The Sooners and Longhorns will once again clash in this year's Red River Rivalry Game.
The Texas Longhorns are set to take on the Oklahoma Sooners this Saturday, and there are a few things that they'll have to do if they want to win this year's Red River Rivalry Game.
The 4-1 Longhorns and the 3-1 Sooners have both suffered recent conference losses, and each team is looking to rebound against its biggest rival.
They may have taken an early loss, but Oklahoma is still a great team, and the Longhorns will need a strong performance if they want to avenge last season's 55-17 beatdown.
Here are a few of the things that Texas can do to walk away with a win.
Texas needs to run the ball effectively this weekend.
This Oklahoma defense is good. The Sooners have given up 16 points and 306 yards per game this year, good for 20th and 17th in the nation, respectively.
However, that same defense was a bit exposed in the Sooners' loss to Kansas State a few weeks ago. The Sooners allowed the Wildcats to run the ball up and down the field, giving up 213 yards rushing in the game.
To be fair, 79 of those yards came from dual-threat quarterback Collin Klein, who is a far better runner than Texas quarterback David Ash.
But the Sooners were still chewed up by Kansas State running back John Hubert, who turned his 23 carries into 130 yards and a touchdown.
The Longhorns should try to emulate that success on Saturday. Though they're not the powerhouse that Kansas State is on the ground (the Longhorns rank 28th in the nation compared to the Wildcats' 9th), Texas is still more than capable of running the ball behind their talented trio of running backs.
Joe Bergeron, Johnathan Gray and Malcolm Brown (should he play) have combined for 789 yards and 12 touchdowns on 156 carries and are all capable of ripping off big runs.
If the running backs run the ball effectively for Texas, it could go a long way not just in terms of moving the ball but also in helping David Ash out.
Oklahoma made Ash's life miserable last season. He's a much better quarterback than the confused freshman that the Sooners saw last year, but the Longhorns would make life a lot easier for him if they could establish a running game and not put the game completely on his shoulders.
Alex Okafor and the Texas defense need to put pressure on Landry Jones.
It's no coincidence that Oklahoma's single loss came in the only game that Landry Jones has faced serious pass pressure.
Though Kansas State only sacked Jones twice, they put constant pressure on the Sooners' quarterback, and forced him into several bad throws.
Even Jones admitted after the game (per the Associated Press):
I played pretty terrible. The majority of this game is in my hands. I didn't take care of the ball or make enough plays. This one is probably on me.
Texas needs to put similar pressure on Jones. When the Oklahoma quarterback gets time in the pocket, few quarterbacks are better at picking apart the defense. But as the Wildcats showed, he can be forced into bad decisions when under duress.
Despite a poor defensive performance overall, the Longhorns were able to get after West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith last week, sacking him four times. They'll need a similar effort this weekend if they want to avoid another loss.
If defensive linemen Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat (a combined 9.5 sacks this season) can repeat last week's performance, Texas will be in a good position to walk away with a win against the Sooners.
Andrew Buie had a big game on the ground against the Longhorns.
The Longhorns weren't able to stop Geno Smith and the high-octane West Virginia passing attack last week.
That's not a huge concern for the Longhorns—no one's been able to stop Geno Smith. But the fact that Texas gave up 207 rushing yards to West Virginia running back Andrew Buie is a concern. It's a big one.
Head coach Mack Brown said after the game (per Tulsaworld.com's John Klein):
We couldn't stop the run. The thing I'm having trouble with is we're giving up so many rushing yards and we're not used to that. We're allowing people to be two-dimensional. We've got to do a better job with that.
Texas can't afford to give up a lot of yards on the ground this week. As mentioned earlier, getting pressure on Landry Jones and forcing turnovers because of that will be huge in this game.
If the Sooners are able to run the ball the way that the Mountaineers did, then all of a sudden things get a whole lot tougher for Texas.
Oklahoma's ground game has been better than West Virginia's this year, so the Longhorns are going to have to look at what the Mountaineers did and adjust quickly. If they're not able to limit the Sooners' running game, they could be in for a long night defensively.
If David Ash can continue to avoid turnovers, the Longhorns will be in great shape to beat the Sooners.
It can't be overstated how important the turnover battle is to this game.
Dating back to 2004, the team that won the turnover battle has ultimately won the game. Judging by how explosive the Texas and Oklahoma offenses can be, it's a fair assessment to say that turnovers will again go a long way in deciding this one.
Luckily for the Longhorns, they have a definite advantage in this category. Texas has a plus-seven turnover differential, turning the ball over just three times this season but taking it away 10 times.
That's far better than what the Sooners have done. Oklahoma has a minus-two differential, sporting six turnovers to just four takeaways. The mark is good for 92nd in the 120-team FBS and is perhaps the Sooners' biggest weakness.
Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops even addressed the problem after his team's loss to Kansas State, saying (per the Kansas State Wildcats' official site):
As our team goes, the number one thing that's obvious is turnovers...You give up three turnovers and don't get one, you're going to lose against a good team every time and that's how it went.
History has shown how important the turnover battle is to this rivalry, and the Longhorns need to make sure that they win that battle. They've done a great job so far this season, and as long as they continue to force turnovers and protect the ball, they'll have a huge advantage over the Sooners.
The Longhorns can't continue to give up big plays this week.
The Texas defense has played nowhere near its normal standards this year, and a huge part of that is because of the sheer amount of big plays they've given up.
Justin Ray of ESPN Stats & Info wrote before the West Virginia game about that very subject.
According to Ray, Texas has allowed an average of almost seven rushes of 10 yards or more per game this season. The Longhorns had also given up five touchdown passes of 20 yards or more heading into the game.
Things looked no better against the Mountaineers, who burned Texas for a 40-yard touchdown pass and eight rushes of over 10 yards.
The Longhorns simply have to improve against the Sooners this week. Oklahoma's offense may not be quite as explosive as West Virginia's, but they're still more than capable of making their fair share of big plays.
Time and time again this season, the Texas defense has held an offense to successive one or two yard gains before inevitably giving up a 20 or 30-yard play.
They can't afford that this weekend. It doomed them last week against West Virginia, and unless they fix the problem, they'll have an extremely tough time dealing with the Sooners.
If the Texas defense is able to limit giving up such big plays against Oklahoma, they'll be one step closer to taking down their biggest rival.