Each year, thousands of fans descend upon Dallas, Texas with the expectation of coming home with bragging rights over the opposing fan base. The sites and sounds are all part of the atmosphere and what make the Red River Shootout one of the most unique settings in all of college football. Players have been turned into superstars while others have faded under the pressure in the heated rivalry.
The Texas Longhorns appear to be finding their stride heading into this game but could be without two standout players, one from the offensive side of the ball and another from the defensive side of things. The Oklahoma Sooners may have given fans hope that the season was not doomed with the outing in Lubbock. With the game literally hours away, here are a few things I'm looking for.
The offense coming out with a deliberate intention to run the ball! If anything has been revealed to the remaining teams in Texas' roster, it is that defending the rushing attack has been suspect. Without anchor LB Jordan Hicks in the game, the Longhorns have given up huge games to Joseph Randle and a backup RB in Andrew Buie. The current status of Hicks remains undetermined but it doesn't mean the Sooners should shy away from the run regardless. While the DE's of Texas are formidable, the defensive tackles lack fundamental tackling while the young LBs often lineup out of position. Damien Williams could be the third back to come up with a near 200 yard game on this defensive front seven.
Blitz Packages. Against the Texas Tech Red Raiders, the Oklahoma coaching staff finally employed a blitz package. Not only did it make an appearance, it was a consistent occurrence and part of the game plan. David Ash has proved he has the skills to be THE QB of this Longhorn squad while the offensive line has given up a single sack per game average so far. They will need to get pressure on Ash while keeping the O-Line off balance by mixing up looks and blitzes.
Press Coverage. The press was yet another thing Oklahoma added in against the Red Raiders to disrupt the timing of Seth Doege and his receivers. I have grown tired of watching the Sooner DBs play with a 10 yard cushion allowing the receivers to turn and make a catch for 4-6 yard gains while the DB has to come up to make the play. Aaron Colvin and Demontre Hurst are more than capable of playing bump and run. With the inexperience at QB, any timing disruptions can lead to big time turnovers.
Defensive Tackles getting a push. Most are familiar with names like Joe Bergeron and Jonathan Gray who will both be sharing the load in the backfield. This is the Texas identity as of late in an attempt to take pressure off the QB. Jamarkus McFarland and company will need to be solid in getting a push to stop this rushing attack and force Ash to throw a bit more than he might like to.
Involvement of Jalen Saunders. This is a big time receiver who no one has anything on. He has the potential to be the x-factor in the game. With a shot to continue to compete for the Big XII Title riding on this game, the receivers are going to need to come up big. If Trey Metoyer continues to struggle, Saunders number may be called.
Clock Management! In the past, clock management has been an area lacking expertise for Oklahoma. If this game is going to be as close as many think it will be, the clock is going to play a major role. How the Sooners manage the clock could spell either doom or victory.