Year after year, the Red River Shootout has had Big XII Championship implications. However, this year it will see a bit of a twist as both the Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Longhorns have suffered losses at home. In a fight for survival to remain the Big XII Championship as well as the BCS Bowl picture, these two dominant teams will clash on the gridiron in one of the best environments in all of college sports. A 50/50 split of the fan bases on a neutral site has produced some of the most memorable moments in all of college football. The 2012 Red River Shootout will continue that trend as the rivalry always brings out the best in players. But who takes the advantage?
Defensive Line: The D-Line for Oklahoma has been somewhat of a concern this season. R.J. Washington as well as David King were expected to have productive seasons. However, these are two defensive ends that have struggled to get pressure on the opposing quarterback consistently. Mix that with the fact Oklahoma is missing Stacy McGee and now Nila Kasitati from the inside and the question mark still persists. From, the 177 yards by UTEP's Nathan Jeffrey to the 130 of Kansas St. Wildcat, John Hubert it is apparent Oklahoma has been susceptible to the run. When it comes down to productivity, the Sooners have managed to record 8 sacks. However, only 5 of those have come from the defensive line while Washington and King have yet to record a single sack.
On the flip side of the coin sit Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat who have consistently put pressure on QBs. These were two guys who made a living in the backfield. In the Longhorns previous game against the West Virginia Mountaineers, this was a defensive line that recorded 4 sacks (13 total on the season) while creating two turnovers. Going up against a jumbled Oklahoma offensive line, this is a unit that can give Landry Jones nightmares. However, the Longhorns have also struggled against the rushing attack ranking 9th in the conference giving up 4.73 yard per attempt. Fundamental tackling skills have been lacking allowing opponents to rack up big plays.
Linebackers: Tom Wort was expected to pick up much of the slack left behind by Travis Lewis. With the employment of a new scheme in gap assignment versus flowing to the ball, Wort has seen a decline in productivity. This is still a crew that struggles with receivers coming across the middle while often times lacking fundamental skills to wrap-up the ball carrier on a tackle. Not only that, the LBs have seemed to have trouble shedding blockers as well. The saving grace for this group might be Frank Shannon in combo with Corey Nelson. Up to this point, Shannon has had one stand out game while lacking experience but has proven valuable in Blitz Packages that Oklahoma should continue to use.
Texas on the other hand should get Jordan Hicks back who is a player to watch. He has the ability to find the ball and make a play. The nation saw what Andrew Buie and Joseph Randle were capable of, yet it begs the question of would these players have experienced the same production rate had Hicks been in the game. Only time will tell.
Secondary: Oklahoma has a secondary unit built to perform with the position changes implemented by Mike Stoops. Aaron Colvin has come on as star opposite of the experienced Demontre Hurst composing one of the best duos in the nation while Tony Jefferson remains the anchor of this unit. All-in-all, this is a unit that finds themselves limiting opponents to an average of a single touchdown pass to the tune of a 54.31% completion rate. However, the knock against them is that they have yet to play a team like West Virginia or the Baylor Bears at this point in the season.
The Longhorns came into this season with a highly touted secondary and defense for that matter. But, as the season has progressed, this is a unit that has been exposed as porous. Quandre Diggs had an excellent freshman season which set up the expectation that he and Kenny Vaccaro were going to be a force to reckon with. That notion was immediately dispelled as Wyoming threw for 276 yards against this Texas secondary.
In conclusion, Oklahoma's Secondary could have a field day against David Ash who has shown he under throws at times. With the aggressiveness and momentum built up by the Sooners specifically in the turnover department, look for them to continue to build upon that attribute. However, the Longhorns will look to pressure Landry Jones while making him uncomfortable in the pocket. Jones has shown he is susceptible to making mistakes when the heat is on. If Texas can capitalize and create turnovers, it could turn into a long day for the Oklahoma offense. This game comes down to the turnover margin. Whoever makes the least mistakes will take the prize.