This week, I will be debating the Red River Rivalry with Texas Featured Columnist Dino. Today, we debate which team has more problems going into the game. There is little doubt both teams have been less than expected to this point in the season. Some are beyond their control some are not.
Once again, I concede to Dino and allow him to go first.
Both Texas and Oklahoma have some noticeable flaws that need to be addressed, but one team's problems have already gotten the best of them. Twice.
It is clear that heading in to this year's Red River Rivalry the Oklahoma Sooners facing an uphill battle. In fact, since the season began Bob Stoops's squad has had to deal with a great deal of adversity.
It all began with quarterback Sam Bradford's nasty spill against BYU that resulted in a sprained ACL joint in his throwing shoulder. The injury cost Oklahoma the game as well as their quarterback, as Bradford would miss the next three weeks of play, including the Sooners' second loss at Miami.
Sooner nation got an emotional boost when Bradford finally returned to action last Saturday against Baylor. The Heisman Trophy winner looked good in his first game back, throwing for 389 yards and a touchdown.
However, he completed a little over 50 percent of his passes against a sub-par Baylor
defense. Moreover, the Sooners failed to score a touchdown on three separate occasions inside the Baylor 20 yard line. Bradford was able to make some nice throws, but he will have to perform a heck of a lot better against a loaded and hungry Texas defense.
It wasn't all Bradford's fault that the Sooners failed to produce touchdowns. With the loss of talented receiver Ryan Broyles to injury (should make a return against Texas), the inexperienced Sooner receiving corps. dropped 11 passes combined, a stat that doesn't bode well for them in this weekend's matchup. If Bradford can't rely on his other receivers, this Sooner attack becomes a lot less potent.
The loss of stud tight end Jermaine Greshman before the season began was almost as bad as losing Bradford. Gresham was perhaps the most dangerous offensive weapon in the Sooner arsenal a season ago. The red zone woes the Sooners are having at the moment are significant, and without Gresham on the field to convert inside the 20, this offense will likey stall early and often against the stout Longhorn front.
The running game has been good so far this season, but against Baylor, it got bogged down at times. Sure the Sooners finished with over 200 yards on the ground, but after three quarters of play, they hadn't reached 100. This week tail backs Demarco Murray and Chris Brown will be facing a defensive line that gives up 1.8 yards a carry and 48 yards rushing a game, which is first in the nation.
If the Sooners can't run, they won't win. It's that simple.
The offensive line has suffered this season, with the loss of three starters to the NFL. Trent Williams is a sold NFL prospect, but the rest of this group had failed to step up on a consistent basis. Bradford will be on the run all day on Saturday if they can't get a push against a smaller, but quicker, Longhorn defensive line.
The defense is good, but they have cost the Sooners both of their losses. Defensive coordinator Brent Venerables is just flat out too aggressive. He spent the whole Miami game pressuring Jacory Harris, but in the end it came back to bite him. Harris picked apart the Sooner secondary after the first quarter.
This defense was torn apart by the precision passing game of Texas last season (McCoy went 28-35 for 277 yards and two touchdowns, no picks). They face a very similar Texas attack this season, and if Venrerables is too aggressive with his linebackers, McCoy will tear them apart yet again.
The Sooner defensive line is loaded with NFL-caliber talent, but it was dominated for the most part by both BYU and Miami. The Longhorn offensive line may be struggling with run blocking, but its pass blocking may be better than any line in the country. If Colt has time to throw, he will be able to dictate the pace of the game, running game or not.
Overall I see a Sooner team that has the potential to stay competitive, but has far too many problems with inexperience and injuries to stay consistent for four quarters against a fast and athletic Texas squad.
Thanks Dino, a great write up. Now let's take a look at Texas issues.
Arguing who has the most issues is a moot point. OU definitely has more question marks going into the game.
But Texas has their fare share as well. One is, for some reason, their offensive line seems to have taken a step backwards, despite returning all five starters from last year. While the Texas line did have a few minor problems last year, they seem to have gotten worse, not better.
Poor defenses have been able to pressure McCoy and make him uncomfortable leading to a lackluster season by Colt McCoy thus far.
Colt McCoy's play is also an issue. While his numbers are respectable, there is a huge drop off in efficiency this year. He is averaging over an interception per game, so chances are he gives one up to the Sooners. McCoy has been unable to stretch the field with his arm and he has not looked anywhere near as good as he did early in the season last year.
He has had to rely on the short pass and the speed of Jordan Shipley and the size of Dan Buckner. OU's defense has proved over the past two years that it devours one-dimensional offenses. Teams that can run and pass are quite a different story but a one-trick pony offense is not going to beat the Sooners.
Which leads me to my last point. While the Sooners have more issues, the Longhorns have the biggest issue by far, the inability to run the ball despite not playing one defense that is worth a damn.
If you look back at the the past ten years, the team that gets the most rushing yards wins the Red River Rivalry with the Exception of 2006 where both team finished with 124, I believe. If Texas has had trouble running on Wyoming and Colorado, their line has almost no chance of enforcing its will against the Sooners front seven.
OU still has one of the best defensive lines in the nation and three good run-stopping linebackers and Texas has poor line play and at the very best will have its two best running backs less than 100 percent, if at all.
Of course, Texas does have a chance to move the ball if they use the same formula as last year. The Longhorns could not run the ball in the first half, then killed OU over the middle with Shipley in the third quarter which opened up the run game in the fourth allowing Texas to run all over the Sooners late and put the game away.
This year though, using the short pass to get the run game going is a must, instead of an added benefit, because nothing the Texas offensive line has done should give you any inkling that they will be able to push back a good defensive front because they have not been able to push around some bad ones.
Yes, the Sooners have the most question marks, but Texas has the biggest one by far.