The Texas Longhorns (3-2, 2-0) and the Oklahoma Sooners (4-1, 1-1) will meet in Dallas at the historic Cotton Bowl to continue the storied rivalry once again this Saturday. Let the Tom Herman-Lincoln Riley rivalry begin.
With this monumental matchup approaching, here are the three keys to victory for the Longhorns.
Play with an unmatchable amount of energy to get off to a hot start
Ultimately, evenly-matched rivalry games are decided by which team plays with more energy on the field. Of course, both teams are going to play with tons of passion and heart considering it’s a rivalry game. But, if this Texas team can play with an unmatchable firepower like they did against USC, they’ll have an edge over this Oklahoma team. Freshman Sam Ehlinger seems to be the perfect physically gifted quarterback for these types of games.
Tom Herman has proven to have his teams show up for big games in the past (Ohio State, Houston). He went 6-0 at Ohio State as an offensive coordinator when they were an underdog and went 6-0 at Houston against AP Top 25 teams. His lone loss against a ranked opponent as a head coach came against the fifth-ranked USC Trojans in double-overtime earlier in the season. There’s no question that Herman will have this team ready to play come Saturday.
In the past eight meetings between the two rivals, the first team to score a touchdown has gone on to to win the game. This shows how important it is to get the first touchdown — it really sets the tone for the game. Texas has been unable to jump out to hot starts offensively thus far this season, as it has taken time for the offense to settle in and execute. Jumping out to an early lead with the stout defense Texas has would be colossal in this game.
Contain Oklahoma’s talented tight end and fullback
Tight ends and fullbacks seem to be so undervalued in college football today. On the other hand, they are the most important part in this explosive Oklahoma offense. Lincoln Riley and the rest of the Sooners offensive staff do a sensational job of incorporating tight ends and fullbacks into their offensive scheme.
Tight end Mark Andrews and fullback Dimitri Flowers are the best in the business in their respective positions. Andrews has 355 yards on 19 receptions with two touchdowns this season. It would come to no surprise if Andrews wins the John Mackey Award (nation’s top tight end) this season.
Flowers has 263 yards on 16 receptions with two receiving touchdowns and three rushing touchdowns. The San Antonio product excels at catching the ball out of the backfield and will even line up as a tight end/receiver at times.
These two big bodies are tough to tackle in the open field and will be a tall task for the Texas defense to contain. They don’t need to hold them completely in check but cannot allow the two to dictate the outcome of the game.
Texas’ linebackers have yet to really be tested in pass coverage, but will have to step up in pass coverage and tackle well in space. Nickel cornerback PJ Locke III will play a major part against Andrews and Flowers as well. While Locke has yet to play up to his full potential this season, this would be the right game to do so.
Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield excels at play-action short passes over the middle to Andrews and Flowers. The defense simply cannot bite on the fakes, otherwise the short middle passes will be open all day.
Let Ehlinger do his thing
After accounting for two touchdowns and 487 total yards of offense against Kansas State, Ehlinger seems poised to be the guy for Herman and this Texas team.
Ehlinger was bound to be a quarterback at the University of Texas ever since he was a kid. The freshman will get to experience his first of many Texas-Oklahoma games on Saturday.
The offensive playbook should be fully opened to Ehlinger against Oklahoma. Offensive coordinator Tim Beck needs to call one heck of a game this week and it starts with opening the playbook for the freshman quarterback. Now that Ehlinger has settled in and the offense has found an identity, it’s time to put it all together.
Ehlinger is a tough player and is not afraid to put his shoulder down and truck a defender, as he showed against Kansas State. If the run game isn’t working with the backs, let Ehlinger go to work and run 15-20 times in this game. He is very effective when running the ball and plays with an unmatchable competitive edge as a quarterback. The dude is a warrior.
While his passing game is far from complete, continue to rely on the short passing game until the defense takes it away. Beck shouldn’t be afraid to let Ehlinger take some shots down the field against a struggling Oklahoma secondary that allowed a walk-on quarterback to throw for 330-plus yards with three touchdowns last week.
Saturday will be Ehlinger’s time to shine once again. Don’t be surprised if the young freshman quarterback outplays the Heisman-contending quarterback on the other side.
This Saturday will be a major opportunity for Texas to get redemption, put itself atop the Big 12, end Oklahoma’s College Football Playoff chances and send Baker Mayfield to the NFL with a 1-3 record against the Longhorns.
Go ahead and do just that, ‘Horns.