Here is everything you need to know about the upcoming Big 12 Conference game in our Oklahoma vs. Texas preview.
11 a.m. Central Time, Saturday, Oct. 4, 2018, Memorial Stadium, Norman, Oklahoma
TV: FOX (Gus Johnson, Joel Klatt, Jenny Taft)
Radio: Sooner Sports Network, Longhorn IMG Network, Sirius 119, XM 200
Fun Fact: Texas is the only Big 12 program with a winning record against the Sooners. Oklahoma trails 61-46-5 in the series, but owns a 25-19-3 (.564) advantage since 1971. In the Big 12 era, OU is 13-9 (.591) against the Longhorns. The Sooners have won six of the last eight meetings and 12 of the last 18.
QB Sam Ehlinger
Texas is going to have to get its passing game going to keep up with the Sooners. Sam Ehlinger obviously is going to be in charge of making that happen. Last week he finished 29 of 36 for 207 yards, with one passing touchdown against Kansas State, although the UT offense only scored 10 points. For the season, he’s completing 64.7% of his passes, with nine touchdowns to two interceptions, along with 1185 passing yards.
MLB Anthony Wheeler
Wheeler is a senior from Dallas who has been around this game before. Considering some of the younger players in the Texas secondary playing in their first Red River Rivalry, it’s important for the defensive leadership to keep the unit together in a high-intensity environment. At middle linebacker, Wheeler will be asked to do everything from pass rush, drop back into pass coverage, and possibly even spy on Kyler Murray. His hands will be full on Saturday.
RB Kennedy Brooks
Kyler Murray is the obvious answer to the “key player”, so let’s look elsewhere. Ever since the season-ending injury to Rodney Anderson, OU has been looking to replace his production in the backfield. Trey Sermon was expected and has been RB1. But it was Brooks who ripped off eight carries for over 100 yards last week against Baylor, while Sermon had eight carries for under 20 yards. Brooks doesn’t even show up on the depth chart this week, with Sermon and Marcelias Sutton as the 1-2, but is Lincoln Riley really not going to see what Brooks can do for an encore this week? He was a four-star running back, the 16th ranked player at his position in the Class of 2017, and is worthy of more reps. Having fresh legs in a big rivalry game against a great run defense like Texas will prove valuable.
CB Parnell Motley
Motley has been the weak link in the Sooners defense in the secondary this season and you better believe that Texas is going to try and pick on him with their twin towers at wide receiver in Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Collin Johnson. Motley has six passes defended this season, which is top 5 in the Big 12, but that’s also an accumulation number because he’s been picked on plenty so far this season. If there is ever a time for Motley to step up with a big game, it’s now.
The Longhorns have to take advantage of the OU pass defense, which ranks 8th in the Big 12 this season. Sam Ehlinger needs to take shots downfield to Humphrey and Johnson to then open up the running game, not the other way around. Trying to run on first and second down, then be forced into 3rd and longs, will result in a long afternoon for Texas in their biggest game of the season. Defensively, it’s a great match up with one of the top two run defenses (UT) against one of the top two run offenses (OU). If Texas can figure out how to bottle up Kyler Murray, or make him one dimensional, by using their speed on defense to keep him in check, they have a great chance of pulling off the upset.
Along with it’s top-two ranked run offense, OU has the top pass efficiency in the Big 12 Conference, but they are going up against the most efficient pass defense in the conference. This will be, by far, the toughest test Kyler Murray and his offense has faced to date. But one thing Texas has struggled with is getting pressure on the QB, as they have just seven sacks in five games. If OU can keep Kyler Murray clean in the pocket, and running lanes when needed, OU’s offense will do its usual thing and rack up 40+ points and win the game. But if Kyler Murray’s first couple of options aren’t there and he tries to take off, Texas does have the speed on defense to limit him when necessary.
Prediction: OU 35, Texas 31 Sign me up for another close game between these two teams, with the Sooners doing enough to pull off the win. It’ll be a classic, with teams trading blows through three and a half quarters, before the Sooners come up with a key stop late in the game to seal the win and stay undefeated. Texas has a really good defense, but I still don’t trust Sam Ehlinger and the offense to keep up enough. The UT defense will get a bit worn down as the game progresses. Texas’ offense scored just 10 points last week in Manhattan and is still too inconsistent to trust them to pull off this win. But OU’s defense continues to show it has enough holes that Texas can score some points and keep it close.
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