At long last, college football’s greatest rivalry is finally here as the No. 6 Oklahoma Sooners (5-0, 2-0) are set to tangle with the No. 21 Texas Longhorns (4-1, 2-0) in the 117th edition of this storied series. Divided by the Red River, OU and UT will soon take center stage inside Dallas’ historic Cotton Bowl. Folks, it doesn’t get any bigger than this.
Date, Time & TV: Saturday, Oct. 9 at 11 a.m. CT on ABC
Line: Oklahoma -3.5 (as of Friday at 5 p.m. CT)
Bijan Robinson is the real deal
This matchup is full of star power on. Spencer Rattler, Nik Bonitto and Gabe Brkic lead the way for Oklahoma. Meanwhile, Texas has proven veterans like DeMarvion Overshown and D’Shawn Jamison, but perhaps no player for either team looks as dominant as UT’s Bijan Robinson. Five games into his true sophomore season, he appears to be the top running back in college football, period. He has the size (6’, 214 pounds), the speed, the agility and the vision. Above all else, his greatest weapon very well could be his incredible balance.
Bijan Robinson had himself a day against TCU. pic.twitter.com/paRJYx8esm— Texas Football (@TexasFootball) October 4, 2021
At his current pace, Robinson is set to eclipse 1,900 yards from scrimmage and at least 21 total touchdowns in just the regular season alone. Those kind of numbers will easily place him at the forefront of the Doak Walker conversation, but as long as the Longhorns keep winning, he’ll likely be in New York for a certain trophy ceremony. It goes without saying that OU needs to allocate much of their defensive attention on No. 5 this Saturday, or else he could win this game for his team almost single-handedly. He absolutely has that kind of ability.
Spencer Rattler has come full circle
Since last season’s Red River Showdown went to quadruple overtime, Oklahoma is riding a 13 game winning streak. Anybody who watched that epic bout likely remembers Spencer Rattler’s early struggles that eventually led to his benching. Fortunately, Lincoln Riley called upon the talented gun-slinger to start the second half, and the rest is history.
While there have been more highs and lows on the field since that fateful day a year ago, Rattler has shown that he’s tough enough to handle the pressures of being OU’s starting QB. Now he’s set to return to the place where he faced and overcame the most adversity in his Sooner career. Will he pick up where he left off, or will the pressure mount once again?
Steve Sarkisian & Casey Thompson’s Red River debuts
There is no substitution for what the players and coaches who take part in the Red River Showdown experience. It’s a venue unlike anything else and a rivalry as old and as heated as any other. For first year Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian and redshirt junior QB Casey Thompson, this will be the first time either of them has experienced this game from their respective positions.
The last two UT coaches (Charlie Strong and Tom Herman) did not fare too well in their Red River debuts, so Sark will seek to buck that trend with a win this weekend. As for Thompson, although he grew up around the rivalry with his father Charles and older brother Kendal each representing the Sooners in their day, it’s another animal entirely to be on the field when the bullets are flying. On the flipside, Riley and Rattler should be much more comfortable in this environment, which ought to give them an edge in preparation. How much that will ultimately matter remains to be seen.
Can OU’s running game rise up and show out?
Whether it’s been an O-line in progress, a lack of quality depth in the backfield, or simply a lack of total offensive possessions, Oklahoma’s running game has not resembled the dominant ground attacks of the last eight years. Against FBS competition this season, the Sooners are averaging less than 100 rushing yards per game (99.6) as a team. That simply will not get it done if the goal is to contend for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Interestingly enough, the Texas defense ranks lower than Kansas State, West Virginia and Nebraska in stopping the run, both in yards allowed per game (170.0) as well as yards per rush given up (4.67). If those figures hold true on Saturday, OU could be in store for one of its best performances on the ground this season.
Kennedy Brooks and Eric Gray have looked solid, and adding Marcus Major back into the fold won’t hurt.
College GameDay is on site!
ESPN’s College GameDay has officially set up shop just outside the Cotton Bowl walls to get both fan bases ready for one of the season’s most anticipated matchups. Additionally, fans watching on television will be treated to the team of Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and Holly Rowe as they call the action.
Going into this weekend, OU is 3-3 against the Longhorns when the most popular pregame show in collegiate sports is on site, meaning the statistical edge will shift either in favor of or against Oklahoma by the conclusion of this contest. Here’s to hoping for a little Sooner Magic. Boomer!
The State Fair of Texas always makes for a fun show!— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) October 8, 2021
We can't wait for tomorrow pic.twitter.com/KUdKnmSf5E
Year after year, it’s next to impossible to accurately predict how this game will unfold, but once again I’ll give it the old college try. I see Lincoln Riley leaning on the short passing game early, mixing in just enough runs to keep the Texas defense from breathing down Spencer Rattler’s neck. On the other side, UT’s offensive line will find it difficult to contain the likes of Nik Bonitto and Isaiah Thomas, but Alex Grinch’s defense will continue to struggle to get off the field on third and fourth down thanks to Casey Thompson’s craftiness and Bijan Robinson’s excellence. I expect this contest to be a back and forth, high-scoring affair with neither team pulling away or holding onto momentum for very long. However, the Sooners will impose their will on the ground down the stretch, keeping the Longhorns from mounting a final comeback. A statement is made on the final drive, culminating in the victory formation as OU takes a few knees in the red zone to drain the clock. As the game ends, Oklahoma players take turns hoisting the Golden Hat for the third season in a row.
Oklahoma 41, Texas 38
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