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Oklahoma Sooners Football vs. Texas: Five matchups to watch in the Red River Rivalry

Dasan McCullough will be crucial for the Sooners on Saturday.

NCAA Football: Iowa State at Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

We’re just under 24 hours away from the kickoff of the 2023 Red River Rivalry featuring the Oklahoma Sooners and Texas Longhorns. Let’s delve into some key positional matchups that could determine the outcome of tomorrow’s game.

McKade Mettauer vs. T’Vondre Sweat

This is the matchup that everyone will be keeping a close eye on come Saturday in Dallas: McCade Mettauer facing off against Texas’ premier defensive lineman, T’Vondre Sweat. Traditionally, the team that runs the ball effectively in the Cotton Bowl often emerges victorious, and this is where Texas holds an advantage on paper. Sweat, a massive 6’4”, 364 lb anchor on the interior of the Texas defensive line, may not have eye-popping stats, but he aims to be a significant disruptor against the run. For Oklahoma to find success in the running game, they’ll need to rely on McKade Mettauer, who, despite having double-digit starts for the Sooners, has had a somewhat inconsistent career.

Drake Stoops, Nic Anderson vs. Texas Secondary

Texas boasts a seasoned secondary that, while not elite, is still an above-average unit in college football. Much attention will be placed on Jalil Farooq and Andrel Anthony as they continue to serve as Oklahoma’s primary deep threats. This should create opportunities for the experienced Drake Stoops and emerging star Nic Anderson to have impactful performances in Dallas, Texas. Stoops, in particular, is no stranger to making big plays in one of college football’s premier rivalry games. He should once again find favorable matchups near the line of scrimmage, while Nic Anderson’s size and speed will pose a mismatch against any Texas defensive back in single coverage.

Dasan McCullough vs. Ja’Tavion Sanders

Despite some uncertainty about Sanders’ availability, he remains the x-factor for Texas. Standing at 6’5” and weighing 256 lbs, Sanders is a mismatch for most defenses. However, Oklahoma counters with Dasan McCullough, who is 6’5” and 227 lbs. If Texas opts to target Sanders in short passes to the flats, it plays into Oklahoma’s hands, as McCullough has demonstrated exceptional closing speed and physicality when attacking downhill. The question here is whether McCullough can keep up with Sanders if Texas sends him downfield. With Oklahoma likely providing safety help for speedsters Xavier Worthy and Johntay Cook, McCullough is likely to find himself in numerous one-on-one situations.

Danny Stutsman, Jaren Kanak vs. Jonathan Brooks

Running back Jonathon Brooks is a name every Oklahoma fan should be familiar with heading into the Red River Shootout. Brooks leads the Big 12 with 597 rushing yards at an impressive 6.9 yards per carry, along with 5 touchdowns. While this game often defies stats and expectations, it’s challenging to overlook the emergence of this redshirt sophomore as one of the nation’s top running backs. On Oklahoma’s side, their rushing defense ranks 29th, showing some vulnerability at times in the middle. It’s a duel between potential star Danny Stutsman, who has shown flashes of elite linebacker play, and the still young and developing Jaren Kanak. Expect a rollercoaster of highs and lows throughout the day here.

Key Lawrence vs. Xavier Worthy

The player who had the most surprising start to the season for Oklahoma? Key Lawrence. Lawrence had an up-and-down career under the previous regime, which carried into last season. In 2023, Lawrence was solid through the first four games with 2 interceptions and a forced fumble. However, last week we witnessed glimpses of those consistency issues returning. This week, he faces a tougher test in containing the speedy Xavier Worthy. As mentioned earlier, while the team that runs the ball effectively often wins this game, in this 2023 edition of the Red River Shootout, the team that prevails in the turnover battle may come out on top, and Lawrence has been a “key” contributor for Oklahoma in that regard.