Mid-October. Texas State Fair. You know what time it is. OU and Texas face each other in the 112th Red River Rivalry at the Cotton Bowl. But this year is different than the last two. OU faces a Texas team that is finally rebuilding itself after a couple of average seasons. Texas is also looking to rebound after a shootout with West Virginia last weekend. Whoever wins this game will have a large swing in momentum and a chance to stay in the Big XII Title race. For OU, the keys to the game are quite simple.
1. Landry Jones must keep his cool.
As OU fans, we've seen Landry put up some amazing numbers against some great teams. His performances the past two years have been good. But let's face it: every quarterback has his flaws, and Landry, although a 5th year senior, still has issues when playing under pressure. His decision making under duress is at times very, very questionable. Landry is going to have to trust his receivers, because his inconsistent play became apparent when Broyles went out with an injury last season. If he does that (his receivers have to catch the ball too), things will go much easier for OU.
2. OU's Defense Must Control Ash
As we've all seen the last couple weeks, Ash is a young, talented quarterback. Texas' coaching staff has finally found the offensive firepower that they've been searching for the past few seasons. UT's return offensively comes at the same time that OU's defense seems to be getting back on track. I honestly believe that the return of Mike Stoops has helped move things along, although the defense is still getting burnt on big plays occasionally. Total yards and points allowed has certainly improved from last season. (Just look at our defensive numbers from games vs. Baylor and Oklahoma State last year). One thing we haven't done well this season (with the exception of last week's game vs TT), is take the ball away from our opponents. Turnovers are ALWAYS a major factor in Red River Rivalry games, and no doubt will be again. The question of who will benefit remains to be seen.
3. Offensive play-calling for OU has to be LESS predictable
I'm sure Blake Bell is a great quarterback. But I don't think I've seen him actually throw the ball more than five times. And while I think it's great that OU has an option in 3rd and short situations, I think it throws the offensive rhythm of Landry Jones off. Part of me was also starting to wonder if the addition of Bell has affected Landry's confidence in some way. What do I know? I'll I'm saying is, a little variety on offense wouldn't hurt anybody, and certainly wouldn't hurt OU's chances to win.
OU is definitely the stronger team in my opinion. But if they don't show up and make careless mistakes as they often can, this game could quickly get out of hand. Texas is a great squad, but if OU doesn't respect that, they're in for some trouble.