Leading up to Saturday’s game against Texas, Wescott Eberts of Burnt Orange Nation was nice enough to answer our questions about the game and the rivalry.
Charlie Strong announced recently announced that he would be taking the defensive play calling duties from Vance Bedford. Will there be any actual change in the defense, or is all of this just for appearances?
It appears that Strong will continue working in different personnel, as four starters on defense officially lost their jobs this week with the release of the Oklahoma depth chart. So there's one change. Another area where Strong could make a difference is in moving to a base defense rather than adjusting every game. Against Oklahoma State, there were some odd decisions like running a 3-4 defense against a spread team that often left defensive ends matched up against wide receivers in coverage.
As far as what Strong revealed in his Monday press conference, he didn't mention anything schematic, but just said that he thought it was time for the players to hear a different voice, as it was clear that whatever defensive coordinator Vance Bedford was telling them was not effective.
Jerrod Heard gave OU a lot of problems last year as a quarterback and is now a wide receiver. What will be his role in the offense against Oklahoma on Saturday?
Right now Heard is mostly being used in the screen game. He only has one carry on the season and hasn't been used on any true trick plays yet, so I suppose that's something that Oklahoma will have to watch out for during the game. The biggest frustration right now with a Longhorns offense that is much more functional than any other attacks in recent school history is the lack of downfield passing against Oklahoma State. Heard proved that he's a credible deep threat against Notre Dame, so look for Texas to take a few more vertical shots this weekend.
Texas has looked like the better team in each of the past three matchups with Oklahoma. Can this be attributed to the amount of talent at Texas, the amount of motivation, or a bit of both?
Over the last several years, the Longhorns teams have often struggled against lesser opponents, with the 24-0 shutout by the Cyclones last season looming as a prime example. However, during that same stretch, Texas has also beaten three top-15 opponents in Baylor, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma.
I think it's a case of the players motivating themselves in this game because it's so important, but it's definitely true that the talent on the last three teams has shown out against the Sooners in a way it hasn't against most other teams except in rare occasions.
On Tuesday, our staff analyzed the food options from the past and present at the State Fair of Texas. What are some of your all-time favorites, and are there any options this year that intrigue you?
You know, it's actually been 10 years since I've been able to make it to the State Fair, so I've a bit out of touch with options since then. If I was able to head up this year, I would definitely get the Injectable Great Balls of BBQ and the cookie fries.
Texas’ students (and many of their alumni) spend most of the year in Austin, which is an outstanding party town. For fans such as myself, Dallas provides more nightlife options than I’m usually accustomed to in Oklahoma. Do Texas fans (outside of the DFW area) get excited about the trip to Dallas?
I think Texas fans get more excited about the atmosphere around the State Fair and in the Cotton Bowl than they do the opportunity to visit Dallas. There's a popular t-shirt in Austin with the slogan, "Don't Dallas My Austin," so I think Texas fans are rather protective of Austin's oddball culture and see the Metroplex as fake and pretentious.
Obviously, these two fan bases look at this rivalry in different ways. What best describes your fan base’s feelings towards Oklahoma and its fans? How has this rivalry evolved for Texas fans since Texas A&M’s departure for the SEC?
Perhaps I can only speak for myself here, but I feel like antipathy towards Oklahoma isn't as high now as it was in years past. The number of recruiting battles are heating up once again after several years of the Sooners neglecting the Lone Star State, so I think that development contributed to a drop in the level of hate Texas fans feel towards Oklahoma. Then there's Baylor, the new villain in town. And with Aggies becoming increasingly obnoxious since joining the SEC, I think Longhorns fans tend to send most of their hatred in the directions of Waco and College Station these days.
Texas had a tough time tackling up in Stillwater last weekend. Do you think it can be attributed to poor coaching or just a lack of effort (or both)?
I think tackling is difficult in modern football because so many opportunities happen in so much space. I know that Texas has focused on tackling fundamentals all fall and went back and did so during the bye week. The players, including sophomore linebacker Malik Jefferson, took responsibility for those mistakes on Monday and noted that the coaches aren't the ones who have to go make plays on the field.
I can't directly posit what's going on, but the 'Horns were able to clean things up in the second half against the Pokes and mostly avoided the debilitating plays that characterized the first 30 minutes of that game.
What are your thoughts on the upcoming game? Do you think Texas comes out fired up for the fourth year in a row, or will Oklahoma finally match their intensity? What’s your final score prediction?
The players really love Charlie Strong and, like last year, there's increasing speculation about his job security, so I don't think there's any question that the Longhorns will be ready to play in this game. However, it feels like this is the year that Oklahoma finally takes Texas seriously once again, so my fear is that the defense will continue to have issues with busted coverages and the running game will struggle against the Sooners defensive front without sophomore running back Chris Warren. I think Oklahoma wins this one 48-28, but in truth, I really have no idea how this is going to play out because the Red River Showdown is notoriously unpredictable and momentum can swing so quickly.