(15) Texas (4-1) vs. (13) Oklahoma (3-1)
Saturday, October 13, 12:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Frank Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The next chapter in the fabled Red River Rivalry takes place at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas this Saturday, as the 15th-ranked Texas Longhorns square off against the 13th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners.
This is the 107th meeting between these two storied programs, with Texas leading the series by a 59-42-5 count. However, Oklahoma has won the last two meetings, the most recent of which being a 55-17 rout last season.
This is the seventh straight year and the 36th time overall that both teams come into the annual clash ranked in the AP Top-25, and the Sooners own a 13-4 mark in 17 previous matchups when both were in the top-15 and they were the higher ranked team.
Texas opened the 2012 campaign with four straight wins, which included a 41-36 decision at Oklahoma State in its Big 12 Conference opener on Sept. 29. The Longhorns welcomed Heisman Trophy frontrunner Geno Smith and the West Virginia Mountaineers to Austin last Saturday, and the home team suffered its first loss of the season in a 48-45 final.
Oklahoma kicked off the new season with a pair of wins over UTEP and FCS foe Florida A&M, but then suffered a 24-19 loss at home to Kansas State in its league lidlifter on Sept. 22. The Sooners then enjoyed a bye before bouncing back with a 41-20 triumph at Texas Tech last Saturday.
The Texas offense is generating a gaudy 46.8 points and 477.4 total yards game, and the unit is equally proficient in rolling up 209.4 ypg on the ground and 268.0 ypg through the air. Of the 29 TDs the offense has scored, 17 have been of the rushing variety, with RB Joe Bergeron (60.0 ypg) tallying nine scores himself. Malcolm Brown (three TDs) is the team's leading rusher in terms of per game average (61.2 ypg), and when you factor in Johnathan Gray's production (48.8 ypg), it seems like the Longhorns always have a fresh pair of legs in the backfield. QB David Ash is hitting the mark on 77.5 percent of his passes, logging 1,276 yards with 11 TDs and only one interception, while pass catchers Jaxson Shipley (22 receptions, 250 yards, four TDs) and Mike Davis (19 receptions, 263 yards, two TDs) have proven to be the club's most effective targets down the field.
Defensively, the 'Horns are permitting 26.4 ppg, the number being skewed by their last three opponents who tallied 31, 36 and 48 points, respectively. The unit has allowed a total of just six rushing TDs, but opponents churn out 182.4 ypg and average 4.7 yards per carry. The effort against the pass is yielding 221.8 ypg, and the defense has come up with 10 turnovers (seven picks) and 13 sacks. LB Steve Edmond and DB Kenny Vaccaro have both made 36 tackles, and they have combined for seven TFL and three interceptions. DE Alex Okafor has been credited with six sacks and 12 QB hurries -- both team-highs.
Despite racking up more than 400 yards last week against West Virginia, the Longhorns fell short in their bid to win their fifth consecutive game to open the season. Ash completed 22-of-29 passes for 269 yards and a TD, while Gray led the rushing attack with 87 yards on 14 totes. Jeremy Hill caught six balls for 67 yards, and Shipley added five grabs for 58 yards.
Unfortunately, the UT defense came up small in trying to contain the nation's most explosive signal-caller, as Smith went 25-of-35 for 268 yards and four TDs. The 'Horns also had difficulty shutting down the running lanes, allowing WVU tailback Andrew Buie to rumble his way for 207 yards and two scores. Vaccaro led UT with 11 tackles, Okafor had a pair of sacks, and the defense as a whole made 13 stops behind the line of scrimmage.
Despite allowing Smith to have his way, the Longhorns came up with as many sacks (four) as the Mountaineers had allowed in their first four games combined. A couple of telling stats from the game -- while Texas held West Virginia to a mere 3-of-12 success on third-down conversion attempts, the Mountaineers made good on all five of their fourth-down tries. Additionally, the visitors came away with point on all seven of their trips to the red zone.
Coach Mack Brown sees a glaring weakness in his defense that needs fixing right away. "The thing I'm having trouble with is we're giving up so many rushing yards, and we're not used to that. We're allowing people to be two dimensional. We've got to do a better job with that."
Utilizing an offensive attack that produces 190.5 rushing ypg and 273.2 ypg passing, Oklahoma is putting up 38.2 ppg. Standouts on that side of the ball include RB Damien Williams (341 yards, five TDs), QB Landry Jones (93-of-147, 1,032 yards, seven TDs, two interceptions) and WR Kenny Stills (29 receptions, 344 yards, three TDs).
From a defensive standpoint, the Sooners are giving up just 16.0 ppg, with opponents finding it particularly tough to pick up yardage via the pass (160.5 ypg). Their effort against the run yields 142.5 ypg, but they've permitting just four rushing scores. Tony Jefferson paces the club with 30 tackles, 20 of which have been unassisted, and the unit as a whole has posted nine sacks but only three takeaways (all interceptions).
The Sooners did all their scoring in the first three quarters last week at Texas Tech, and took a 41-13 lead into the final frame. The OU offense finished with 380 total yards, and converted 8-of-14 third-down attempts while committing just one turnover. Jones threw for 259 yards and two TDs, hitting Stills seven times for 43 yards and a score. Williams, who rushed for 48 yards on 14 carries, added six catches for 82 yards.
The Oklahoma defense stood its ground against the usually high-powered Red Raiders offense, limiting the hosts to 89 net rushing yards and 203 passing yards. The Sooners did not allow an aerial score, and came up with three interceptions and a pair of sacks. One of the picks was returned for a 46-yard TD by Javon Harris midway through the third quarter.
Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops likes the way his team has played for the most part this season, including last week against Texas Tech.
"We've played really well in a lot of areas, and we got the turnovers, which always is a big factor in these games. So I'm proud of our players for the resolve just to work like they have the last couple weeks to come back and play a good football team on the road and play like they did."
This should be another classic battle between two teams that don't like the other even a little bit. Expect both offenses to move the ball at times, but the outcome will likely hinge on which defense comes up with either a key turnover or game-changing stop. The Sooners are the better defensive team, so give them the edge.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Oklahoma 31, Texas 24
10/10 10:33:49 ET