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2020 Season

Preview: Texas And Oklahoma Hoping To Turn Things Around In The Cotton Bowl

The Sooners and Longhorns both need a win. Who get’s it done?

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On its face, this year’s Red River Showdown is not as high caliber as those of years past. Both Texas and Oklahoma come into the contest limping after each suffered losses the week prior. Through just two weeks of conference play, there’s only one Big 12 win between these two teams. There probably aren’t national implications for this game, but the Sooners and Longhorns both hope to alter the trajectories of their seasons.

Texas head coach Tom Herman comes into his fourth showdown in the Cotton Bowl, facing increased criticism after the Longhorns lost 33-31 last week to the TCU Horned Frogs in Austin as two possession favorites. Herman is 27-16 with the Longhorns, and pressure is mounting this season for him to begin turning Texas into a team that regularly competes for – and wins – championships. Last year’s 7-5 regular season fell well short of those expectations, but a victory in Dallas would indicate that maybe the program is making progress.

Pacing the Sooners’ sideline will be Lincoln Riley, who finds himself in an unfamiliar situation as head coach at Oklahoma. Following three straight Big 12 championships and appearances in the College Football Playoff, the odds seemed to favor the Sooners dominating this conference once again. Oklahoma, however, appears to have lost a bit of their mojo, as the Sooners have folded late in games twice in two weeks, starting 0-2 in conference play for the first time since 1998. With the success they’ve had, there’s plenty of pride in Norman, and the Sooners will be itching to get back to their winning ways.

Game Details

  • When: Sat, Oct 10, 11:00 AM CT
  • Where:  Cotton Bowl Stadium, Dallas, TX
  • Forecast: Low 80s, Sunny
  • TV: FOX
  • Betting Line: OU -2.5 O/U 72

No. 22 Texas Longhorns (2-1)

Texas comes into this contest averaging 51 points per game, which is better than any other team in FBS. Those numbers are somewhat deceptive, however, as the Longhorns have struggled to move the ball at times in 2020. The team’s success offensively is often predicated on the play of their senior single caller, Sam Ehlinger, who’s got a 173.2 passer rating through a trio of contests. Ehlinger can sling it, but can also tuck the ball under his arm to pick up yardage.

The senior’s scrambles have accounted for a good chunk of Texas’ rushing yards this season, as the running game has been inconsistent for the Longhorns, who are managing 5.5 yards per carry. Texas does have a group of capable backs led by junior Keaontay Ingram, but none of them have really broken out in 2020. When the offensive line gives Ehlinger time, the ability to throw the ball has been a definite strength in this young season. Joshua Moore leads the team with 18.8 yards per reception, but he’s yet to prove himself as a definitive No. 1 wide receiver for the Longhorns.

Texas’ defense in Chris Ash’s first year as defensive coordinator continues to be a work-in-progress. The defensive line, headlined by pass rusher Joseph Ossai, has really carried the load on that side of the ball. At linebacker, the Longhorns have had issues, and have found themselves out of position in their pass defense. They’re currently yielding 377 yards through the air, but Texas does have four picks on the season.

Texas Keys To The Game

Move The Chains – Texas is going to need to come out and have a balanced attack in this game in order to keep the chains moving for their offense. If they can do that, they’ll avoid some unfavorable third down situations that could lead to turnovers and potentially stall drives. Being able to get into a rhythm offensively will give Texas a good chance to win this football game.

Win The Turnover Battle – Most likely Longhorns likely won’t be able to prevent Lincoln Riley’s offense from finding success on Saturday. If Texas can take a possession or two away from the Sooners, though, that’ll make big difference in this game. That means that the Longhorns will need to get a turnover defensively, and handle the ball when they’re on offense.


Oklahoma Sooners (1-2)

Lincoln Riley’s had the best offense in the Big 12 for what feels like forever, and while they’re not as explosive as would be expected, the Sooners are still very prolific at scoring points. On average, Oklahoma is scoring 37.7 points per contest, and most of that has to do with redshirt freshman Spencer Rattler. Rattler is a less mobile quarterback whose ability to get the ball downfield makes him elite in college football, and he’s currently completing 73.4 percent of his passes.

Outside of Rattler, though, Oklahoma has yet to have a real leader emerge to help out the young quarterback. Wideout Charleston Rambo and tight end Austin Stogner are leading pass catchers for the Sooners, but this season’s Sooners have yet to showcase a lethal playmaker among all the talent on hand. A committee of running backs lead Oklahoma, who’s had some issues along the offensive line in opening up holes and protecting the quarterback.

The defense continues to try and improve under second year coordinator Alex Grinch. There have been positives, like the Oklahoma run defense, which is holding opponents to 85 yards per game on the ground. Still, through two conference games, the Sooners have struggled in pass coverage, frequently giving up big pass plays downfield.

Oklahoma Keys To The Game

Take Care Of The Ball – Oklahoma will make it more difficult for them to win if they give the ball over to Texas. If the Sooners can keep from having costly turnovers, though, they should be able to drive the ball on the Longhorns and set themselves up to score some points.

Win The Line Of Scrimmage – No matter the circumstances, the Red River Showdown usually comes down to which team does a better job of winning in the trenches. A lot of eyes will probably be on Oklahoma’s defensive line to get pressure on Sam Ehlinger, and the Sooners’ offensive line has struggled thus far to totally mow down their opposition. Texas also hasn’t been strong up front, so if Oklahoma can edge out the Longhorns here, it’ll be advantageous.

Prediction

This game has traditionally been a fight, and I expect this one to be a hard-fought contest. Oklahoma has a few things in their favor that makes Vegas think they’ll pull this one out. It’s rare for a team like the Sooners to lose three in a row, and that’s a factor in a lot of people’s minds. Oklahoma’s won five Big 12 titles in a row and been the most dominant team in the conference throughout its inception, and Lincoln Riley is a very good coach.

The team that can run the ball successfully in this game usually wins, however, and there is where Texas could have a slight edge. The Longhorns have been better statistically than the Sooners on offense through three games, and Sam Ehlinger is a more finished product than Spencer Rattler at this juncture. Herman’s teams have been strong as underdogs, so I’ll go ahead and go with the upset in this one. Texas by a field goal.

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