Rarely, if ever, has the Red River Rivalry been as devoid of luster as it is right now; it’s the only Big 12 matchup this weekend to not feature a ranked team, a borderline-unfathomable notion most of the time. Both teams have struggled to a relatively ugly 3-2 start, but both have shown promise at times. In a game where both starting quarterbacks will potentially be sidelined, let’s take a look at the odds and make our picks for a unique edition of a classic college rivalry.
Texas Vs. Oklahoma Odds
Currently, Texas is installed as a 7-point road favorite, a true rarity in a series like this one. The points total is set at 65, no shocker for a Big 12 game, especially this annual matchup, but with the precarious status of both sides’ quarterback position, it’s an interesting one to keep an eye on.
Texas Vs. Oklahoma Prediction
The Venables era is off to a rocky start in Norman. Things were looking fine after a 3-0 start, but since then the Sooners have dropped a startling home loss against Kansas State, and then went down to Fort Worth, Texas and were absolutely blown away by an excellent TCU effort. Under the team’s new, defensive-minded coach, the run defense has been absolutely pitiful, allowing 50 more yards per game than the next-worst Big 12 rush prevention unit. Their EPA against the run is in the 80s in the nation, right next to Troy, FAU, and Akron. That’s not likely to improve against superstar Texas halfback Bijan Robinson, who is averaging over 100 yards on the ground per game, and has found the end zone 8 times already.
Oklahoma is also in a bit of a pinch at quarterback with Dillon Gabriel questionable with a head injury- but after this week’s Dolphins debacle, they may be extra wary to rush him back. In his absence, the Sooners will be led either by Davis Beville, who took snaps last week after Gabriel exited, or General Booty, who has yet to see his first meaningful action for OU.
Texas has some better news on the QB injury front, as Quinn Ewers is expected to make his return from injury, although that is not considered to be 100% decided yet. Ewers would be a big add, although Hudson Card has performed admirably in belief after Ewers went down in Texas’s nearly-successful upset bid against Alabama. Still, a young, inexperienced QB who may be less than fully healthy might not be able to be superman right away, and could be less than his best self.
On the other side of the ball, PFF sees Texas as a top-20 defense in the nation, which could very well be a differentiating factor in both this game and the Big 12 overall. The Longhorns have been particularly effective at rushing the passer, at which they have been the nation’s 14th-best unit, led by d-linemen Byron Murphy II, Keondre Coburn, T’Vondre Sweat, and Moro Ojomo.
I see this game as a mismatch in every way possible; Oklahoma’s defense can’t slow Texas’s best offensive player, Oklahoma is dealing with injury issues at QB while Texas is possibly getting healthier there, and the fill-in Sooner passers will be dealing with an uncharacteristically-strong Texas pass rush. I definitely like the Longhorns to cover a touchdown, although buying down a half point/searching for a like of 6.5 might be worth your while to get it within that one-score range. Additionally, I see Texas being ahead enough of the game to run the clock out with Robinson and shorten the game, and their d-linemen making life really hard for Oklahoma’s offense; I’m on the under in this one.
Texas Vs. Oklahoma Key Matchups
Will this Oklahoma secondary bounce back against a Texas offense that is coming into its own? How will the Oklahoma passing attack be influenced by this Texas front? Check out the key matchups and mismatches for Oklahoma vs Texas below.
Texas Passing Game vs Oklahoma Secondary
As I mentioned earlier, the QB position for Texas will be much discussed leading up to this matchup, as the Longhorns have two pretty solid options heading into this one, if Quinn Ewers can get healthy. The former OSU transfer turned a lot of heads before exiting the Alabama game, and according to PFF, Hudson Card has been just as good in relief with much more volume.
It’s likely that Texas will turn to Ewers, the higher-upside player if he’s available, but Card is a more than capable option if he isn’t. Either one will be throwing to the WR group that PFF sees as the 13th best in the country, led by Xavier Worthy, who himself has just returned from injury, as well as Ja’Tavion Sanders and Jordan Whittington.
Whoever’s playing QB or WR for Texas will be going up against a secondary that PFF considers to be just the 50th best out of the 65 Power Five teams, and they could be even worse- safety Billy Bowman, by far the team’s best pass defender this year, might be out after getting hurt against TCU. In his absence, there are essentially no defenders who can be described as even average in coverage- “top” corners Woodi Washington and Jaden Davis- both former four-star recruits- have allowed extremely prolific passing numbers, and linebacker duo Danny Stutsman and David Ugwoegbu, who have each spent over 130 snaps in coverage, have been an utter disaster. To say the least, Oklahoma will need to be better in pass defense if they want to have the remotest chance of slowing down Texas on Saturday.
Oklahoma QBs vs. Texas Pass Rush
It’s a bit of a mystery who’s playing QB for Oklahoma this weekend. Davis Beville would seem to be the presumptive starter after being the one to take Gabriel’s place last weekend, and he’s the only non-Gabriel QB to take snaps for OU this season. That being said, General Booty, a Junior College transfer, and Nick Evers, a four-star true freshman, have both been taking first-team snaps this week in preparation for a potential appearance in one of the South’s biggest rivalries. It would be the first Oklahoma start for any one of these three players. Whoever it is will have the benefit of playing behind just about a top-20 pass-blocking line in the country, but they’ll have to deal with an equally tough pass rush.
That Texas pass rush is headlined by a group of four Texas-tough linemen, all of whom hail from the Lone Star State, and check in over 6 feet, and from 284 to 346 pounds. These three, playing as interior linemen, have racked up a total of 42 pressures, including 3 sacks and 4 additional hits.
All except for Sweat have a pass rush win% of over 16%, led by Ojomo at 22.1%. Edge rusher Barryn Sorrell has also had a nice start to the season, registering 4 sacks and 2 additional QB hits so far. These players and more will be eager for the opportunity to knock down an inexperienced QB, and if they’re able to do so early and often, it’ll likely mean a big road win for the men in burnt orange.
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