As the Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Longhorns descend on the Texas State Fair in Dallas for a clash of epic proportions in the Cotton Bowl, they will be bringing two entirely different offenses than they showed last season.
The Sooners boasted the best wide receiver in the school history in Ryan Broyles who was sure to threaten the Texas secondary on each and every snap. Dominique Whaley was a surprise in the backfield but showed he had the jets in the Red River Shootout to pull away from pursuing defenders.
The Longhorns struggled to find their identity offensively while dividing the locker room between two young quarterbacks in Case McCoy and David Ash. Consistency was lacking due to the employment of this tactic and it showed on the field as neither QB was able to establish themselves as the clear front runner.
With the landscape of both offenses being overhauled, who takes the advantage?
Quarterback: For Oklahoma, a fourth year starter in the Landry Jones will take the field while Blake Bell will find his feature moments. However, Jones knows what it's like to start and carry the team in this unique environment. Sure, the argument can be made that he has been inconsistent throughout his tenure and few would disagree. Landry has proven that he can be phenomenal, throwing with accuracy downfield and hitting his receiver in stride. Fact remains that when Jones is on, he is on, yet while the vice versa is also true. Take a look at last season after Broyles goes down and see how many times Jones' deliver is high and behind the receiver.
The Longhorns will field a first time true starter in the Red River Shootout in David Ash this Saturday and have a great ploy for him to be successful. Much of the attention has been on the rushing attack for Texas which has opened things up for Ash in the passing game. There is no doubt that this is a much improved offense from last season and much of that is due to the capabilities of Ash. He has been very accurate this season while only throwing a single interception.
Advantage: Oklahoma - Let me defend this stance for a second. Up until this point David Ash has yet to face a tough secondary that can consistently disrupt the timing he has with his receivers. Ole Miss is not exactly a top notch defense nor is West Virginia or even Oklahoma St. There was a point in time where Texas fans crowned Garrett Gilbert as the better quarterback in this rivalry over Landry and we all watched that unravel at the seams. You simply cannot take away that body of work that Jones has put together in his career at Oklahoma combined with his experience giving him a slight edge.
Receivers: There is plenty of depth for both sides at the receiver position. Oklahoma boasts top notch freshmen in Trey Metoyer, Sterling Shepard, and Durron Neal but it still means they have no experience in this atmosphere. These are great complimentary players to the more experienced receivers in Justin Brown and Kenny Stills. However, there is a game changer in the mix. Jalen Saunders was cleared to play immediately and will be available Saturday. No one is quite sure how he will factor in since no one knows the capacity that he will be used in and there is no video out there on him playing in an OU jersey. What we do know is that Saunders is a 1000+ yard receiver and was second in the nation in yards per catch last season. If there is an X-Factor in this game, he could be it.
On the other hand, Texas will boast a crop of receivers who are not being introduced to this rivalry for the first time in Olympian Marquis Goodwin, Mike Davis, and Jaxon Shipley. Goodwin has world class speed and has made a few big plays in the past while Shipley picked up where his brother left off. These are all guys who average over 11 ypc and will test this Oklahoma secondary with the new schematics and position shifts.
Advantage: Texas - as much as it pains me to say it. The Oklahoma receivers will need to do some maturing while Jones is still having communication issues with a few of his receivers. Texas has what they are looking for with experience and guys who have proven they can handle the pressure in this battle to stay alive for a shot at the Big XII Championship.
Runningbacks: The Sooners have recently moved to getting Damien Williams more touches as the biggest back with an uncanny ability to find the hole and cut up field. However, it does not mean that they will not use the stable of backs they do possess. Dominque Whaley has shown he can still be a valuable tool even after fumbling twice. Don't forget about Brennan Clay who came on strong this season. Roy Finch remains shifty and even though he has been converted to a slot receiver, he has seen some time in the backfield. Depth is there along with a plethora of different styles for Oklahoma to despose of.
While Texas exercises the same depth at runningback, they were dealt a serious blow with the expected loss of Malcolm Brown. Joe Bergeron is the obvious power back of the group but it was the patience and vision of Brown that they will miss (he did not play against WVU as well) as he averaged 6.1 yards per carry. Jonathan Gray is a viable option but lacks what Bergeron bring with power and cannot make up for the vision of Brown. Daje Johnson is another guy opponents have to account for but more so in the air attack specifically in the screen plays. Texas placing more of their identity in the rushing attack has brought them a long way but a rivalry game factors in many intangibles.
Offensive Line: OU has been forced to mix up their offensive line yet again due to injury. Nila Kasitati was the most recent in a long line of difficulties this offensive line has had to face. They have great position players but at times have lacked a cohesiveness necessary to be great while giving up 8 sacks through four games.
The flip side reveals that the Longhorns have been better at protecting the QB only giving up 5 sacks through 5 games. This cuts down their sacks allowed per game in half compared to what the Sooners have produced.
Overall, it would appear that Texas has the better offense heading into this game and the stats back that up. The Longhorns have averaged 46.8 points per game this season landing them inside the top 10 in the nation in scoring. Protecting the QB has been crucial to their success along with ball protection. These are two things the Texas offense has been solid at. If they continue on the current learning curve they are on, this could be a long day for the Oklahoma defense. Predictions are saying this will be a close game and the first to 30 points will take the victory while keeping their shot at a Big XII Title alive.