Those who love high-powered offenses and bitter, hard-fought rivalries are in store for a treat in Week 7 when the Texas Longhorns and Oklahoma Sooners descend on the Cotton Bowl for the annual Red River Rivalry game.
The Longhorns come into Saturday's contest fresh off taking a loss in a 48-45 thriller against West Virginia. Led by legendary head coach Mack Brown, this Texas squad has been as porous on defense as it has been great on offense.
Hoping to take advantage of those defensive deficiencies will be a Sooners offense that has been top-notch against a relatively weak schedule. However, the unit struggled against Kansas State in its only game against a ranked opponent and it will be interesting to see what Landry Jones and company have in store for the Longhorns.
In rivalry games, the cliche goes "you throw records out the window."
Well, this is one case where that statement actually applies.
With that in mind, here's a look at everything you need to know about the 2012 Red River Rivalry.
When: Saturday, October 13 at 12:00 p.m. ET
Where: Cotton Bowl, Dallas
Spread: Oklahoma -3.5 (Bovada)
As two top-tier teams spurred by strong offenses, this should be an exciting contest for fans, regardless of whether you have a vested interest.
Nevertheless, the Sooners come into this game as favorites for a reason. Despite a weak schedule, Oklahoma's defense has been top-notch for the most part and should ultimately decide the contest.
Texas has shown a fundamental inability to stop any remotely decent opposing offense this season, and Oklahoma's offense will take big advantage.
Coupled with a high score and a better-than-you-think defense, the Sooners should prevail by two scores on Saturday and cover the spread quite easily.
Over/Under: 60.5 (Vegas Insider)
If the last few weeks have taught us anything about what happens when two top Big 12 schools face each other, you lay heavy on the over and count your free money.
While Oklahoma's defense is a strong unit, it is yet to face an offense as elite as Texas coming into this week. David Ash has been other-worldly in terms of efficiency through the air and the running attack has been fantastic as well.
The Sooners will win, but look for them to give up a season high in points as this game turns into yet another Big 12 barnburner.
Texas Injury Report (via USA Today)
RB Malcolm Brown, Ankle, Questionable
LB Jordan Hicks, Hip, Questionable
DT Desmond Jackson, Undisclosed, Questionable
CB Adrian Phillips, Shoulder, Questionable
Oklahoma Injury Report (via USA Today)
DE Chaz Nelson, Knee, Out
OL Tyler Evans, Knee, Out for Season
With 13 teams from automatic qualifying conferences still undefeated coming into Week 7, it's highly unlikely that either of these teams wind up in the BCS national championship game.
Regardless, a win on Saturday likely comes with a Top 10 ranking and an inside track at either an at-large BCS bowl berth or a conference championship if West Virginia or Kansas State falters down the stretch.
Both stricken with in-conference losses, neither Texas nor Oklahoma can afford a loss on Saturday if they hope to be taken seriously.
Keys for Texas
At this point, it's readily apparent that the Longhorns' defensive issues will continue for the duration of the season.
The unit is not experienced or disciplined enough to stop elite opposition and it will face off against a top-tier attack on Saturday.
That means the key to Texas winning is the same as it will be for the rest of the season: score a ton of points and hope the defense gets one clutch stop.
Critical to that goal will be Ash, who may be the most underrated quarterback in college football. After struggling mightily last season as a freshman, the Longhorns signal-caller has lived up every bit to his high billing this season.
Through five games, Ash has thrown for 1,276 yards and 11 touchdowns with just one interception while completing 77.5 percent of his passes. That rate puts him second in the nation behind West Virginia star Geno Smith, but with about a tenth of the recognition.
If Texas wins this game, it will be due to yet another sensational performance from its quarterback. Maybe then we could put Ash's season in the elite stratosphere.
Keys for Oklahoma
While getting a strong passing performance from Ash is vital to the Longhorns, suffocating the Texas running attack could guarantee a win for the Sooners.
Ash's brilliance this season has been predicated on a strong running game opening up the passing game.
That attack has been led by the three-headed monster of Joe Bergeron, Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray. Each of the three backs have more than 40 carries and 240-plus yards on the season and give the Longhorns wide-ranging scope of skill sets at the position.
Though Brown is currently listed on the injury report, Gray and Bergeron should easily be able to step in and present fits for the Sooners.
Coming into Week 7, run defense has been a bit of a mixed bag for Oklahoma. The Sooners gave up 213 yards in their loss to Kansas State, but looked vastly improved last week when the unit gave up just 2.8 yards per rush against Texas Tech.
With questions following the team into Saturday's contest at middle linebacker, how Oklahoma fares against the run could hold the key to victory. A suffocating performance will force Ash to throw in untenable situations on long downs and could lead to a regression to last season's mean.
It seems wholly unlikely that the Sooners will be able to stop Texas' high-powered offense for the entire game. Ash is simply riding too high and the running backs are simply too strong for that to happen.
Nonetheless, look for Oklahoma to get stops when absolutely necessary and to win its first shootout of the season.
Score Prediction: Oklahoma 41, Texas 31
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