By Geoff Case
Since 1900, it has become one of college football’s most eagerly anticipated games. Since 1945, one or both of the two teams has been ranked among the top 25 teams in the nation coming into 61 out of 66 games. Texas leads the all-time series 59–42–5, with a 47–38–4 edge in Dallas.
The Dallas Morning News poll of 119 Division 1A football coaches resulted in the Texas-OU football game being named the third greatest college football rivalry of all time, behind Ohio State-Michigan and Army-Navy. That is some pretty amazing company.
This year, however, will be a little different. Four times since 2000 there was one side that was at least ranked 10 or higher in AP polls. Texas and Oklahoma have both been ranked for Red River every year but one (2005) since 1999, but 1999 was also the last year neither team was in the top 10. That tells us that the track record of quality and consistency of the talent between these two teams has been simply stunning. While the national implications might not be as prevalent as it was in years past, the teams themselves are on a very even playing field this year. Honestly, this kind of represents the reality of this Big 12 season. While there probably aren’t any great teams in the league this year, there are still a lot of good ones. These two teams are definitely included in that conversation. In a league that many thought was loaded with up to seven or eight quality teams, that seems to be the theme. There are no off weeks. Oklahoma is coming off a road victory against Texas Tech and is now preparing to face a Texas team that lost by a field goal to West Virginia. No. 13 Oklahoma (3-1, 1-1 Big 12) cruised past Texas Tech on Saturday while No. 15 Texas was losing to fifth-ranked West Virginia, 48-45.
Oklahoma offense versus Texas defense
The Texas Longhorns will rely heavily on their defense, especially the defensive line, to carry this team. One thing the defense cannot afford is to be on the field for the majority of the game. The Texas offense will need to produce first downs in order to give their defense a breather once in a while. The secondary will need the defensive line fresh to constantly create pressure on Landry Jones who can be rattled and baited into turnovers. The Sooners are not the high-flying offense of years past, yet their production has been enough to win every game they have played. Before last week, OU’s averaged 491.7 yards per outing (277.7 through the air, 214.0 on the ground) in the week following a game in which three turnovers cost OU a victory over Kansas State. Further, the numbers are a bit of a inflated, as a result of running and passing for more than 300 yards (662 in all) against Florida A&M. The Oklahoma offense this year isn’t without its struggles despite what the stats maybe telling you.
Edge: Texas Defense
Texas Offense versus Oklahoma defense
The Oklahoma Sooners had little trouble in defeating the Texas Tech Red Raiders 41-20 on Saturday in Lubbock, Texas, and while the score may indicate an offensive explosion it was actually the Oklahoma defense that keyed the victory. Quarterback Landry Jones threw for two scores, but it was defensive pressure and three interceptions by the Sooners of Texas Tech quarterback Seth Doege that were responsible for the win. The three interceptions were converted into 14 Oklahoma points, including a 46-yard interception return for touchdown by Javon Harris. As a unit, the Sooners’ defense held the Red Raiders passing attack to 271 yards total, roughly 90 below their average output. Here are the numbers. The Sooners are allowing 14.3 points per game, 284.0 yards per game (123.7 passing; 160.3 rushing) and 13.3 first downs a game. Those are reasonably good numbers. On the other hand, two of OU’s three games were against UTEP and Florida A&M and the only other one, against Kansas State, they lost. Also, it’s worth pointing out what victimized the Sooner defense last season – big breakdowns in the secondary that led to big passing plays (recall Baylor and Oklahoma State) – has yet to be attempted, but likely will be when OU visits Texas Tech. And still, it’s true; the Sooners were very good defensively for three quarters against Kansas State. I believe that the Sooner’s defensive performance will likely decide this game. If they are able to create turnovers and convert them into points they should be able to hold off the Longhorns.
Longhorn QB David Ash played a cleaner game last week against West Virginia but he just didn’t make enough plays. Some of the blame needs to be on the coaches as they dialed up the ground game every time the end zone was within sight. The Longhorns will need to take calculated shots against the Sooner defense but must be wary of turning the ball over. In a game this tight, one mistake could be the deciding factor.
Edge: Oklahoma defense
Alex Okafor – DE Texas: All you could ask of Okafor is that he creates a few big plays and get to David Ash. That’s exactly what Okafor did last week, forcing two strip sacks, one of which was recovered for a touchdown and the other was recovered deep in West Virginia territory. Oh, and he blocked a field goal, too. If this guy has a big day… Landry Jones and the Sooners will be hurting.
Who is going to win?
Prediction: Oklahoma 24 Texas 17
This one will be pretty tight and one play could decide the outcome. I believe Oklahoma has the slight edge in this match-up only because of their ability to cause and capitalize on turnovers.