrun or run through. Wideout Collin Johnson is expected to make the return for this game which is huge for the Texas offense and morale. The Devin Duvernay Show premiers at 11am on Saturday as well. He still has zero drops, 45 receptions, 463 yards and 5 total touchdowns. Duvernay and Johnson can be any secondary’s nightmares, but the emergence of Jake Smith and Brennan Eagles, just make for an aggravating afternoon. The balanced attack Texas’ offense has shown all year along with their time of possession are merely two reasons the 80% win prediction in favor of Oklahoma is humorous. The anticipation is obvious, luckily just a few more sleeps until kickoff.

TEXAS KEYS TO THE GAME

Time Management – This Oklahoma defense hasn’t been truly tested. If the Texas offense can be close to their average of 30-minutes of possession, watch for this “Speed D” or fill-in SAM linebacker end up with their hands on their hips. Sure they’re used to their offense scoring fast and trotting back out there, but not after being beat down with long, methodical drives. They haven’t done it yet, and that gives an edge to Texas.

Get Pressure Early – Jalen Hurts can hurt you…badly. With his arm and especially with his legs. The Longhorns front seven has been incredible this year in getting pressure while fundamentally keeping contain. Get to Jalen early, force him to use his legs and keep their contain and get him to react to things he “feels” instead of “sees” and Texas will win the turnover battle. Getting pressure early and often may force OU to push the field quickly on drives, which will go back to the first key above. Their defense will have to come back out and be out there wearing down again. This is what Texas needs to happen.

Devin Duvernay- Texas needs to get him started early on. Whether that’s in motion, screens, quick slants and reverses. Put the ball in his hands and he’ll put pressure on the defense. Which opens running lanes, as well as the other reliable and dangerous weapons Texas has at receiver in Collin Johnson, Brennan Eagles and Jake Smith. Devin Duvernay is the “X factor” for the Texas Longhorns in this game.

Game Prediction

My prediction is simple, but to some may seem uninspired and lacking in a William Wallace type of call to battle. This game is not and will not be decided by some media outlet’s super computer, that’s “rat poison”. It’s decided by the heart of the team. Luckily for the Longhorns, they’ve shown that heart to be the size of Texas, and on Saturday we’ll see it again. 

My prediction is it’s not going to be a blowout, and it ain’t going to be a two possession win in favor of either team. Once again, it’s going to come down to the wire, with multiple momentum shifts. The edge and favor goes to Texas because they’ve been tested and they’ve shown the resiliency and more importantly, the consistency throughout the season since that LSU loss and the naysayers came out of the wood pile. This one is going to be a nail-biter.

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