This is one of those games that every college football fan circles on their calendar each season, no matter what team they root for. In recent years, Oklahoma has had a distinct advantage in this historic contest. In fact, OU quarterback Landry Jones has the opportunity to be the first Sooners quarterback since Jamelle Holieway in 1988 to go 3-0 as a starting quarterback against the Longhorns.
While history is on the side of Oklahoma, Texas will enter Norman with a formidable two-pronged rushing attack and a quarterback in David Ash that has improved since his last bout with the Sooners. Needless to say, it will be a hard fought battle in Dallas on Saturday afternoon.
The offenses will reign supreme in this matchup. While Oklahoma's defense has given up a full 100 yards less of total offense per game than Texas, Longhorns quarterback David Ash has outplayed Sooners gunslinger Landry Jones in nearly every major statistical category this season.
With that, the Sooners have not seen anything like the smash-mouth rushing tandem of Texas' Joe Bergeron and Johnathan Gray so far through their 2012 campaign.
Let's take an in-depth look at the state of each offense heading into Saturday's contest, and then we'll decide which one will come out on top in the biggest game of each team's respective season.
David Ash has been lights-out so far though 2012. A year ago, Ash only completed 34 percent of passes thrown 10 yards or more. However, this season he has shown he has the ability to make any throw on the field. While it would not be prudent to put this immensely important matchup solely on Ash's arm, Texas now has a threat at the quarterback position for the first time since the days of Colt McCoy.
In fact, Ash has thoroughly outplayed Landry Jones this season. Although a year ago Jones was considered a stalwart quarterback with an NFL future, he will be the second-best quarterback on the field this Saturday. Over their last six starts, Ash has more touchdowns, less interceptions and a higher passing efficiency than Jones.
But the key to Texas' offensive success will be how effective the rushing attack is. Although Malcolm Brown is doubtful to play, Joe Bergeron and freshman Johnathan Gray will be a tough matchup for Oklahoma's defense.
While Gray has not scored a touchdown so far this season, he did show some explosiveness on a 49-yard scamper down to the 1-yard line against West Virginia. He has 47 rushing attempts on the season, and has averaged over five yards per carry.
Joe Bergeron has found the end zone nine times this season. He is a strong, hard-nosed running back that does his best work between the tackles. His is averaging 4.3 yards per carry this season and should see a significant workload on Saturday.
The key for the Longhorns offense will be whether they stay committed to the run game. They have two downhill runners that are capable of wearing out the Sooners defense throughout the game. If Texas gets the run game going early, it could be a long day for Oklahoma.
Landry Jones has taken a step back this season. His interceptions are up, his touchdowns are down, and he is no longer recognized as one of the country's top gunslingers. That said, Oklahoma is still ranked at 13th in the country and has a legitimate chance to play in a BCS bowl game. However, those hopes are out the window should the Sooners lose their second game of the season on Saturday.
Landry Jones has had issues stretching the field so far this season. Against Texas Tech, he went zero-for-eight on passes of 15 yards or longer. Defenses have begun to stack the box against the Sooners, and Jones has not been able to take advantage. This week's addition of Jalen Saunders may be able to jumpstart OU's offense down the field, but don't count on it.
Oklahoma can score points by being versatile on offense. Texas has one of the worst run defenses in the Big 12, and they are coming off a loss in which they gave up 48 points to West Virginia.
Oklahoma needs to limit substitutions on offense and make their personnel play in multiple formations, which will force Texas to play in defensive schemes they are not comfortable with.
So far this season, we have seen fullback Trey Millard double as a tight end as well, which has allowed the Sooners to switch between one- and two-back sets without subbing. This creates confusion for defenses, and allows OU a distinct advantage. Expect to see more of this on Saturday.
Overall, OU's offense is unproven so far this season. They have not played well against any solid defense, and that won't change this weekend. But Texas' defense has holes all around, especially in the defensive interior. OU should be able to score points—it's just a matter of whether Texas can keep up.
Who Will Win This Matchup?
Although Texas has a more talented and diverse offense, Oklahoma is going to win the matchup this weekend. Texas does not have enough talent on the defensive side to slow down an offense that has put up an average of 38.3 points a game this season.
This is going to be a hard-fought, smash-mouth matchup between two teams with a lot to prove. However, the Sooners offense will be more effective at home against a questionable Longhorns defense.