🏈 Happy Red River eve
The best day of the year is tomorrow. How the Sooners can end it with another win over the Longhorns.
✌🏽 Happy Friday, friends. There’s a football game in Dallas tomorrow. Let’s ride.
🤔 Trivia: In OU's 12-0 win over Texas on Oct. 9, 2004, which OU kicker and running back combined to score the game's only points? [Answer in footnotes]
🔑 Keys to the game
A full stadium. A packed fairgrounds. And the sweet aroma of corny dogs and college football.
Saturday is my favorite day of the year. To see this rivalry up close is a privilege, and this next installment of the series is poised to deliver another classic.
OU has won the last two meetings in Dallas. Add another to the win streak with OU’s 39-27 win over Texas in the 2018 Big 12 title game.
For the Sooners to keep their Red River supremacy, here are the keys for all three phases:
Key for the offense: Play a disciplined game. If the Sooners’ offense performs to the level it did last week and cleans up its penalties, there’s no reason OU shouldn’t score often against Texas. Spencer Rattler has to continue to limit his mistakes, and the offensive line, which had a better game last week than what they’re being given credit for, has to cut out the penalties it drew. Establishing the run would also be nice for OU, especially with this feeling like a spot where the Sooners’ passing attack can really take off.
Key for the defense: Limit the breakdowns. OU’s defense has struggled to get off the field at times (more on that later in the newsletter), and things won’t get easier with a fiery offense meeting it in Dallas. The Oklahoma run defense will have its hands full with Bijan Robinson. The Texas running back is one of the best in the country, and if we’re being honest, is going to put up numbers. The big thing for the Sooners is getting enough pressure on Casey Thompson to limit his opportunities through the air. Kansas State’s Skylar Thompson seemed to have all the time in the world at points to find an open receiver. OU’s pass defense desperately needs a better day at the Cotton Bowl.
Key for special teams: Gabe Brkic has to keep doing what he’s doing. He’s been on a pretty impressive run so far through the first half of the season, but against Texas last year, Brkic wasn’t so clutch for the Sooners. Also, maybe don’t get any unnecessary roughness penalties and allow a kickoff return for a touchdown.
💭 The Pick
Oklahoma 42, Texas 38. These teams feel as evenly matched as they have in years, mostly because of the uncertainty of how good OU can be. I think Oklahoma, to this point, is marginally better with the more experienced quarterback and better talent in the trenches. The Sooners will likely sweat out another one, but in this wild year of college football, take any win you can get.
🛑 Fourth-down issues
Oklahoma’s defense has faced more fourth-down situations than any team, except for one, in the country.
Both OU and Michigan State have faced a nation-leading 19 fourth-down plays. The Sooners have allowed their opponents to convert 12 of those attempts, ranking them No. 100 nationally in defensive fourth-down conversion percentage at 63.2%.
Why this matters: OU ranks in the top 50 for defensive third-down conversion percentage rate, allowing its opponents to move the chains on just 25 of 72 third-down plays. Some of those efforts have gone to waste with how teams are rolling the dice more often against the Sooners, who will face one of the more dynamic offenses in the country this weekend.
Go deeper: The Oklahoman’s Justin Martinez on the OU defense’s fourth-down struggles [👉🏽 Click here to read]
💪 OU leadership strong
You might have missed the rumors, which I would never write about unless a coach or player addressed them, but the Sooners allegedly held a “players-only meeting” this week.
OU coach Lincoln Riley was asked about the validity to that claim, and mostly said it’s normal for the players to meet by themselves. Stating it happens more often than we’d think.
Riley took the chance to praise his team’s leadership, which he believes is deserved after the way it got OU through some close calls against Tulane, Nebraska, West Virginia and Kansas State.
For more: SI Sooners’ John Hoover on a rumor supposedly blown out of proportion [👉🏽 Click here to read]
📺 Big 12 on TV
This Saturday’s Big 12 slate includes only three games but all three boast spreads of three points or less.
While it’s pretty obvious what the best game is this weekend, here’s how I’m prioritizing Saturday’s lighter schedule:
Oklahoma vs. Texas (11 a.m., ABC): This year’s Red River Showdown decidedly feels different. A head coach’s debut always creates excitement. But both teams are ranked and appear to be conference championship contenders. I don’t think there’s any way where this games doesn’t come down to the final quarter. This one can’t kick off soon enough.
TCU at Texas Tech (6 p.m., ESPN): Not a bad night game for the league. The Frogs took a rare loss to Texas last weekend, while the Red Raiders unexpectedly topped West Virginia in Morgantown. The O/U is set at 60.5, and with how both defenses have played to this point, that might be an easy number to crack.
West Virginia at Baylor (11 a.m., FS1): Still an intriguing game because I'm still a bit unsure of what to make of Baylor and it's hard to believe the Mountaineers might start conference play 0-3. Both teams are well-coached but have hit some bad breaks early in the season. I’ll take the Bears to win a close one.
⏰ On this day
A decade ago today, Oklahoma beat Texas 55-17. Five years later on the same day, the Sooners beat the Longhorns 45-40.
Trey DiCarlo and Kejuan Jones.
Definitely didn’t jinx everyone who bet the over