We discuss keys to the game, players to watch for, and of course, deep fried food in this week's edition of the Burnt Orange Nation roundtable:
What is the main way the offense must improve in order to stay in the game against OU?
Wes Crochet: The offensive line will have to play well and protect its true freshman quarterback, Sam Ehlinger, from the likes of OU defensive linemen Ogbonnia Okoronkwo and Kenneth Mann.
Wesley Watts: I think the biggest factor in staying with OU is getting the backs involved. If you go back to the last two times Texas beat OU it's been behind extremely strong performances on the ground. Now UT isn't rolling out Malcom Brown or D'Onta Foreman, and they don't have to. But Chris Warren and company HAVE to be more effective in order to walk away with that golden hat.
Anthony Rizzo: With Oklahoma having a solid run defense and Texas having a very unreliable run game, Ehlinger is going to have to make plays. The QB run game needs to be effective which can help set up the passing game. Also, I don’t mind Herman being aggressive and going for it on fourth down. But when it’s not a manageable fourth down, simply just take the points, especially in a game like this.
Robert Garcia: We need O-Line backups to step up and offer depth. Players need to develop and be dependable — we saw this versus K State and that is the improvement we need going forward...it starts up front. If the line fails, the rest is chaos at best — scramble, scramble, scramble.
What's the key for the Texas defense in stopping Baker Mayfield and company?
Wes: Same as in the past. Apply pressure, contain him, and get him out of rhythm. Another Elliott or Hill interception would be great as well.
Wesley: Hitting Baker Mayfield early and often. He talks a lot of trash, but if you make him tap dance early he turns into a shell of himself. The D doesn't even have to sack him much, just hit him hard. Also another strong performance from Elliott will be huge. OU has some serious talent in that receiving corps. There will be opportunities there for the taking on both sides, if UT wins those 50/50 balls I like their chances.
Anthony: Just like in the 2015 victory over Oklahoma, contain and get pressure on him. Malik Jefferson is perfect for this kind of match up as he will be spying on Mayfield for most of the game. Jefferson’s lateral speed and tackling ability makes me feel confident when it comes to containing Mayfield. Oklahoma is one of the best teams in the nation at incorporating their tight ends and fullbacks, so it’ll be a challenge to keep Flowers and Andrews in check. I believe Todd Orlando will schematically have this team ready for this explosive Oklahoma offense.
Robert: Good coverage. Pressure alone won't help, he's got too many quick release targets he can hit after a quick scramble. Take out his targets and now that scramble ends in a throw away to the sideline.
What weaknesses does Oklahoma have that you think Tom Herman and the 'Horns can exploit?
Wes: I'm not sold on the Sooners' secondary, and I actually don't see the Oklahoma offense being as explosive as in years past. So I expect Texas to take some shots downfield to generate some big plays.
Wesley: I think OU's biggest weakness is their defense. In two conference games they've given up 72 points and over 970 yards to the likes of win-less Baylor and Iowa State. Look for Texas to have their best offensive performance of the season in Dallas on Saturday. And a huge performance from Collin Johnson.
Anthony: Oklahoma’s weak secondary can be exploited with all the talent the ‘Horns have at receiver. Collin Johnson has had two really strong performances with Ehlinger at quarterback, he should get at least 10 targets this Saturday. Oklahoma got exposed against a walk-on quarterback last weekend so the opportunities will be there through the air.
Robert: Oklahoma has some big holes on D that Herman and company should be able to expose. OU cannot defend the screen pass. Both Baylor and Iowa State found ways to leverage OU's weak pass D.
How do expectations for the rest of the season change if Texas manages to win this game?
Wes: After starting 1-2 (and losing Connor Williams), my expectations dropped to six or seven wins. A win against OU will likely mean the offense is finding its identity, and I'd expect eight wins for the Longhorns.
Wesley: If Texas pulls off the upset in Dallas I think you can easily throw them in the conversation for the Big 12 title game. Especially with Oklahoma St and TCU still having to play each other and OU. Now, of course UT has to play those teams too, but if they manage another strong defensive performance against a strong offensive team the nation will be on notice.
Anthony: Big 12 championship aspirations should be in full effect if Texas is able to win this game. Being 3-0 atop the Big 12 would put the ‘Horns in a great position heading into the second-half of the season. I could see a two-loss Big 12 team playing for the conference championship so there definitely is a little margin for error in a deep conference like the Big 12.
Robert: Beat your rival, and expectations soar through the roof — starting with winning the conference. UT would exit 3-0 in league...on that trail to TCU for a BIG matchup.
Who is your MVP of the Red River Showdown? What unexpected player do you think will make a big impact?
Wes: MVP — WR Reggie Hemphill-Mapps. Unexpected impact — LB Gary Johnson.
Wesley: I alluded to it above, and I don't think it's a surprise, but I feel like Collin Johnson is going to have a huge day. Bigger than the USC game. OU does not have the talent in the secondary to keep up with him. Also I think Toneil Carter goes for over 100 and scores.
Anthony: Offensive MVP — Sam Ehlinger. Defensive MVP — Malik Jefferson. Big time players step up in big time games and these two will do just that on Saturday. X-factor— Toneil Carter. The freshman running back’s workload has increased the past two games. Carter has been by far the most effective running back for this team thus far, and a breakout performance for the freshman is bound to happen.
Robert: (Robert took a historical approach on this one) Jamaal Charles in the 2005 game. He set a freshman rushing record AND ended a 5-game losing streak to OU.
Wes: 38-34 Texas upsets Oklahoma (Kool-Aid tastes great, thanks for asking.)
Wesley: 30-24 Texas. I honestly think UT will control most of the game. OU will make it interesting late.
Anthony: Texas 28, Oklahoma 23. It’s __:__ and OU still sucks. The defense will hold Oklahoma to multiple field goal attempts instead of touchdowns. A blocked punt will end up being the difference and the legend of Sam Ehlinger will officially be born in the Red River Showdown. He will account for three total touchdowns and will outplay the Heisman-contending quarterback, Baker Mayfield.
Robert: Texas 34, OU 31.
Favorite state fair food?
Wes: Can't go wrong with a corn dog, though one of the best foods I've ever had there was a bacon=wrapped jalapeno popper.
Wesley: Fried sweet tea. If you haven't tried it, it's life changing.
Anthony: Elephant Ears. Nothing beats a warm, crispy, cinnamon sugar-fried bread treat at the fair.
Robert: Anything deep fried! Bring it on — can't wait to have it all!