The Red River Shootout is among the best rivalries in all of sports, and fans on both sides reserve a special kind of hatred for this game. Baker Mayfield put it best last year when he said regarding Texas “I can’t stand them.” Nor can I, Baker.
And I assure you, the feeling is mutual.
This year’s edition of the game features two of the nation’s top teams, both of which are led by Heisman hopefuls at quarterback. The No. 6 Sooners enter Saturday undefeated – although, largely untested – while the 11th ranked Longhorns are 4-1, with its lone loss coming to No. 5 LSU back on September 7th.
However, as the old saying goes – you can throw out the record books when these two teams play (apologies for the cliché). It doesn’t matter what either team has accomplished through the first five weeks of the season, however we can look to earlier games in order to identify schemes and players that will be critical to the success of each team.
After studying both teams performance and tendencies thus far, we’ve identified three key matchups that we think will help decide this game. So, whether you’re watching from the Cotton Bowl or the parking lot with 5 pounds of fried food in hand, or you’re like me, watching alone in your apartment because you can’t deal with the anxiety of being around other people during the game (I’m a lot of fun) keep your eye on the battles we describe below:
Oklahoma’s Offensive Line vs. the Texas Pass Rush
The Sooners’ offensive line has been anything but consistent in both lineup and performance thus far in 2019. Oklahoma has yet to start the same group of 5 in any game this season, and this lack of continuity compounds as the Sooners are hit with the injury bug. Without Erik Swenson or likely Adrian Ealy, Bill Bedenbaugh and Co. will need to find an answer at the tackle position, otherwise Jalen Hurts could be forced to run a lot more than the Sooners would like. Further, Creed Humphrey will have his hands full in the middle with freshman NT Keondre Coburn and will need to fight him to a stalemate in order for the Sooners to control the line.
Key Players to Watch: Texas LB Joseph Ossai and NT Keondre Coburn | Oklahoma LT RJ Proctor and C Creed Humphrey
Devin Duvernay vs. Oklahoma’s Secondary
Duvernay has been a breakout star for the Longhorns this year, particularly with Collin Johnson sidelined with an injury. Often lining up in the slot, Duvernay has been lethal in the short passing game which Texas uses almost as an extension if its run game. Oklahoma will likely use a combination of defenders to watch the speedy senior, but you have to expect Bookie will get the nod when he is lined up inside. The Sooners will need to be sure tacklers when Duvernay gets his touches, because he’s got the speed to break any play if given some space.
Key Players to Watch: Texas WR Devin Duvernay (obviously) | Oklahoma NB Brendan Radley-Hiles
Oklahoma’s Front Seven vs. Texas’ Offensive Line
In my view, this one will be where the Sooners can win or lose this game. The much-improved defense is led by the front seven, which has been dominant and disruptive through five games. The Texas offensive line has done a good job of keeping Sam Ehlinger clean when he drops back to pass this year. This cannot be the case on Saturday if Oklahoma hopes to contain the Longhorns’ talented receiving corps. Texas’ offensive line hasn’t been shy about their confidence level in being able to handle the Sooners up front, but look for Oklahoma to be creative in its stunts and alignments in order to get penetration.
Key Players to Watch: Texas LT Samuel Cosmi and C Zack Shackelford | Oklahoma DE Ronnie Perkins and NT Neville Gallimore
BONUS: Tom Herman & Sam Ehlinger vs. “Horns Down”
…just kidding but this just wanted to sneak in that this “controversy” is ridiculous and everyone not from Austin, Texas should read this tweet and be rooting for an Oklahoma blowout.
Key Players to Watch: The Referees and people who hate fun.
Oklahoma enters Saturday a 10.5-point favorite over the Longhorns. However, per Kegan Reneau of SoonersWire (USAToday), Oklahoma has not covered the spread against Texas since 2012.
Oklahoma has not covered the spread in an OU-Texas game at the Cotton Bowl since 2012.
That includes spreads of -13.5 (2013), -16.5 (2014), -16.5 (2015), -13.5 (2016), -9 (2017) and -7 (2018).
— Kegan Reneau (@KeganReneau) October 6, 2019
If history tells us anything, it’s that Sooner fans are in for a hell of a ride on Saturday afternoon, no matter what Vegas says. Kickoff is scheduled for 11am CT.