Arguably the greatest rivalry football game in all of college football takes place at the Texas State Fair, in Dallas, this weekend as #12 Oklahoma takes on Texas. There’s certainly no love lost between the two programs and the magnitude of the game only adds fuel to the fire. The Sooners enter the Cotton Bowl as the two-time defending Big 12 Champions, while the Longhorns are trying to reach the pinnacle of the conference for the first time since 2009.
At stake, it is not only the golden hat trophy but bragging rights, national rankings, and potentially a 2017 Big 12 championship game appearance. Here’s what you need to know about these two teams are leading up to the Red River Rivalry.
Kickoff: 2:30 PM (CST)
Location: Cotton Bowl – Dallas, TX
Odds: Oklahoma -7.5
- Texas Leads The Series 61-45-5
- Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield leads the country in quarterback rating
- Texas safety DeShon Elliott leads the nation in interceptions
- The game will feature new coaches on both sidelines for the first time since 1947
Oklahoma’s Top Playmaker
Quarterback Baker Mayfield has been making plays at Oklahoma going back to his scout team days. The two-time Heisman finalist is the centerpiece of Lincoln Riley’s offense and is making his final appearance in the Red River Rivalry. Mayfield has completed 100 of his 134 pass attempts on the season for 1,635 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Texas’ Top Playmaker
DeShon Elliott needs an interception on Saturday in order to equal Earl Thomas’ 2009 feat of four consecutive games with a pick. He leads the conference with five interceptions and has also recorded 24 tackles.
Oklahoma’s Difference Maker
Senior fullback Dimitri Flowers only has nine rushing yards but three of his four carries this season are for touchdowns. He becomes a bigger factor in Oklahoma’s passing attack where he’s hauled in 16 passes for 263 yards and two more scores.
Texas’ Difference Maker
There’s no doubt that freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger is the future of Texas football. The Longhorns just have to get past what they’re going to do with the incumbent starter Shane Buechele. Ehlinger has completed 56% of his passes this season for five touchdowns and three interceptions, but where he sets himself apart is what he does with his legs. He’s second on the team in rushing with 165 yards coming on 46 carries.
The Weakness of the Sooners
Since the start of Big 12 play, Oklahoma has given up 831 yards through the air to Baylor and Iowa State. There’s clearly something wrong with Jordan Thomas. It could be health or it could be confidence. Either way there’s not much behind him in the way of depth so the Sooners are going to have to find some sort of quick solution.
The Weakness of the Longhorns
Part of the struggle for the Texas offense is due to an offensive line that has been decimated by injury. Left tackle Connor Williams is out with a knee injury and the depth of the unit as a whole isn’t close to where it needs to be.
Oklahoma secondary vs. the Texas passing attack
Only ten teams in Power Five conferences are allowing more yards per pass attempt than the 7.7 yards that Oklahoma is allowing. The struggle has been the mismatch against tall and athletic receivers. UT’s Collin Johnson is 6-6/220 and has 485 yards on 25 catches. Advantage: Texas
Oklahoma front seven vs. the Texas run game
The Longhorns have struggled to move the ball on the ground and, for as bad as things have been for Oklahoma’s secondary, the Sooners have been pretty stout against the run this season. The Sooners are third in the conference in rushing yards allowed per game and the Longhorns are seventh in the Big 12 in yards per carry. Advantage: Oklahoma
Texas secondary vs. the Oklahoma passing attack
Elliott is tied for the most interceptions in the nation and Mayfield is the most accurate passer in the country. As good as Elliott is, he can only cover one guy or zone. Even with CeeDee Lamb suffering from injury, Mayfield’s group of targets is deep and talented. Advantage: Oklahoma
Texas front seven vs. the Oklahoma rushing attack
This is where the rubber meets the road in this game. There’s a lot hinging on the injury report of Abdul Adams. Three of the Longhorns last four opponents have failed to crack 100 yards on the ground. The Sooners lead the conference at 5.6 yards per carry and Texas second in the Big 12 in yards allowed per carry at 3.4 yards per attempt. Advantage: Even
More than a Golden Hat on the line
No one considered Texas to be a contender in the Big 12 title race this season. At 2-0 in conference play, the Longhorns are in the thick of it right now. Should the pull off the upset in Dallas, they’ll join TCU as a frontrunner.
Oklahoma not only has a conference title at stake, they’ve also got a playoff spot on the line. By virtue of their win at Ohio State, the Sooners still have a shot at the Final Four if they win out.