Will the Red River Showdown be a Quarterback Shootout?

DALLAS, TX - OCTOBER 08: Oklahoma Sooners offensive lineman Erick Wren (58) during the Oklahoma Sooners 45-40 victory over the Texas Longhorns in their Red River Showdown on October, 2016, at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, TX. (Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

This Saturday, one of the greatest rivalries in college football takes place. Set at the Cotton Bowl on the grounds of the Texas State Fair, the #11 Texas Longhorns will host the #6 Oklahoma Sooners. This interstate rivalry has met at the Cotton Bowl since 1932. The fans are split evenly down the 50-yard-line, and the teams enter the field from a shared tunnel, leading to a heated and intense battle most years. These two teams have played since 1900, before Oklahoma became a US state. Texas leads 62-47-5 in the series, however, they are tied at 15-15-1 in the last 30 years. Last year’s Texas victory saw 93 total points scored; the most in series history. This year’s Red River Showdown may likely be a quarterback shootout. Will the golden hat return to Texas for another year?  

Oklahoma Preview

This year, Oklahoma Head Coach Lincoln Riley continues his tradition of bringing in Heisman-contending transfer quarterbacks with Alabama transfer (and Houston native) Jalen Hurts. Hurts leads the nation in passer rating and ranks second in total offense at 404 yards per game. He is also not afraid to run and has 499 rushing yards for the season. 

Wide receiver Ceedee Lamb has seven receiving touchdowns this season, tied for first in the Big XII (with Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace). OU’s offense averages 9.9 yards per play with very few third downs. The Sooners average 7.8 yards per carry in the run game. Running back Trey Sermon is the leading rusher for the Sooners with 345 total yards and four touchdowns.  

With a weak offensive line riddled with injuries, OU’s offensive tackles are “highly questionable” for Saturday. Unranked Kansas’ defense was able to put pressure on Hurts last week. The Sooners have not had the same starting offensive line in any of their five games so far. 

While Oklahoma is an offensive powerhouse, their defense is in a rebuilding phase. The Sooners have a newer defensive staff under Defensive Coordinator Alex Grinch. OU ranks only fourth in Big XII at yards allowed per game.  

OU has 5-0 record but they have not faced a challenge yet this season. Their opponents so far (Houston, South Dakota, UCLA, Texas Tech, and Kansas) have a collective 10-17 record, and none are ranked. The only team they have played with a winning record is Texas Tech (3-2).   

Texas Status

Last week, the Texas defense played a large part in their victory over West Virginia. They scored 21 points off of four interceptions against the Mountaineers. Longhorn true freshman running back Roschon Johnson had 121 rushing yards, earning the title of Big XII newcomer of the week. Along with Oklahoma and Baylor, Texas is undefeated in conference play. Their solo loss remains to fourth-ranked LSU in a close matchup.  

Injury update 

Freshman running back Jordan Whittington is doubtful for this week but progressing following sports hernia repair in September. Collin Johnson (hamstring), Chris Brown (thigh contusion), and Demarvion Overshown (back) are all practicing and expected to start Saturday.  

Quarterback Shootout? 

Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts has 1,523 total yards for 14 touchdowns (seven rushing) this season. He has a 75% completion percentage and two interceptions. Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger has 1,448 total yards for 17 touchdowns (three rushing). He has a 69% completion percentage and two interceptions. The quarterbacks have similar styles in that they are accurate with the pass but easily able to rush when needed. Hurts averages 99 yards per game on the ground. Compare this to 47 yards per game for Ehlinger. OU is 50-50 between rushing vs passing yards where Texas has almost twice the amount of passing yards to rushing. This will provide a challenge Saturday for the Sooners’ secondary to try and stop the pass. The Longhorns’ defense will be split between stopping the run and the pass. 

Showtime

The Red River Showdown has again returned to having conference and potentially playoff implications. Both teams are predicted to match up again in the Big XII championship game. Saturday’s game is typically one with huge momentum shifts. It is also one where either team can win, regardless of their records going in. This year certainly won’t disappoint. Bring on the golden hat. 

Main Photo Credit:

DALLAS, TX – OCTOBER 08: Oklahoma Sooners offensive lineman Erick Wren (58) during the Oklahoma Sooners 45-40 victory over the Texas Longhorns in their Red River Showdown on October, 2016, at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, TX. (Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

 

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