It’s the 107th meeting between the Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Longhorns and as always, the anticipation for Saturday’s game is mounting. Both of these teams are sitting on one loss, hoping to keep themselves in the Big XII title hunt and a possible BCS at-large bid.
When looking up predictions for the Red River Shootout, it seems to be 50/50 across the board. One writer will give you valid reasons why the Longhorns will win, then on to the next article where a different writer can convince you that the Sooners take the Golden Hat home. What the predictions have in common are the scores. Nobody is picking either to blow the other out, which I agree with. But as far as predicting a winner? I think you’d have just as much luck if you flipped a coin.
These two teams are very similar and evenly matched on opposite sides of the ball. Where the Longhorns have struggled on defense, they have had resurgence on the David Ash led offense. Where Landry Jones and the Sooner offense have struggled, the defense has picked up the slack.
Breaking down the teams:
Offense: The Longhorns are a much improved offensive team from last year. Ash has come out to be the clear choice at QB and so far, has been playing great football. Ash has only thrown one interception on 138 attempts and has some quality wide receivers to choose from in Jaxon Shipley, Marquise Goodwin, Mike Davis and Daje Johnson. Having running back Malcolm Brown out of this mix due to injury has not affected the Horns run game. Joe Bergeron and Jonathan Gray both have looked solid and picked up the slack over the last couple games with Brown out. The effectiveness and improvement of Ash has led this Longhorn offense back to being confident and deadly on the field.
The Sooner offense has been inconsistent; mainly because of Jones. The turnovers by Jones in the Kansas State game had many people asking if it is time to bring in Blake Bell? Those same people were back on the Jones bandwagon after his near-perfect performance last week against Texas Tech. Jones has plenty of targets this weekend and, in a surprise addition, WR Jalen Saunders will be joining the team in Dallas. After waiting for six months, the NCAA finally gave the Fresno State transfer clearance to start playing. The Sooners are also primed to watch one of their running backs have their breakout game and it could be Damien Williams. Williams has been the surprise back for the Sooners this season, taking over most of the carries. QB Bell may also be a huge factor on the ground when it comes to short yardage, which brings me to the Horns defense.
Defense: The Longhorns were hyped up as one of the best defenses in the country during the preseason with the Big XII’s No. 1 secondary and defensive line returning. From where Texas’ defenses normally are, this unit has regressed. They are allowing 402 yards per game. Good news for the Horns is that LB Jordan Hicks will returning for the game and may help wrap-up on the rush defense, which has not been efficient. The line had flashes of improvement against the loss to West Virginia last week, so with the return of Hicks’ leadership, it may give them the confidence they need to finish plays.
The Sooners biggest defensive problem going into the game has been letting opposing offenses convert third downs. They are allowing opponents a conversion rate of 36% or 22-61. Going into the game, the Longhorn offense is No. 2 at converting a third down, so the Sooners will need to flip this stat or force turnovers in order to slow Texas down.
The game is going to come down to the turnovers. Whichever team can produce the most on defense and commit the least on offense will be the team raising the Golden Hat. The advantages seem to in Oklahoma’s favor, but with the rising value of the Horns offense, this game looks like it will play out as one of the best we’ve seen in a while.