The most important game on the schedule for the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners is just hours away and this year’s Red River Showdown should prove especially interesting that that both Texas and Oklahoma need a win in hopes of re-injecting some life and momentum into their season.
Texas enters at 2-1 (1-1) following a 33-31 loss to TCU, while Oklahoma (1-2, 0-2) is reeling after back-to-back losses to Kansas State and Iowa State.
The BON staff got together to discuss which team needs a win more and what key factors will likely decide who gets that win.
Considering the improbably rally vs. TTU and the goal-line turnover down the stretch against TCU, Texas could be 3-0 just as easily as it could be 1-2. Which of those two near realities is more telling of what this Texas team is and will become throughout the season?
Cody — The near 1-2 is more telling of what Texas is thus far, which is a team that hasn’t performed up to par. But I don’t expect that continue throughout the entire season — not that Texas will look the part of a top 10 team again, but this is still a team that can finish 8-2 or 7-3 at worst with a few key adjustments.
Gerald — The 1-2 is definitely closer, but that being said I think Texas has been a really good half-team in both weeks. Against Tech they were an offense that had to overcome the defense. Against TCU, Texas came up with enough stops to win the game and the offense couldn’t respond with points.
Evan — The fact that you could make a case for Texas being closer to either 1-2 or 3-0 highlights how frustrating it is that this team continues to play to their level of competition. With how they’ve played and how unorganized they’ve looked against Tech and TCU, they should probably be closer to 1-2. But the talent on this team makes me believe they should be 3-0. They’ve got to clean up their mistakes going forward.
Cameron — I want to say 3-0 but the correct answer is 1-2. The fact this team could be undefeated shows how close they are to being the favorite in the Big 12 but instead will have to fight each week for the rest of the season.
Anthony — The sad reality is that Texas should probably be 1-2 right now, but this team is simply way too talented to play down to a 7-3, 6-4 type of season. Ehlinger is too good of a quarterback to end his career on a mediocre note. I’d expect the offense to respond in a big way this week.
A second straight loss and 2-2 mark for Texas will likely be perceived as a program that simply can’t turn the corner under Tom Herman. Meanwhile, Oklahoma hasn’t dropped three consecutive games since 1998. Of two teams that haven’t looked the part early on, does Texas or OU need this win more on Saturday?
Cody — Texas, no question. Oklahoma is still Oklahoma, so a down season with a first-year starter at QB amid a pandemic will be reflected upon as just that. As for Texas, this was supposed to be the year that a Heisman candidate QB led an experienced and tremendously talented roster to a Big 12 title. 2-2 following a loss to a struggling OU squad will provide evidence of a team that can’t turn that corner in Herman’s fourth year.
Gerald — Texas. For Lincoln Riley and the Sooners, this one is an easy write off. A weird year in so many different ways gets them a likely pass. Plates have been spinning in Austin since last year and they still look wobbly, so Texas likely won’t get the benefit of the doubt.
Evan — Texas, 100%. Riley has enough Big 12 Championship trophies and 10+ win seasons on his resume, as well as starting a freshman QB in a shortened, pandemic-affected offseason, to label this season as a one-off down year. For Herman, a loss would signal yet another potentially lost season and falling short of preseason goals and expectations.
Cameron — Texas. If the Horns lose on Saturday, it makes them a long shot to reach the CFB Playoff and outside chance of winning the Big 12. Both of those things were expected by Year 4 under Tom Herman. Another Alamo Bowl appearance won’t cut it.
Anthony — Definitely Texas. While Oklahoma is breaking in a redshirt freshman quarterback, this was supposed to be the year Texas dethrones the Big 12 champs with a veteran quarterback at the helm. It’s not a normal year in Norman considering the amount of players they’re currently missing, especially at running back. Now, can Yurcich and Herman out-scheme the offensive mastermind of Lincoln Riley with more talent and experience on their side? We’ll see.
Assuming we’re going to see plenty of points on Saturday, which Longhorns not named Sam Ehlinger will need to impress on offense in order for Texas to keep pace?
Cody — Jake Smith and Joshua Moore are the likely candidates to produce through the air, and Texas will need each of them to do so. Elsewhere, Texas’ running back room simply needs to perform well as a group and help keep OU’s defense off balance.
Gerald — Brennan Eagles needs to eliminate his one massive drop every game. I also expect the Texas tight ends, specifically Jared Wiley, to be a focus to capitalize on the size advantage they have against Oklahoma.
Evan — Gerald took my answer — Brennan Eagles will show up for a couple big plays, but otherwise be non-existent or dropping passes in crucial moments. But with OU’s defense so vulnerable in the secondary, if the offensive line can give Sam Ehlinger time to throw and go through his reads, that would better allow Texas to exploit the Sooners through the air.
Cameron — Ehlinger needs one of his playmakers to step up. Whether it’s Jake Smith or Jordan Whittington or Roschon Johnson, someone needs to have a big game.
Anthony — It starts with attacking Oklahoma’s undersized secondary at will (specifically No. 44) with bigger body targets like Tarik Black, Brennan Eagles, Jared Wiley and Malcolm Epps. 50-50 balls against Oklahoma defensive backs tend to play more like 75-25 in favor of the offense. Let them make plays.
On the flip side of that, Texas’ defense has missed more than a few tackles, allowed sizable running lanes, and failed to win its share of one-on-one battles in the secondary in key moments. How to you expect Chris Ash to adjust to slow a capable OU offense?
Cody — Ideally, Texas has learned to tackle at least a little bit better, but with a talented front line and OU still breaking in a first-year quarterback, I expect Ash to dial up a consistent pass rush and send plenty of blitzes and force Spencer Rattler to make the right decisions in the biggest game of his young career.
Gerald — Each week, we’ve seen Ash fold in additional wrinkles into the defense to help create pressure on quarterbacks. This is the game where you pull out all of the stops, especially given Spencer Rattler’s penchant for making mistakes when pressured.
Evan — K-State and Iowa State have provided a bit of a blueprint on how to rattle Rattler. In order to get him off his game, as it’s been said above, the Texas front seven needs to pressure the young QB and force him to take hits, make quick decisions, and hopefully turn the ball over.
Cameron — OU’s offensive line has struggled this year as they only average 85 yards rushing per game and have allowed eight sacks. The Horns need to rattle Rattler (I’m sorry) and not allow him to get into rhythm. That will help take the pressure off of the UT secondary.
Anthony — Covering Oklahoma’s speedy receivers won’t be easy if Spencer Rattler has time in the pocket. The defensive gameplan should revolve around making him as uncomfortable as possible. Force him to beat you with his legs. He isn’t much of a threat on the ground and has taken nine sacks already this season.
Whether it’s a single player or a position group, what’s the must-win matchup for Texas to come out on top?
Cody — As much as I want to say Texas’ secondary, the reality is OU’s receivers (and TE Austin Stogner) should find their fair share of success. I think the Texas defensive front has to create consistent pressure to make Rattler’s life miserable and prevent such wide running lanes in hopes of forcing Oklahoma to become one-dimensional.
Gerald — The Texas secondary against the Oklahoma receivers, specifically tackling in space. Oklahoma had a ridiculous number of yards after the catch a year ago and Texas has to limit that.
Evan — If Texas is able to get pressure on Rattler and wall up the Sooners rushing attack, then the Longhorns should have the edge in this game. When Oklahoma has struggled for stretches on offense this year, it’s been because they couldn’t rely on a steady running game and have been forced to go to the air to move the ball. It sounds weird, but forcing Oklahoma to move the ball through the air (with pressure up front) gives your defense the best chance to win.
Cameron — Texas linebackers vs OU. TCU vaporized the Horns LB unit last week and losing Juwan Mitchell didn’t help. Expect Lincoln Riley to try and exploit the Horns lack of speed at the LB unit.
Anthony — Texas’ defensive line must win the battle at the line of scrimmage in order to slow down that explosive Oklahoma offense. The Sooners are averaging just 3.6 yards per rush and lead the conference in turnover rate this season. If Texas can clog up running lanes and limit success early in downs, that’s when the defense can make Rattler pay with pressure up-front.
Prediction: Is it No. 22 Texas or the slightly-favored Oklahoma that bounces back and re-injects some sense of optimism into their season?
Cody — Texas has typically performed well under Tom Herman following a loss with a 12-3 record, but I think it will be Lincoln Riley and OU who address their issues well enough to win on Saturday. 41-38 OU.
Gerald — I think this is going to be a shootout and in a shootout I always take the more experienced quarterback. I think Texas wins 38-35.
Evan — This has been a close matchup as of late, no matter what baggage the two teams have brought into the game. Texas has more talent where it matters, though Oklahoma has the edge in coaching. It should be a close, high scoring game. But it’s one I think Texas will win — Herman’s in some seriously hot water if he doesn’t. Texas 42 - Oklahoma 41
Cameron — Texas is the better team on paper, and even though we haven’t seen it against Texas Tech or TCU, I think we will against Oklahoma. Texas 42 - Oklahoma 38
Anthony — Been back and forth on this one all week. Gut says Oklahoma, heart says Texas. Whoever wins the turnover battle will win the game, in my opinion. Texas 45, Oklahoma 41.