Texas Football Breakdown: Scouting Week 6 vs. Oklahoma

Steve Sarkisian, Brent Venables, Texas football
Steve Sarkisian, Brent Venables, Texas football /

The 2023 college football season is fast approaching, and the hype for Texas football in Year Three of the Steve Sarkisian era is high. The Longhorns bring back 17 starters from a 2022 squad that won eight games and had flashes of greatness. Those flashes must become more consistent if the Horns want to leave their mark during their final season in the Big 12.

In July, Texas was selected atop the Big 12 Media Preseason Poll for the first time since 2009. The Horns received 41 of 63 first-place votes, ahead of Kansas State’s 14 and the four received by Oklahoma and Texas Tech. This solidified Texas as the program to beat in the Big 12 this fall.

The Longhorns first took the field for fall camp on Wednesday, Aug. 2. The hype for Texas football and the 2023 season has grown with every passing practice. It would be apropos to take a game-by-game look at the Longhorns’ 2023 opponents, diving into every aspect of what Texas will face this fall.

Take a look at the first five Texas  games I previewed earlier this month:

Texas travels to the Cotton Bowl in Week Six for the 119th Red River Rivalry against the Oklahoma Sooners. The Oct. 7 matchup in Dallas has yet to be assigned a kickoff time but will be shown on ABC. According to ESPN’s matchup predictor, the Horns have a 62.8 percent chance of beating the Sooners.

Here is everything you need to know about the 2023 Oklahoma Sooners and their matchup against Texas.

Breaking down how Texas football matches up against Oklahoma.


Year One of the Brent Venables era in Norman did not go as planned. The Sooners won just six games, their lowest mark of the 21st century. Amidst the program’s worst season since 1998 was one of the worst losses in Sooner history. OU took to the 2022 Red River Showdown as 7.5-point underdogs. They left suffering the program’s worst shutout loss since 1945. Oklahoma never seemed to grab any momentum in 2022, winning just one game against a team with an above .500 record.

Because of the program’s 21st-century success and expectations, the seat is already starting to warm up for Coach Venables. Touted as a defensive mastermind, Venables’ defense was nothing of the sort during his first season in Norman. The Oklahoma defense ranked 122nd nationally in total defense, giving up over 460 yards per game. The Sooners were incredibly susceptible to the big play, giving up four 70+ yard plays to TCU alone.

Venables has worked quickly to make the appropriate changes this offseason. Oklahoma brought in the No. 4 ranked high school class and No. 9 ranked transfer class. Despite returning 11 starters, the 2023 Sooners will see a fair amount of fresh faces on the field. The question becomes, how much of that 49-point gap have they closed?


The offense was not the problem for the Sooners last season. No, it was not up to the standard Lincoln Riley had made commonplace, but the Sooners ranked 10th nationally in rushing yards per game and were one of the most explosive passing offenses in the Big 12.

Quarterback Dillon Gabriel returns for his fifth season of college football. A concussion kept Gabriel out of the 2022 Red River Rivalry, and while I do not believe his presence changes the outcome, it would have certainly changed the score. Gabriel passed for over 3100 yards and 25 touchdowns last season. He was selected as an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention and proved a viable dual-threat quarterback at the Power Five level.

Gabriel loses his top two targets from last season, Marvin Mims and Brayden Willis. The wide receiver corps is a question for Oklahoma in 2023, something that has not been said about the Sooners in many years. They return just 83 receptions and 954 yards from their 2022 receivers.

Sophomore running back Jovantae Barnes is far and away the most explosive skill-player on the Oklahoma offense. He had 108 yards in the bowl game against Florida State and is poised for a huge 2023 season as the Sooners’ No. 1 back.

I can assure you that the Oklahoma offense will score more than zero points in the 2023 Red River Showdown. That said, this offense has nowhere near the level of talent and explosion that the Lincoln Riley offenses brought to Norman. Texas matches up well with Oklahoma on the outside and should be able to limit the Sooners’ big-play opportunities. I do not foresee Oklahoma winning a shootout.


Coach Venables was touted as the best defensive coordinator in the country during his time at Clemson. His defense during his first year in Norman did not come close to the Venables standards. Oklahoma had the second-worst rushing defense in program history and was gashed at every level.

Venables has echoed a message of confidence and improvement regarding his defense this offseason. Oklahoma returns six starters from last year’s unit, but the real production will come from the transfer portal. Trace Ford (Oklahoma State) and Rondell Bothroyd (Wake Forest) bring 25 career sacks and a plethora of experience to Norman. The duo joined junior Ethan Downs to form one of the more formidable edge units in the conference. Davon Sears (Texas State) and Jacob Lacey (Notre Dame) join the interior line to solidify the group.

Dasan McCullough (Indiana) received Freshman All-American Honors last season and immediately provides an explosive and instinctive athlete to the linebacking room. Danny Stutsman returns after leading the Big 12 with 126 tackles last season.

Though three starters return in the secondary, development will be key as the Sooners ranked 118th nationally last year in passing defense. Venables will rely on Texas Tech transfer Reggie Pearson and true freshmen Peyton Bowen and Makari Vickers. This unit has tremendous upside, but there will be growing pains. Texas will look to take advantage of these pains.

Oklahoma’s front seven could trouble Texas, but if the O-line gives Ewers time, the Texas wideouts could have some track practice on the outside.


The Red River Rivalry is a matchup always circled on both teams’ schedules. That becomes even more magnified for Coach Venables after what happened last season. Oklahoma will throw the kitchen sink at Texas, and I expect them to come into this game with a 5-0 record. The 2023 Sooners should be much better than last, but I still do not think it’s enough to compete with the Longhorns. I expect Ewers to have another field day in Dallas and for Texas to win back-to-back games over Oklahoma for the first time since 2008/2009. – Oklahoma 24 Texas 37

Projecting Texas' Week 1 two-deep depth chart. dark. Next