The Oklahoma Sooners are heading south this week. Not figuratively in their level of play, but rather literally as they head down to the State Fair of Texas in Dallas to take on their arch nemesis, the Texas Longhorns.
The Red River Rivalry is one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports, not to mention college football. The setting for this game, the Cotton Bowl, is one of the most historic venues in college football and this rivalry produces one of the greatest images in sports: the stadium split right down the 50-yard line. One side crimson, the other burnt orange.
The 105th edition of this game is full of various storylines that have developed in the first few weeks of the season. For the Sooners, the biggest storyline has been the lack of consistency on both sides of the ball. Offensively, Oklahoma has been struggling to establish a running game and needs to do so in order to have success against a very good Texas defense on Saturday.
Defensively, Oklahoma has struggled to stop the run. Granted, Air Force is a horrible indicator of the quality of a run defense, but Cincinnati managed to chalk up a lot of yards on the ground last week in a 31-29 Sooners' victory. The Sooners will also have to shore up the middle of the defense to contain the Texas running game.
Turning to Texas, the Longhorns are coming off an embarrassing home loss to UCLA in which their offense was exposed as beyond inept and the defense exposed as having some chinks in the armor. Needless to see, Texas will be coming into Dallas looking to prove last week was a fluke game and that the real Texas team is a national title contender.
The Texas offense is led by sophomore quarterback Garrett Gilbert. Gilbert, who was heralded with much fanfare after a less than stellar performance in last year's national championship game, has been inconsistent so far this year and has not been able to get the Texas offense going.
Offensive coordinator Greg Davis, along with head coach Mack Brown, changed the Texas offense in the offseason to a more pro-style attack to fit the talents of Gilbert better as well as try to develop a more consistent, downhill running attack.
Thus far, this strategy has failed to produce results in large part because the Texas offensive line has been used to pass blocking and not to just pushing people off the line as part of a power running game.
There is plenty of talent on the offensive side of the ball for Texas. The backfield is made up of three running backs, Cody Johnson, Tre Newton, and Fozzy Whitaker, all of whom have started a game this year. None of the three has established themselves as a go-to back and one on whom Texas can rely on consistently.
There are also many good receivers on the outside for Texas, led by freshman Mike Davis. Davis is joined by James Kirkendoll, Marquis Goodwin, and Macolm Williams to lead the receiving corps. Gilbert has plenty of talent at his disposal. He just has to get them the ball.
Defensively, the Longhorns are extremely good and deep. Things start at the top with defensive coordinator Will Muschamp who channels enormous amounts of energy and passion during games, something that his players feed off of in a big way.
The defensive line is big and quick, led by Sam Acho and Kheeston Randall. Freshman Jackson Jeffcoat has also proven to be a stellar pass rusher and has been playing a lot this season. He will definitely turn into an elite defensive end in the years to come.
Linebacker is a position of strength for Texas, but probably the weakest of the three. Keenan Robinson leads this unit and leads the team on the year with 31 tackles. Eddie Jones and Sam Acho's brother Emmanuel round out the starters. All have lots of talent, but were exposed by the running game of UCLA last week.
The secondary is the strength of this defense and on a larger scale, the team. Cornerbacks Chykie and Curtis Brown form one of the best tandems in the country and safeties Blake Gideon and Kenny Vaccaro are also stellar players. The best of the bunch is Aaron Williams, a junior nickel back who has the potential to be a top-10 pick in the NFL draft next year.
Oklahoma is coming into this game as the favorites, but seeing as this is a rivalry game, that means absolutely nothing, especially since Texas is coming off a big loss and will be looking to prove themselves.
Oklahoma must establish the running game and be able to stop Texas from establishing any form of a running game. In doing so, they can make and already incompetent Texas offense one-dimensional and much easier to contain.
Landry Jones MUST be smart with the football and not force throws or we could have a repeat of the Nebraska game last year in which he threw five interceptions. The Texas secondary is too good to make dumb throws against.
Oklahoma and Texas will clash Saturday at the Cotton Bowl for bragging rights and so much more. With it being a rivalry game, all bets are off as to how this one will turn out.
So why did I just write that whole report to end with that?