It’s just about time for the 111th meeting between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Longhorns. No game between the two is ever exactly the same, which is good news for Sooner fans who are hoping their team can turn things around in the annual rival game. For them to do that, they’ll need to capitalize on their strengths and find a way to mask their weaknesses. Specifically, here are the keys to the game:
Slow down the passing game
Oklahoma’s most glaring weakness has stayed the same all year: it’s pass defense. OU’s second corner has been repeatedly picked on as they try to find a player to hold down that spot. Whether they’ve found the eventual answer in Michiah Quick remains to be seen, but that question needs to be answered soon.
Oklahoma kept TCU in check for most of the game, but during stretches in the first and fourth quarters Oklahoma allowed TCU to completely torch its defense. You could chalk that up to early game jitters and then a lack of fire after OU grabbed a massive lead late, but those excuses don’t make me feel much better as OU prepares to face Shane Buechele. One thing the Sooners might have going in their favor, though, is a possible lingering injury slowing down Buechele. If he’s feeling like himself and decides to sling it downfield with regularity, the Sooners will need to be ready. And that means they’ll need to be better.
Also, slow down the running game
Last year this proved difficult for Oklahoma, which allowed over 300 yards on the ground to Texas last year. This year’s Texas offense looks a bit different, but it’s still going to be paramount that the Sooners stop the running game, particularly when Texas lines up in it’s cute little 18-wheeler formation (the Texas version of the Bell-dozer).
Texas has had success with the quarterback-run game this year, and expect them to use it heavily if the get in the red-zone. Oklahoma knows all about quarterback run schemes, so hopefully they’ll knowhow to solve it.
Here are two truths: Oklahoma’s offense is almost impossible to stop when it gets decent protection, and Oklahoma’s offense is just about worthless when it doesn’t get good blocking.
Without blocking, Baker Mayfield panics. With blocking, he’s a Heisman candidate. Without blocking, Oklahoma squanders its backfield’s talents. With blocking, Oklahoma’s two backs are a dominant force. It’s unfair to put the entire responsibility of the offense on the linemen, but it’s the truth.
The need for blocking is even greater against Texas. UT has great talent along their defensive line, and in recent years they’ve had success disrupting OU’s offensive scheme. That’s going to need to be different today if Oklahoma wants to look like itself. If Oklahoma blocks well today, I think they win this one going away.
Who looks hungrier?
This has been an issue for Oklahoma the last few years. Texas looks more physical than Oklahoma. In my opinion, a lot of that has come from effort and hunger. Have the OU players gotten comfortable and complacent? Has the constant fear of losing his job lit a fire under Strong that gives them an advantage? Who knows. Maybe there’s not even any such thing as “wanting it more,” and Oklahoma just hasn’t fielded players physical enough to compete. Whatever the case, Oklahoma needs to play fast, physical defense today. It needs to hit the holes on offense with purpose, and it needs to win the battles on the line of scrimmage.
My prediction: Oklahoma 45, Texas 35.