Red River Rivalry: Key Match-Ups

Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

There is no experience quite like the rivalry hosted by the Cotton Bowl as two tradition powers square off on the gridiron.

Over the past two seasons, the Oklahoma Sooner have scored 80 more points than their counterpart, the Texas Longhorns, in this rivalry game. This season, there may be  more at stake for the Longhorns as head coach Mack Brown finds himself on the hot seat. With an unimpressive start, could Mack Brown save his job with a win in the Cotton Bowl?

Key Match-Ups

Jonathan Gray vs Oklahoma Rushing Defense

There is no doubt that Texas fans would like to see Major Applewhite design a few more plays for none other than Jonathan Gray. Against the Iowa St. Cyclones, running the ball proved to be a viable option as Gray racked up 86 yards on 16 carries and the backup, Joe Bergeron, adding another 36 on 4 carries. However, after taking a 10-0 lead, the offensive coordinator all but abandoned the rushing attack leaving Case McCoy to carry the load of the offense. Quite frankly, it's what you'd expect from a former quarterback turned offensive coordinator. The result was a controversial 31-30 victory.

On the other side sits the Oklahoma Sooners who have implemented a 3-3-5 defense to utilize much of the speed on the roster. The move produced a shutout in the home opener while allowing a mere 1.73 yards per carry. Their most recent performance of 1.63 yards per carry left TCU wanting more. But...there is always a but...it does not mean the OU defensive front is not susceptible to being gashed. Both Notre Dame and West Virginia gained 7+ yards per carry on the ground.

This is a game that will likely be decided in the trenches as it has been in the past. The rumor that Tyrone Swoopes might see some action on Saturday in an unique environment may have sparked an idea. Something might finally click for Applewhite as he draws up play after play for the runningbacks to take the pressure off an inexperienced quarterback. The move would force an immediate change in game plan for Mike Stoops. A dominant rushing attack, or lack there of, has the potential to swing things in favor of either team.

Blake Bell vs Texas Containment

The thought after Blake Bell took over as the starter was that he would struggle to remain consistent in the passing attack. Being well known for his ability to run, Bell's attempt to silence the critics fell short after a record breaking performance. Consistency is what the fans want. Needless to say, through three games, this is a quarterback who has won many of his doubters over by managing the game and securing the win.

At 6-6 252, Bell is a bruising runner when he chooses to do as such and the Longhorns are giving up 248.4 yards on the ground per game. Knowing the success of running quarterbacks against this Texas defense bodes well for the Sooner offense. If Mack Brown and Co. hope to contain the "Belldozer" it will start in the secondary. UT certainly has their hands full. Quandre Diggs will need to have a huge afternoon to alleviate some of the pressure put on the defensive front as Bell has shown some hesitancy in decision making.

Of course, health is an issue on both sidelines right now with David Ash, Jordan Hicks, Jordan Phillips, and Corey Nelson suffering from different injuries. The favorite is undoubtedly the Sooners but then again, this is a rivalry game. Anything, and I mean anything, as the past has shown, could happen.

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