Breaking Down the Red River Rivalry
The Red River Rivalry at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas is one of college football's greatest spectacles; an event enriched deep in tradition, the atmosphere surrounding it is truly unique.
The rivalry gets its name from the Red River that resides on the border between Texas and Oklahoma. The game was originally called the Red River Shootout until 2005, the 100th meeting between the schools.
What makes the game so unique is the ticket sales are allocated evenly between the two schools; this creating the infamous divide at the 50 yard line that separates the UT from the OU faithful.
Even the governors participate in a wager that earns the winner the Governor's Cup and revenue that is usually donated for charity.
Apart from all of that the State Fair of Texas is going on at the same time which features everything from live music, to carnival rides, to some good Texas sized eatin'. Fried Oreos anyone?
But enough with the history lesson, I’m here to break down the competitive matchups that will dictate how this game is won on the field.
So sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride :)
The Golden Boys.
Coming into the season there wasn't a player in America who was as ballyhooed as these two. When you lead your team to BCS bowl games while shattering records in the process, all while playing one of the most exciting head to head matchups of the year, that tends to happen.
The fortunes have started off a little different for these two however; Sam suffered a shoulder injury that kept him out of three games. Needless to say his presence was indubitably missed by his teammates who suffered two losses to ranked teams in his absence.
Meanwhile, Colt, has led his team to a 5-0 record and although his numbers may be a tad down from where they we're a year ago at this time, he's still completing a whopping 74 percent of his passes which leads the nation.
Both these quarterbacks put the ball right on the money. You won't find two more accurate quarterbacks in all of college football. McCoy may have a slight edge in the quick game and passes that don't extend 30 yards; Sam's edge may be his touch on the deep ball although it remains to be seen if he can throw the ball with the same type of effectiveness coming off the shoulder injury. If the Baylor games any indication of his ability, he'll be just fine.
If there is a significant difference between the two it would be in McCoy's ability to scramble, escape the pocket, and elude defenders. While Sam is very good mechanically inside the pocket he's not as apt as McCoy when it comes to extending the play and picking up yardage with his feet.
Pocket Presence and overall Mechanics: Bradford
This is what will most likely land Bradford as the number one pick in the NFL draft; there simply isn't a quarterback on the collegiate level that can match his mechanics and overall pocket awareness. He's got the size you like in an NFL QB, as well as the delivery and intuitiveness.
Both of these guys rise to the occasion and know how to get the job done. Although Colt led his team to victory a year ago, it was Sam who threw for 5 touchdowns. Bottom line is any coach would love to have either of these guys and each has shown big time playmaking ability on the grandest of stages.
Overall edge: Texas
For these three reasons. First, McCoy’s scrambling ability gives him an added dimension that when the play breaks down he can make something out of nothing and still gain positive yards and even break off big runs, a luxury Sam just doesn't have. Second, McCoy is playing behind a better OL and has more weapons around him to make his life easier. Finally, Sam's health may still be a concern. He showed vs. Baylor he can hold up for four quarters but he wasn't hit or pressured very much which won't be the case when he goes up against Sergio Kindle and the rest of the Texas front seven.
Oklahoma Running backs - Chris Brown, DeMarco Murray
Texas Running backs - Vondrel McGee (questionable), Tre' Newton (questionable), Fozzy Whittaker, Cody Johnson.
Oklahoma utilizes a two running back rotation that consists of two talented backs that each surpassed the 1,000 yard mark a year ago.
Conversely Texas doesn't depend on a go to guy or guys and instead conducts a running back by committee approach in which the coaches will usually give the guy with the hot hand a majority of the snaps. However, Cody Johnson is most always used in short yardage and goal-line situations.
On paper this category looks about even. After all Oklahoma is averaging about a 188 ypg to Texas' 175. However, Texas schedule has been drastically weaker and they haven't faced a rush defense that was anywhere near the top 20 nationally.
While the young Oklahoma OL has had its struggles in opening up running lanes for their two talented backs it is incontestable that Oklahoma is much more equipped with Murray and Brown than Texas is with anyone on their four-deep roster.
Oklahoma top five: Brandon Caleb, Cameron Kenney, Adron Tennel, Dejuan Miller, Mossis Madu.
*Top playmaker Ryan Broyles is doubtful.
Texas top five: Jordan Shipley, Malcolm Williams, John Chiles, Marquise Goodwin, James Kirkendoll.
Oklahoma had the misfortune of having to replace their top three wide outs (Juaquin Iglesias, Manuel Johnson, and Quentin Chaney) from a year ago and it has shown on the field. Last year this offense scored more points than anyone; this year they have slowed down to a much more pedestrian pace.
Making matters worse was their top playmaker and the aforementioned Ryan Broyles went down with a shoulder injury which has kept him sidelined since the Miami game although there is still hope among the Sooner faithful that he'll be ready to go come Saturday.
Texas may have one of the most talented and deepest WR corps in the nation. Colt's go to guy, Jordan Shipley, has been putting up Heisman like numbers and is currently second in the nation in receptions per game and seventh in receiving ypg. As a unit, Texas is 12th in the nation in passing offense and is collectively averaging 305 receiving ypg.
Oklahoma TE: Brody Eldridge
Texas TE: Dan Buckner
Coming into the season, OU returned the best TE in all of college football in Jermaine Gresham. The 6'6" 258 lb. senior grabbed 66 balls for 950 yds and 14 TDs last season; apart from being a great vertical threat, Gresham did everything well. He was great in run blocking, great in the red zone, and was one of the incontestable leaders on the team.
When Gresham went down with an injury it left an unmistakable hole on offense not only in production but as a leader. Gresham was not only Bradford's safety valve but was the guy he looked to in the red zone because he was just simply to difficult to defend.
Prior to the emergence of Dan Buckner the TE position was a major area of concern for Texas. When the coaching staff inserted Buckner in the Flex TE position he became an instant vertical success and one of McCoy's favorite targets down the middle. His skill set at 6'5 220 with great hands makes him a difficult task for linebackers across the middle, especially when having to focus so much attention on Shipley and the other receivers on the outside.
For more on Buckner, click on this link to my other article:
Oklahoma OL: LT Trent Williams (Sr.), LG Stephen Good (So.), C Ben Habern (Fr.), RG Tavaris Jeffries (Jr.), RT Jarvis Jones (So.)
Texas OL: LT Adam Ulatoski (Sr.), LG Charlie Tanner (Sr.), C Chris Hall (Sr.), RG David Snow (So.), RT Kyle Hix (Jr.)
Oklahoma's OL has been glaringly inconsistent this year due in large part to what they had to replace at the end of last year. Four out of Five linemen from last year moved on, the only one returning being Sr. Trent Williams who was forced to move from his RT position over to the left side.
Last year Sam Bradford played behind one of the best lines in Oklahoma history which allowed him the type of time that all quarterbacks dream about; he could basically make a sandwich, eat it, take a nap, wake up, and still have enough time to fire it down the field.
This year it has been drastically different, evidenced by Sam Bradford's shoulder injury in the first game of the season.
The Sooners aren't "horrible" when it comes to running the ball, averaging 188 yards a game, good for 33rd in the nation. However, as good as DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown are, you would think they would be closer to the top ten, evidenced by the success they had on the ground last year.
Texas had the bulk of their line return from last year and is one of the most experienced lines in the country. They have done a great job in pass protection; Texas is 12th in the nation in passing offense and much of that is accredited to the time McCoy is getting in the pocket.
Statistically speaking Texas' rushing offense isn't far behind that of the Sooners, even with their two talented running backs. After all they are avg. 175 yds a game and even have a higher avg. per carry than does OU. However, Texas schedule has been considerably friendlier.
Texas fans are a little restless this week by the Horns abysmal performance on the ground vs. Colorado last week, in which they only accumulated 46 yds on 25 carries. Ouch!
Bottom Line: Offense
Taking everything into consideration Texas should have a huge advantage on offense. They have the better line play, skill position players, and a quarterback that has been playing for five weeks.
OU does have the advantage in the running game but considering the defensive play on both sides of the ball one would have to assume that neither side will have much success running the ball although there may be some surprises.
OU front four: DE Jeremy Beal (Jr.), DT Adrian Taylor (Jr.), DT Gerald McCoy (Jr), DE Austin English (Sr.)
Texas front four: DE Sam Acho (Jr.), DT Lamaar Houston (Sr.), DT Ben Alexander (Sr.), and DE Sergio Kindle (Sr.)
Oklahoma boasts if not the best than one of the best defensive line's in all of college football. Gerald McCoy and co. wreak havoc on opposing QBs, excel in stopping the run and all have unyielding motors.
OU is holding opponents to 1.79 yds per attempt, good for third nationally. In addition, the line anchors a unit that leads the Big 12 in both Sacks (3.6 pg) and TFL's (8.8 pg). Individually DE Jeremy Beal is third in the nation in sacks (6), and 7th in TFL's (9).
Not to be outdone, Texas is playing at an extremely high level on the DL as well which is a surprise to most considering they lost all but one starter from the unit a year ago.
As a unit they lead the nation in rush defense, holding opponents to 1.58 yds per attempt on the ground. This ranking will be put to the test however when they play Oklahoma, the best ground attack unit they will have faced all season.
In the TFL dept. they are right behind Oklahoma in the conference and 8th nationally with 8.4 per game. Sergio Kindle is tied with teammate and LB Emmanuel Acho for second in the conference with two forced fumbles, and Sam Acho is sixth in the conference with 6 TFL's.
Oklahoma LBs: SLB Keenan Clayton (Sr.), MLB Ryan Reynolds (Sr.), WLB Travis Lewis (So.)
Texas LBs: SLB Emmanuel Acho (So.), MLB Roddrick Muckelroy (Sr.), WLB Keenan Robinson (So.)
Oklahoma has a tradition of solid linebackers and this year is no different. Ryan Reynolds who suffered a knee injury in last year's RRR is back and anchors the middle. Keenan Clayton is a converted safety who brings tons of speed and versatility to his SLB position and Travis Lewis is a tenacious defender who burst onto the scene as a freshman last season.
The sophomore Lewis is second in the Big 12 in tackles with 29, and Ryan Reynolds is tied for 8th with 22. Along with the Dline the linebackers equip OU with one of the best front seven in football.
Texas have what Mack Brown has described as the best linebacking unit in his twelve years at Texas. That comes even after their starting WLB Jared Norton went down for the season with a shoulder injury.
Emmanuel Acho is second in the conference in forced fumbles, and third in the conference and 18th nationally in TFL's with seven.
Roddrick Muckelroy is similar to Ryan Reynolds the way he quarterbacks the defense and is rock solid in the middle.
It will be interesting to see during the course of the game which unit gets the upper hand and ends up making more plays.
Oklahoma DBs: CB Dominique Franks (Jr.), CB Brian Jackson (Sr.), SS Sam Proctor (So.), FS Quinton Carter (Jr.)
Texas DBs: CB Curtis Brown (Jr.), Aaron Williams (So.), FS Blake Gideon (So.), SS Earl Thomas (So.)
Oklahoma is playing well as a unit in the secondary although it may be a tad behind the front seven as a whole. They had to replace both safeties from the unit a year ago although both Proctor and Carter have played considerably well.
They are tied for first with Texas in INTs with eight, and are right behind Texas in pass breakups as well.
Texas has turned their secondary from a question mark at the beginning of last season to an incontestable strength in 2009.
As a unit Texas is second in the conference in passing defense behind Nebraska (even with Texas Tech on the schedule) and tied for first with Oklahoma with eight INTs.
Curtis Brown and Earl Thomas are both top five in the conference in pass breakups and Thomas leads the nation in INTs with four for 96 yds which includes a touchdown.
The Texas unit is one of the deepest, complete, and active units in the country and much can be contributed to the philosophy of defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, the Texas head coach in waiting.
Bottom line: Defense
Both defenses are extremely talented, well coached, and disciplined. Oklahoma came into the season more ballyhooed but Texas has stepped up and elevated their play to championship caliber level.
Both are in the top ten nationally in total defense; taking that into consideration, which ever unit sets up their offense in better situations will get the upper hand on Saturday.
One thing is for certain, with guys like Sergio Kindle, Rod Muckelroy, and Earl Thomas for Texas; as well as Gerald McCoy, Ryan Reynolds, and Jeremy Beal for Oklahoma, the stars will be out when these two talented defenses lock Horns.
Always an ex factor in games like this.
This is where Texas has a significant advantage on anyone they play. Jordan Shipley leads the nation in punt returns and touchdowns, while DJ Monroe leads the nation in the same category for kickoff returns.
With the game most likely to be a defensive struggle, the team with the best field position will have a significant advantage on the other team, this is where I suspect Texas could flourish and swing the momentum of the game exponentially in their favor.
Both Mack Brown and Bob Stoops have had success in this game. Stoops predominantly in the earlier part of the decade and Mack in recent years.
Texas has won three of the last four games, while Oklahoma won five straight from 2000-2004.
Will Muschamp and Brent Venables are two of the best DC's out there and it will be an interesting chess match to see who gets the upper hand.
Greg Davis has learned to play loose in this game and called a very effective and efficient game last year while Kevin Wilson excels at playing high tempo.
This is a true clash of the titans, Great programs, Great teams, Great Coaches, Great game.
I see this game as being a hard fought contest between two proud programs, both with unyielding pride.
In a defensive struggle, turnovers and Special teams will become paramount and an essential phase of the game won for the victor.
I think either Jordan Shipley or DJ Monroe will make a huge play in the kicking game to swing the momentum in Texas favor much like last year.
At the end of the day Texas will just be too much for the valiant Sooners to handle and the golden will belong to Texas for the 4th time in 5 seasons.
Texas wins 28-21.