Oklahoma vs Texas: A Rivalry Like No Other

Red River for the Ages

It’s Oklahoma vs Texas week. Do you bleed crimson and cream or raise the burnt orange flag of Texas. No matter where your allegiance lies, everyone can agree that these two do not like each other. For the 116th time, Oklahoma will battle Texas at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. The Sooners come into this game undefeated and a 10 1/2 point favorite. We’ll break down what this rivalry means, some of the biggest matchups, and keys to victory in this game as we look at Oklahoma vs Texas.

Oklahoma vs Texas: A Rivalry Like No Other

What sets this rivalry apart

There are many different outstanding rivalries in college football. There is no other rivalry that demands patriotism and respect for each other than Army vs Navy. And, the pure hatred that courses through the veins of the entire state of Alabama when Auburn and Alabama battle it out is impressive. Also, we couldn’t forget about the greatness of Michigan against Ohio State and how much that game has meant to the national stage every year. But, the uniqueness of the setting and the backdrop sets apart the Red River Rivalry.

First, one of the unique parts of this rivalry is the neutral site aspect. Now, the Army vs Navy game and the Florida vs Georgia game has the neutral site to its advantage as well. But, the fact that the Cotton Bowl is almost equal distance between Austin and Norman is astounding. Also, the fact that the fans are split down the middle at the 50 means you always have half of the stadium roaring at any point in the game.

Lastly, the setting puts this game over the edge as the greatest in college football. The Cotton Bowl is nestled inside the State Fair of Texas which provides a unique backdrop for a college football game. Between the capacity crowd of over 90,000 and estimated over 150,000 fans and patrons alike taking in the action from outside the stadium, there is nearly a quarter of a million fans taking in this game every year. But, you as fans of college football helped us confirm that fact this week.

Heisman vs Heisman

For the first since Sam Bradford battled Colt McCoy in 2008, we have two legitimate Heisman contenders who will be battling each other in this game. Jalen Hurts has been in the first or second slot all season for the Sooners. However, Texas gunslinger Sam Ehlinger has consistently found himself in the six.

The statistics tell the story of a nearly even matchup of the two experienced signal-callers. Hurts has thrown for 1,523 yards with 14 touchdowns and two interceptions through the air. He’s added another 499 yards on the ground and seven more scores. Meanwhile, Ehlinger has 1,448 yards passing with 17 touchdowns and two interceptions. And, like his dual-threat counterpart, he has added 236 yards and three more touchdowns on the ground.

Ironically, in what may have been a look-ahead for both teams, both Hurts and Ehlinger had their poorest performances of the season against Kansas and West Virginia. Hurts set season lows in total passing yards, completion percentage, and quarterback rating in the 45-20 victory over Kansas. Meanwhile, Ehlinger can say exactly the same. He put up similar lows against West Virginia including only connecting on 55% of his passes. Both players will be clamoring for a better performance on Saturday.

Keys to the Game

Oklahoma

  1. How will the Sooners react to adversity? Oklahoma has cruised to a 5-0 start with an average margin of victory of 34 points. How will the Sooners respond to being down or even in a close game late in this game?
  2. Can Oklahoma overcome height mismatch in the secondary? The Texas wide receiving corps of John Burt, Brennan Eagles, Malcolm Epps, and Collin Johnson go 6’3, 6’4, 6’6, and 6’6. Meanwhile, the Sooner defensive backfield of Tre Brown, Parnell Motley, Jaden Davis, Brendan Radley-Hiles, Pat Fields, and Delarrin Turner-Yell are listed at 5’10, 5’10, 6’0, 5’9, 5’11, and 5’10. Whoever wins the majority of these battles should win the game.
  3. Play a 60-minute game. The Sooners have not put a full 60-minute game together in this series since 2012. Texas and Oklahoma have split six meetings in the Cotton Bowl since that time including two upset wins over the Sooners. Can Oklahoma get back to its solid play?

Texas

  1. Can the Longhorns get healthy? Texas has suffered from a rash of injuries, most notably to the defensive secondary. Safeties Cade Sterns and DeMarvion Overshown are likely still out in this game. But, Texas should have wide receiver Collin Johnson back this week.
  2. Consistent secondary play. The Longhorns have had inconsistent play in the secondary this season. They have given up over 300 yards per game and just over 66% completion percentage. But, they also have nine interceptions including four last week against former Sooner quarterback Austin Kendall. Can they have similar results against Hurts?
  3. Stay physical. Texas has been the more physical football team over the past few years, especially as an underdog. The ability for the Longhorns to maintain that physicality edge will be pivotal for back to back Texas wins in the Cotton Bowl.

Game Notes

  • With Oklahoma ranked #6 and Texas ranked #11, this will be the first time both teams are ranked in the top 12 since 2012.
  • These teams have met 38 times when both have been ranked in the top 25 in the country. Oklahoma leads the series 20-17-1 in such occurrences.
  • Texas leads the overall series 63-47-5.
  • Fox is going all-in on its coverage of the Red River Showdown. Aside from the game call by Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt, the studio crew of the Big Noon Kickoff preview show will be live outside of the Cotton Bowl at 10:00 AM EST.

More Coverage

We went all-in on all things Red River Rivalry with Mark Rogers. The full breakdown can be found here.