Enough has been written about the Oklahoma Sooners’ 0-2 start to Big 12 play, so I won’t add to it here by beating a dead Bevo. That’s right, the Red River Showdown is finally upon us. Now, it just so happens that the No. 22 Texas Longhorns (2-1, 1-1) are also experiencing some tough times in 2020. Even though this year’s game doesn’t have the national implications most expected it to just a few weeks ago, both sides are beyond desperate for a win. Why? The victor stays in the conference title hunt, wins recruiting points, and earns those oh so tasty bragging rights. Without further ado, let’s get on with this preview.
Date, Time & TV: Saturday, Oct. 10 at 11 a.m. CT on FOX
Streaming: FoxSportsGo. Streamers who don’t have a cable subscription can also catch the game on fuboTV, which also carries ESPN and ABC. Crimson & Cream Machine has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links.
Line: Oklahoma -3.0 (as of Friday at 4 p.m. CT)
Links of the week:
- Lincoln Riley Week Five Presser Notes
- Q&A with Jack Shields of C&C Machine and Gerald Goodridge of Burnt Orange Nation
- Allen Kenney looks into the defensive changes and similarities under Texas DC Chris Ash
- Blatant Homerism Podcast with Allen Kenney and special guest Bomani Jones of ESPN
Can Oklahoma avoid its worst start in 25 years?
The Big 12 was originally established in 1996. That was also the inaugural head coaching year for the late John Blake. Fans from that era regrettably remember that campaign as a not-so-great one in the history of OU Football. However, despite starting 0-4 that season, Oklahoma somehow managed to upset a ranked Texas team in a 30-27 OT thriller. My takeaway: Sooner Magic is unpredictable.
Fast-forward to 2020, and the Sooners are staring at a 1-3 start should they fall in defeat to their burnt orange rivals from south of the Red River. With how competitive this series has been, both historically and as of late, that is a very real possibility. To say this Saturday’s game is important for the present state of the program would be a massive understatement. Yet, here we are.
Will Sam Ehlinger lose to his fourth OU QB?
In 2017, a young Sam Ehlinger fell short of a monumental comeback win over eventual Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield. The next year, he out-dueled Kyler Murray in the Cotton Bowl, but two months later he was bested by K1 in a rematch for the Big 12 Championship. Last season, Jalen Hurts prevailed in a head-to-head matchup of talented dual-threat signal callers.
Overall, Ehlinger holds a 1-3 record versus Oklahoma. In the history of this rivalry, no quarterback for either program has ever spent their career losing to four different starting quarterbacks from the other side. It’s a trivia question no one ever wants to find themselves as the answer to. If there’s any good news for UT’s fourth-year QB, it’s that historically, the more experienced man usually wins, and compared to OU’s Spencer Rattler, Sam holds a forty-acre lead in that department.
Which team will play with more physicality/discipline?
Winning the rushing battle on offense and disrupting the opposing quarterback on defense are two areas of the game that typically signify which team is playing with more physicality. Through three contests apiece in 2020, Texas’ running game has had statistically more success than Oklahoma’s (191.3 yards-per-game/5.5 yards-per-rush vs. 122.7/3.6). On the other hand, the Sooners’ defense has doubled the Longhorns in terms of sacks (six to three).
Outside of that, physicality is something that really just has to be observed as the contest progresses. Whichever team is simply outmuscling the other in their individual matchups will likely win the game in the end. As far as discipline goes, both teams have been poor this season when it comes to limiting penalties (both average more than nine flags per game). In a rivalry as heated as this one, the squad who plays with a collectively cooler head will put itself in a better position to don the Golden Hat following the final whistle.
Can Alex Grinch’s ‘Speed D’ prevent the big play?
In the losses to Kansas State and Iowa State, Oklahoma’s defense gave up a total of eight plays that went for more than 30 yards, including three that went for 65-plus. It’s no secret Texas has legitimate playmakers at its skill positions, a highly-experienced QB to distribute the ball, and a play-caller in Mike Yurcich who knows a thing or two about coordinating offense in college football.
The OU coaching staff has maintained its emphasis on creating takeaways, but it’s apparently coming at the expense of sound, fundamental tackling. Against the Longhorns, that has to change, because whatever the intention is, it’s not translating into stops, especially in second halves. What’s worse, teams are making highlight reel type of plays on a group that actually led the Big 12 in total defense just a season ago. If UT makes a few splash plays of the 50-yard variety, that could spell doom for the Sooners.
Furthermore, Ronnie Perkins will reportedly be out for the Texas game in spite of the fact that he won his appeal last week. The NCAA is beyond useless.
#Sooners DE Ronnie Perkins will not play in Saturday’s OU-Texas game. His appeal to the NCAA was successfully approved last week, but actual reinstatement requires additional steps which were not completed.— Jason Kersey (@jasonkersey) October 9, 2020
Both teams are salty as heck after already suffering losses this season, so neither one holds any motivational edge in that department. While Texas hasn’t had very much success in this series under Tom Herman, every game has been a close contest that wasn’t decided until the fourth quarter. I don’t expect this game to buck that trend at all. In fact, I think this will go down as the closest call between Herman and Riley to date, both on the field and on the scoreboard. Rattler’s arm will allow the Sooners to take an early lead, but the Longhorns won’t go away as long as Ehlinger’s legs prove to be a problem for an Oklahoma defense that’s had a mountain of trouble tackling strong rushers. Several field goals will be kicked, but not all of them will be made. Ultimately, OU doesn’t let another second-half lead slip away from them, and for the first time in a while, all will be right in the universe.
Oklahoma 33, Texas 31
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