Well, it’s finally that time. After five blowout wins, Oklahoma finally faces its first real test.
The Red River Showdown is this Saturday pitting the #6 Oklahoma Sooners against the #11 Texas Longhorns.
All the trash talking, all the “Horns Down” controversy, all the hatred, finally comes to a head this weekend when the top teams in the Big 12 finally square off.
So far this season, Oklahoma has pretty much severely outmatched everyone they have played at basically every position group. That won’t be the case this time.
Texas has the players to match up with Oklahoma, obviously. They did beat the Sooners in the first of their two meetings last season, after all.
With that in mind, today we are taking a look at each of the Texas position groups to know what OU should expect when they clash in Dallas, starting with the polarizing Longhorn quarterback.
Sam Ehlinger is pretty clearly the best quarterback Oklahoma has faced so far and will all season long, despite what Lincoln Riley may think since he called D’Eriq King a top five quarterback in the country.
So far this season, Ehlinger has thrown just a shade under 1,500 yards with 17 touchdowns and only two interceptions. He is having a very nice season that, statistically, isn’t all that far behind Jalen Hurts as far as the passing game is concerned.
Ehlinger came into 2019 with some Heisman buzz and thus began a classic offseason debate on if he was overrated or actually that good. People all over were voicing their opinions on the Longhorn, even NFL Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw threw some shots his way.
But, say what you want about Ehlinger, he is a good player. In the Red River Showdown a year ago, he threw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for three more – he was a big problem for the Sooner defense.
Even in the rematch where Oklahoma got their revenge, Ehlinger still threw for two scores and ran for another two. He has shown up in these games so far, and there isn’t much reason to expect him not to again.
This is just about the only game on the Oklahoma’s schedule where they do not have a clear-cut advantage at the QB spot. While I do think Hurts is the better player and likely will be in the New York at the end of the season and Ehlinger will not be, this game has all the makings of a bonafide quarterback-duel.
Just look at how Ehlinger performed against LSU earlier this season. A game that Texas did lose, but not because of Ehlinger, who threw for 401 yards and 4 touchdowns without an interception.
This is one of the weaker spots on Texas’ team. As it currently stands, the Longhorns do not have a single player in the top 100 in the country in rushing.
Their leading rusher, Keaontay Ingram, has just 313 yards on the ground this year. That is less than both Trey Sermon and Rhamondre Stevenson, as well as Jalen Hurts.
As a team, Texas is ranked just 58th in the country in total rushing offense. Simply put, their run game isn’t their bread and butter.
Sam Ehlinger’s running production hasn’t been quite the same as a year ago, either. He is about on the same pace for yards but has just three rushing touchdowns this year after he had 16 last season.
So, for the most part, Texas’ rush offense has not been a strength to this point.
The Texas receiving corp isn’t too shabby at all, but could be a lot better if Collin Johnson is a go this Saturday.
Johnson has been the best receiver on the Longhorns the past couple of seasons but has had to miss the last three games with a hamstring injury.
But, he is expected to play against Oklahoma this weekend which is a huge addition to the Longhorn offense. He joins Devin Duvernay who is having a great season so far, currently sitting at 21st in the country in receiving yards.
Brennan Eagles is another guy who is having a decent season so far, having caught four touchdown passes. The bottom line for Texas’ receivers is still Collin Johnson’s health, though.
He was expected to be a big piece to this team coming into 2019 and him missing in action has held Texas back a touch so far. If he plays, and it looks like he is going to, he makes the offense significantly better. It will be a big test for the OU secondary to try and slow him down, something they have not been able to do in previous meetings. For after he had 81 yards in the first meeting last season, he came back with a big 177 in the Big 12 Championship game.
While Texas Left Tackle Sam Cosmi may not be worried about Neville Gallimore and Ronnie Perkins in this matchup, I think they maybe should be a bit.
The Texas offensive line is adequate but hasn’t done much more this season than be essentially average.
We already touched on the fact that the Texas run game hasn’t done much, not having a single rusher inside the top 100 in the country. Texas is also about middle of the road in penalty yardage (holding and false starts obviously a big part of that) and they have given up 10 sacks so far this season which is tied for 60th best in the country.
It seems like this is setting up for Ronnie Perkins and Neville Gallimore to really have breakout games. They have both had solid seasons so far, but a few big plays in this game could go a long way.
With two units that are still looking to prove themselves, the Texas offensive line vs the Oklahoma defensive line is one of the more interesting games within the game this weekend.
Texas is 104th in the country in total defense so far this season. They are, however, 36th in the country in rushing defense.
So, while the defense on the whole has struggled, they have done a pretty nice job of limiting the run game to this point. At the same time, they haven’t really faced a quarterback with the running ability of Jalen Hurts yet either.
The closest would be Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders, who ran for 109 yards and a touchdown in Austin. Also, in that same game, Chuba Hubbard tacked on 121 yards of his own.
Also, Texas is just 77th in the country in team sacks with 10 so far. All that together means the Longhorn defensive line is solid, but can be exposed against great players. I would classify Jalen Hurts as a great player, look for him to put up some nice numbers on the ground and Trey Sermon should be able to make some plays as well.
Texas has some solid linebackers that are certainly capable of making some plays in this game.
Jeffrey McCulloch is one to keep an eye on. So far this season, McCulloch has racked up 24 total tackles with 18 of those being solo. He is a guy that has a knack for flying around to the football so he’ll be someone Oklahoma will try to limit his impact.
The main Longhorn linebacker to watch, however, is without a doubt Joseph Ossai. The 6’4” 245 pound sophomore is a beast and a player the Texas defense will likely be centered around in the seasons ahead.
This season Ossai has 29 tackles including five tackles for loss with two sacks. Perhaps even more impressive than those numbers are that Ossai has also managed to snag himself a couple of interceptions this year as well. He is a playmaker that Hurts and company will be keeping their eye on all afternoon.
Ah, the Texas secondary. No real way to sugarcoat it, the Longhorn secondary is bad. Like, really bad.
Injuries certainly haven’t helped, but regardless of who has been out there it has been rough for this unit. The Longhorns currently sit 126th in the country in pass defense. They have gotten shredded frequently, and when your’e struggling in this area Oklahoma is not the team you want to face.
OU is arguably the best offense Texas has faced this year, but the argument could certianly be made that LSU is right there as well. So let’s take a look at how the secondary fared in that contest.
Tigers’ quarterback Joe Burrow was 31/39 for 471 yards and four touchdowns. LSU had three different receivers go north of 100 yards, with Justin Jefferson leading the way at 163 and three touchdowns. Yikes.
Jalen Hurts, CeeDee Lamb, and Charleston Rambo have to be licking their chops looking at this Longhorn secondary. Brandon Jones and Montrell Estrell will be a couple of the names that will try and slow down the Sooners offense, but I don’t see it ending real well for them in what looks to be the biggest unit mismatch of the game.
Final Matchup Thoughts
This should be a great game, but Oklahoma looks to be the better team to this point. But, in this game, the records and current team success mean almost nothing.
The old cliche is to “throw out the record books” in a rivalry game, and it is certainly true with this battle as we have seen just in the last few years.
Texas will score points and this game is going to be competitive, but I truly believe that this year Oklahoma will assert themselves and keep the emotions in check better than before. The team has taken on Jalen Hurts’ no nonsense approach, and I think that carries into this game.
However it goes, it should be a great one to see.
The Red River Showdown will be this Saturday in Dallas, Texas at the Cotton Bowl at 11:00 on FOX, and can be heard on the air right here as always on 107.7 The Franchise.