The traditional Red River Shootout game between the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners kicks off at 11 am central time on ABC this coming Saturday in front of a live audience of 92,000+ and a television audience of millions more.
As always, there are a few story-lines in this classic rivalry that may not be obvious to the naked eye, but will play a huge factor in how things shake out.
Here’s how we see those:
Oklahoma Wide Receiving Corps v.s. Running Game
As a whole, the Oklahoma wide receiving corps has under-performed versus the high expectations with which they entered the 2012 season. High-profile recruit Trey Metoyer only has 10 receptions for 90 yards– far below what was expected upon his arrival– while junior Kenny Stills is the only on the unit with more than 300 yards total receiving.
This lack of production overall has caused a shift in game-planning for Bob Stoops and his team away from the pass some toward the running game, which has been spear-headed by junior Damian Williams who almost has as many yards on the ground (341) as Stills has in catching passes (344).
Will Oklahoma focus on the run– especially given the way the Texas has been sliced and diced in recent weeks using it– or, will Landry Jones look to establish the pass first to open the run?
Texas’ Special Teams Have Never Been More Important
The Texas Longhorns’ special teams units have been rather poor to this point in the 2012 season, and an improved performance this Saturday has never been more important. Regardless of how and where the Sooners and Longhorns are positioned when the Shootout rolls around, rarely is there a blowout.
Sure, they’ve happened, but if one takes a look at the historical data they are rare. Given this, special teams performance could be the difference between a win and loss for Texas on Saturday. Kicker Anthony Fera now has a game under his belt– although it ended poorly with a 41-yard miss against West Virginia–so there will be less room for error, and allowance for it, this weekend.
The Texas kick coverage team must also come up big and improve from a dismal evening against the West Virginia burners last weekend to keep things even and win the most important field position match-ups of the contest.
Will Blake Bell or D.J. Monroe make an impact?
Oklahoma’s version of Tim Tebow– well, at least in the red zone anyway– is Blake “Belldozer” Bell. Bell is used almost exclusively in the red-zone to pound in short-yardage touchdowns using his massive 6’6″, 254 pound frame to his advantage.
Texas running back D.J. Monroe, on the other hand, is the most enigmatic player on the Texas roster– one week the most electrifying player on the field, the next completely absent from existence.
Will Blake Bell pick up a few big short-yardage first downs that maintain momentum for Oklahoma and start to be used even in traditional sets if Landry Jones struggles against a hungry Texas defense? Will we see the D.J. Monroe who thrives in jet and sprint sweeps, or will we see “Donald Junior” who’s butt is firmly planted on the metallic benches?
These, and other more obvious story-lines always add to the intrigue of what is one of college football’s best rivalries, keeping folks glued to their televisions every second Saturday in October for generations past and generations to come.
Kris Hughes is the College Football Network Manager for Rant Sports and a member of the Football Writers Association of America.
Kris is also the host of the Rant Sports College Football Houron the TSC Radio Network on Sunday evenings at 8 Central Time and Rant Sports Radio on the Blog Talk Radio Network Wednesday evenings at 8 Central Time.