For the final time as Big 12 foes, No. 3 Texas football will square off against head coach Brent Venables and the No. 12 ranked Oklahoma Sooners in the Red River Rivalry game on Oct. 7. Texas and head coach Steve Sarkisian will continue to face Venables and Oklahoma once the programs leave the Big 12 for the SEC in 2024.
But there is a lot on the line for the Longhorns and Sooners in this edition of the Red River Rivalry game this weekend. The winner of this game will not only take the mantle as the frontrunner in the Big 12 title race, but they will also get in prime position as a College Football Playoff contender.
This is the biggest test, by far, the Sooners have faced this season. Oklahoma hasn’t faced a single ranked foe this season. According to the FEI Rankings, the Iowa State Cyclones are the best team Oklahoma faced so far this season, as the 46th-best team in the FBS.
Iowa State and the Cincinnati Bearcats are the only two Power Five foes the Sooners have defeated this season.
Why No. 3 Texas football can dominate No. 12 OU in Red River this weekend
Meanwhile, Texas has defeated two top-25-ranked teams and three from the Power Five. Texas defeated the No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide 34-24 on the road in Tuscaloosa in Week 2. The Longhorns knocked off the No. 24 Kansas Jayhawks in its Big 12 home opener last weekend by a score of 40-14.
A little under 48 hours from kickoff between Texas and Oklahoma in Red River, the Longhorns are a 6.5-point favorite over the Sooners. Here’s a look at four reasons why the Longhorns could dominate the Sooners in Red River on Oct. 7.
Lack of a consistent ground game for Oklahoma
The biggest flaw of the Oklahoma offense this season is, hands down, the lack of a consistent ground game. Oklahoma has struggled to get the ground game going in the last three games. The Sooners haven’t registered over 160 rushing yards as a team in the last three games. Oklahoma also averaged fewer than four yards per carry in its first two games in Big 12 play.
And you could argue the Sooners haven’t found major success in any of its five games this season. The Sooners have yet to average over 4.5 yards per carry in a game this season despite facing three Group of Five foes during the non-conference slate.
Oklahoma likes to run a lot to the outside in zone and gap schemes. Roughly 59 percent of Oklahoma’s run plays are to the C and D gaps. But that hasn’t been ultra-effective, as Oklahoma only has 53 percent of its total rushing yards this season on outside runs.
The success hasn’t been there for Oklahoma running the ball up the middle against Power Five competition. Oklahoma ranks 12th in the Big 12 this season in yards per carry (3.3) against Power Five defenses.
The Sooners’ top running backs, junior transfer Tawee Walker and redshirt senior Marcus Major, have each been limited to under 200 rushing yards in five games this season. The issues Oklahoma faced on the ground are largely due to the inability of the offensive linemen to push opposing defenders off the line of scrimmage. Oklahoma’s physicality isn’t holding up well, especially against Power Five competition this season.
A good indicator of the lack of movement Oklahoma is effectively getting in the trenches this season blocking for the run is yards before contact. Despite having one of the three easiest schedules in the Big 12 in the first five weeks, Oklahoma ranks 12th in the Big 12 in yards before contact per attempt.
Not only have the Sooners struggled to get the run game going consistently this season, but it also hasn’t boasted many explosive plays on the ground. According to College Football Data, Oklahoma ranks second from the bottom in the Big 12 in rushing play explosiveness.
I have faith that the deep and talented Texas interior defensive line and linebackers hold up well in run defense against this inconsistent Oklahoma ground game this weekend.