If Oklahoma is going to win its fourth consecutive Big 12 championship on Saturday then the defense is going to need to rise to the occasion. In the earlier matchup this year, Texas racked up 48 points and 501 total yards of offense against the Sooners. It was just barely enough to secure a three-point win in the 113th edition of the storied rivalry. If you’re the ever optimists what this means is that OU doesn’t need to make great improvements on the defensive side of the ball, but they do need to make improvements.
Force Third Down And Then Win It
The Longhorns were a collective 14-of-38 on third down in their three losses. Maryland held them to 3-of-15, Oklahoma State 5-of-12, and West Virginia 6-of-11.
The Sooners held the Longhorns to 6-of-14 at the Cotton Bowl yet that just wasn’t quite good enough. Mainly because Texas never punted in the first half and only faced third down twice. Oklahoma held on both third down attempts but the first one resulted in a 44-yard Cameron Dicker field goal and the second set up a manageable 4th and 2 which the Longhorns converted after picking up eighteen yards on third and twenty.
OU also gave up nineteen yards on a third and twenty-one in the third quarter (leading to another fourth down conversion) and a 15-yard pass play on third and ten. Those should be manageable downs for Oklahoma’s defense but they weren’t.
That’ll need to change on Saturday and to do so the Sooners will need to figure out a better way to cover the slant. It’s possible they could play press coverage and risk getting beat over the top. It’s also possible they could play their linebackers a bit more shallow and wider. There’s multiple options here (the defensive ends could not rush and try to take away the passing lane) but they all come with a risk/reward factor.
Oklahoma didn’t turn Texas over one time on October 6th. Had they, then the Sooners would most likely be undefeated and ranked 2nd or 3rd in the country. In their loss to Maryland the Longhorns turned the ball over twice, and in the West Virginia loss they turned it over once.
It’s pretty simple when it comes to OU’s offense. The more possessions they have the more points they can score. A turnover is a “bonus” possession and can make the difference in putting a team away or letting the game become a shootout.
Last week in Morgantown Oklahoma’s defense not only forced turnovers but they also turned them into scoop and scores. That’s the defense that’ll need to show up in Arlington.
Get Four Stops
The October game changed when Oklahoma forced the Longhorns to punt on back-to-back possessions. Two turnovers put the Sooners in a hole but those two punts allowed them to come storming back and tie the game.
I believe that four stops is all that OU needs to win this game. Of course, any turnover by the Sooners means they need to add a stop to that count.
Players In The Spotlight
Oklahoma’s defensive backs are the keys to the game on Saturday. Texas is going to try to exploit the size of their receivers and OU’s defensive backs have to man up to that challenge. Just an extra second and a half can make a world of difference for the pass rush. That’s as simple as making Sam Ehlinger look to his third read instead of the first or second.
The Sooners are going to have to play tight coverage and battle for the ball. The safeties are key here as well. We saw Brendan Radley-Hiles go to the bench in Morgantown last week and it’s uncertain exactly what his status is this week. Regardless of who is out the, Oklahoma’s safeties will have to play both smart and physical.