We’ve reached Week 6 of the 2023 college football season, and all eyes are on the Cotton Bowl in Dallas (TX) as the third-ranked Texas Longhorns and 12th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners prepare to face off in the final Red River Rivalry in Big 12 History.
For the first time since 2011, the two programs will meet with unblemished records, giving this game a similar feel to the classic matchups from the late 2000s. In addition to OU-Texas, the Big 12 slate also pairs Baylor and Texas Tech, who have been in lock-step to a 2-3 record, as well as K-State and Oklahoma State giving us some Friday Night Lights action.
UCF and Kansas, as well as TCU and Iowa State, will take on one another in hopes of putting last week behind them as all four suffered disappointing losses.
With that in mind, here are the top five storylines that you should be keeping up with heading into the sixth week of the season.
Is Oklahoma For Real, or Just a Metrics Monster?
The Red River Rivalry hasn’t felt this big in years, and most of that has to do with the fact that Texas seems to have recaptured the magic that it had lost for around 15 years. On the other sideline though, Oklahoma has quietly worked itself to 5-0 and ranked No. 12 in the latest AP Poll. The Sooners have looked as impressive as anyone in the country on paper, ranking third nationally scoring offense (47.4 ppg) and fourth in scoring defense (10.8 ppg). The problem is, they haven’t played anyone ranked inside the Top 30 of ESPN’s FPI, with SMU at 34 being their top competition to this point. While being just one win shy of last year’s win total, OU has a lot to prove before it earns the trust of the College Football Playoff Committee, but it can earn all of that back in one fell swoop this weekend against Texas. A win in the Cotton Bowl would officially put last year’s nightmare behind them and open the eyes of the country to what Brent Venables is building in Norman. The question is, can they do it?
Is Texas a Legitimate National Title Contender?
This week we find out what the Texas Longhorns’ defense is capable of against a real offense, which also means we will find out whether they are a legitimate national title contender. Despite playing Alabama, Texas hasn’t played an offense that even closely resembles what Oklahoma is capable of in the passing game. Jalen Milroe hasn’t been fantastic in the passing game, this year, while Dillon Gabriel has been one of the most prolific passers in the country to this point in the year. Texas’ defense has been a force to this point in the season, and if it continues this weekend, it might be time to put Texas at the top spot in the country. While it might be difficult for some people to wrap their heads around, this Texas team is a legitimate national title contender. If Texas takes down Oklahoma, there’s not a team out there that’s got a better resume to be the No. 1 team in the nation, and it’s not particularly close.
Goodbye Old Friend(s), Hello Bright Future
This is the final year that Oklahoma and Texas will face off in the Red River Rivalry as members of the Big 12. Through the years, the Cotton Bowl has been the venue of the biggest game in the Big 12 and one of the best rivalries in the sport. However, starting in 2024, it will become an SEC rivalry, leaving the Big 12 to turn to rivalries between BYU-Utah, Kansas State-Iowa State, and Baylor-TCU as the premier rivalries in the conference. So, for one last ride, Big 12 fans can choose to tune into this game and see what happens between the Longhorns and Sooners, and how that impacts the Big 12 race. Or, some of you may choose to ignore what’s happening in Dallas and pay attention to the teams that are sticking around. While it might not be sentimental to everyone, it is the last time you’ll ever see the Big 12 logo associated with the game, and that’s got to mean something. While one era is ending, another is beginning as the Big 12 prepares for life with Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and Arizona State as a part of the league.
Big 12 Quarterback Roulette
Jalon Daniels is out (maybe?) Blake Shapen is back (for now.) John Rhys Plumlee is close to coming back (we think.) Tyler Shough is out for quite some time (again.) Garrett Greene and Will Howard have already suffered injuries this season and are back in the lineup. On top of that, will Oklahoma State play one or three quarterbacks this week? It has been incredibly difficult to keep up with what quarterbacks are healthy and which ones are out from week to week. As we head into Week 6, there have been several outcomes that were affected by a quarterback missing or returning to action. Don’t you think the outcome of Texas vs. Kansas might’ve looked a little different if Jalon Daniels could’ve played? If Blake Shapen hadn’t returned last week, would the Bears have pulled off a school-record comeback? So, who’s played the same starting QB all season?
Same Starting Quarterback: Oklahoma (D. Gabriel), Texas (Q. Ewers), BYU (K. Slovis), TCU (C. Morris), Cincinnati (E. Jones), Iowa State (R. Becht), Houston (D. Smith)
Had QB Issues, Injuries: West Virginia, Kansas State, Kansas, Baylor, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, UCF
Going forward, it’s going to be interesting to see how this affects the conference race throughout the season.
Who Officially Rights the Ship: Texas Tech or Baylor?
Baylor and Texas Tech have mirrored each other in every week, with both taking losses in Week 1, Week 2, and Week 4, while picking up wins in Week 3 and Week 5. Now, both teams will come into this game 2-3 and 1-1 in conference play, which means one of these two schools will get a winning record in Big 12 play and back to .500 overall. Coming into the game, Texas Tech is a 1.5-point favorite as the road team in this game and is getting some key players back from injury on the defensive side of the ball. However, Behren Morton is the new starter in Lubbock after Tyler Shough went down with an injury and Baylor now has Blake Shapen back on the field. This is a pivotal week for each team, as falling to 1-2 in conference play doesn’t lock a team out of the conference race, but it puts them behind the eight ball. If I had to choose a winner right now, I would roll with the Red Raiders by a hair as they’re healthier on the defensive side of the ball. Outside of the Red River Rivalry, this is the best game on the Big 12 slate in Week 6.