OU Wins – 24 Texas 17
If it’s possible, the Red River Rivalry has more significance now than it did in the 1980s, when it was viewed as life-or-death by fans of the Longhorns and Sooners. Of course, the fans’ attitude hasn’t changed — but the country’s has. Since Texas and OU are both nationally ranked and are in the same conference and same division, Saturday’s matchup has Big 12 and national title implications. It’s about as big a conference matchup as you can have.
Each team enters Saturday’s matchup with one loss. No. 14 Oklahoma is still festering over its controversial loss to Oregon and has had an extra week to prepare for this game. Having a week off near the beginning of the season is both good and bad — it gives teams time to heal and time to prepare, but coaches hate to get out of a routine. Coaches spend the time worrying about players traveling home, doing too much, etc.
To beat No. 7 Texas, Oklahoma will have to establish a passing game. As good as running back Adrian Peterson is, he can’t carry the Sooners by himself against a big, athletic, veteran Longhorns defensive line. Ohio State was able to defeat Texas by using a balanced attack; the progress of Sooners quarterback Paul Thompson will be measured by his performance Saturday. Peterson will get his yards, and it will be up to Texas’ D to limit his yards after the initial hit, to keep him from getting 40 yards on what should be a 10-yard run. They have to gang-tackle him, which is easier said than done. When you commit your defense to one person, you run the risk that you’ll give up big plays in the passing game. Oklahoma has shown it has the ability to do that.
Neither quarterback has started a game in the rivalry, and it will be interesting to see how they handle not only the pressure of the other team but also the hundreds of thousands of people in Dallas for the state fair and the general buildup — it’s as close to the days of gladiators fighting in the Coliseum as I’ve seen. This is the type of game you live to play in as a coach and a player — the kind you remember long after your playing days are over.