If a football game was ever more than just a game, it’s the annual matchup between the Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners in the Red River Rivalry game every year. While I have never had the good fortune to attend in person(if anyone wants to hook me up, just let me know), putting 2 storied teams in such a majestic setting, over such a long period of time helps the game itself grow well beyond x’s and o’s.
The overhead shots of the stadium, split half crimson and half burnt orange give me goosebumps every time I see it.
The rush of the players out of the tunnel at the start of the game, the crowd, everything surrounded with the game emphasizes just how important it is, no matter what the record is of either team. Both these teams have shared stretches of dominance in the series as well as college football, but this season they come in closer in terms of talent than in recent matchups, and while all of this discussion of the ancillary parts of the game are something I could do for hours, it’s time to talk about the game.
5 Keys to an Oklahoma Sooners Victory
- Run the football-This seems so basic, but it really isn’t. The effects of an effective Sooners running game, or a lack of one could have huge implications on the entire game. The Longhorns defense is athletic and riddled with top draft picks, but they have shown this year to lack some fundamentals including tackling. They have also shown the ability to harass opposing quarterbacks. If the Sooners hope to let Landry Jones have the time he needs to make those quick throws, they must be able to run the football. And they should run it straight at the Longhorns defensive ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor. If they can run at them, it’ll keep them from simply firing off the football, and turning the corner on the Sooners tackles, where they are outmatched. Keep those ends honest and make life a little easier on the rest of the offense.
- Stuff the run-There’s no secret the Longhorns are going to run the football. They have a big athletic offensive line, a stable of talented backs, and a passing game that’s still a work in progress. The Sooners defensive front 7 is solid, but not spectacular. It’s going to take all they’ve got to stimy this run game, and force the Longhorns to pass. What this will mean for the Sooners is head coach Bob Stoops is going to have to platoon in more players among the front 7 to allow them to play fresh. Mixing up run blitzes and stunts, and most important making the tackle is what will win the day. The Sooners defense has been run on all season, so this should be the game they make the corrections they need to slow the Longhorns down.
- Find some wide receivers who want to play-I’m all for rotating players into the game, and the Sooners last week played a stack of wide receivers mostly all opposite Kenny Stills. Stills is the one constant among the group, but who is on the field with him has been an area of concern. Against the Longhorns, we must assume that the top Texas corner, Quandre Diggs is going to be keying on Stills. Moving Stills around, and getting the other wide outs involved in the passing game should give these young wide outs some confidence and that will carry over to Jones, who as we all know really struggles when his confidence starts to waiver.
- Keep Landry Jones happy-Anyone who has read my work knows that I have become more and more frustrated with Jones, going back to last season. If you look at how West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith responded to the pressure the Longhorns put on him, you get what makes him a top prospect for the NFL Draft. By contrast, Jones wilts when he is put under pressure, forces throws and makes crucial mistakes. You hate to think about one guy needing to be propped up by his teammates, but it’s what it’s going to take to win. If the Sooners don’t win on Saturday, I fully expect the responsibility to fall on the shoulders of Jones.
- Be opportunistic on defense-the Sooners don’t generate a great pass rush, and they don’t have any first round picks among their 2 deep on defense. They are going to play fundamentally sound football, follow their assignments, and when the opportunity presents itself, make a big play whether it’s pressure on the quarterback, batting down a pass, or forcing a turnover, there are always 8-10 plays a game where a defense has a chance to make big play, but up until this point, they haven’t taken advantage of this. Against a team like the Longhorns, they must not miss opportunities.
Full disclosure, I am a full on Sooners fan. But with that, I am also pragmatic. It’s going to take the supreme effort for the Sooners to beat the Longhorns. The Longhorns strength on offense is running the ball, and that plays to the weakness of the Sooners defense. The Longhorns strength on defense, playing coverage and pressuring the quarterback, are the kryptonite for the Sooners offense.
It’s going to take a perfect storm of running the football, stopping the run, and big plays in the passing game and on defense for the Sooners to win. I will hope it happens. I will cheer for it to happen. But I don’t think it will happen. I predict the Longhorns will find a way to wear the Sooners down, and win a close game, and my weekend will be ruined.
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