The Oklahoma/Texas rivalry isn’t about mercy. On multiple occasions both sides have had opportunities to run up the score and on multiple occasions both sides have capitalized on those opportunities. It’s been a while since the rivalry has experienced a blowout though. You’d have to go back to the 2018 Big 12 championship game to find the last time the two provided a multiple score victory. The Sooners won that contest 39-27. To find a lopsided victory at the Cotton Bowl, in Dallas, you’d nave to travel back to the 2012 and 2013 seasons. In ’13 the Longhorns won 36-20 and in `12 it was Oklahoma thrashing Texas 63-12. The other eight games played in the last decade have been decided by one score.
This game presents the feeling that a blowout could be returning to the rivalry and it isn’t going to favor the boys in crimson and cream. There are multiple concerns surrounding the Oklahoma football program as they prepare to head to Dallas. Injuries, quarterback play, and defensive breakdowns are at the forefront of those concerns but the defensive breakdowns have to be at the top of the list.
After a strong start through the first three weeks of the season, Ted Roof’s crew took a massive step backwards in weeks four and five. Through the first three games the Sooners surrendered 30 total points and 938 total yards of offense. That Oklahoma defense seems to have disappeared and has been replaced by one that has surrendered 1,177 yards and 96 points in just TWO Big 12 conference games.
Kansas State and TCU took different approaches to attacking the Sooner defense. The Wildcats chopped at OU’s defenders with “dink and dunk” plays but the Horned Frogs threw haymakers. It’s TCU’s approach that concerns me the most because I believe their skillset closely resembles what the Longhorns will bring to the State Fair of Texas.
Kansas State averaged 6.2 yards per play on its five touchdowns against the Sooners. That at least gave the perception that Oklahoma was still in the game. The longest touchdown play that the Wildcats produced against OU was a 15-yard run by Adrian Martinez in the fourth quarter. While KSU was more than happy to trade blows with Oklahoma, TCU just kept knocking OU down to the canvas time after time. Averaging 37.5 yards per touchdown play, the Horned Frogs scored four different times against the Sooners on plays of 62 yards or more. Eight different times TCU hit pay dirt against the Sooners and six of the eight trips to the end zone were from 15 yards or longer.
Balanced offenses have been the struggle for the Oklahoma defense. Elite running backs combined with elite speed at receiver or dual-threat quarterbacks (you might even say a partially dual threat QB) paired with elite running backs and high end talent at receiver. It’s all been a problem for this defense. Texas 417 yards of offense per game with 263 of it coming through the air and 154.4 on the ground. They’ve scored nine touchdowns through the air and 10 on the ground. That’s a textbook definition of balance right there.
Texas also has the combo that has been a killer against Oklahoma’s defense. Bijan Robinson is one of the top running back talents in the Big 12. The junior from Tucson, Arizona is averaging 5.9 yards per carry and has scored 8 rushing touchdowns. He shares the field with Xavier Worthy who is averaging 15.8 yards per reception and has three touchdowns. It’s not certain who will be the trigger man for the Longhorn offense on Saturday but Hudson Card is averaging 12.47 yards per pass completion and Quinn Ewers was averaging 14.36 yards per reception before he suffered a shoulder injury.
Rivalry games aren’t played on paper and you can throw records and trends out the window as well. However it’s the “paper” that has me really concerned as Saturday approaches because it shows that Oklahoma’s defense has become susceptible to big plays that shift momentum. This unit has been completely demoralized the last two weeks and their challenge doesn’t get any easier this weekend.
Follow us on Twitter: @SportsHeartland