A Defense Exposed! Back Texas vs. Shell-Shocked Oklahoma

oklahoma texas

Rainman M.

Thursday, October 12, 2017 2:26 PM GMT

Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017 2:26 PM GMT

Texas (3-2) faces No. 12 Oklahoma (4-1) Saturday at 3:30 PM ET in the 112th Red River Rivalry game at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Oklahoma is favored by 8 points with a total of 65.5. What's the best play?

No. 12 Oklahoma Sooners vs. Texas Longhorns (+8)

The key question facing No. 12 Oklahoma in Saturday's Red River Rivalry game in Dallas vs. Texas is whether the Sooners can resolve their defensive issues. OU had given up 37 points in its first 3 games combined, all wins, including an impressive 31-16 victory over Ohio State. Then, however, the Sooners escaped Baylor 49-41 and were shocked vs. Iowa State 38-31 last Saturday. Baylor established the blueprint against Oklahoma's defense: quick passes in the middle of the field and towards the sidelines. This tactic spreads out Oklahoma's defense, counters the influence of its safeties and defensive line, and creates one-on-one matchups with the corners. 

Baylor quarterback Zach Smith had a career game against coordinator Mike Stoops' defense, going 33-for-50 for 463 yards, 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Iowa State's Kyle Kempt made his first career start against Oklahoma, going 18-for-24 for 343 yards, 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions.

Texas has the talent to exploit Oklahoma's weakness in the secondary. Horns coach Tom Herman's refusal to name a starting quarterback forces Oklahoma to prepare for both Shane Buechele and Sam Ehlinger. Both have a similar skill-set as dual-threat quarterbacks. Ehlinger, as the healthier option, started in last week's OT win against Kansas State. Despite Texas' lack of depth on its offensive line, and facing a talented Kansas State defensive line, Ehlinger was not sacked once and was hurried only twice. He ran for 100 yards while throwing for nearly 400 and is likely to start vs. Oklahoma. 

Historically, Oklahoma struggles against mobile quarterbacks (Ohio State's J.T. Barrett in 2016, for example). Collin Johnson, who is blossoming into an elite receiver, is Ehlinger's top target. Johnson is taller than Oklahoma's starting cornerbacks by 6 inches. He is skilled at creating separation from defensive backs, catching balls within an extensive range and otherwise making circus catches. Oklahoma has yet to show it can come close to containing Texas' kind of offensive scheme, quarterback mobility and size at wide receiver.

The main question facing Texas is whether its defense will perform as it did against Maryland and Kansas State or as it did against USC and Iowa State. UT succeeded against the Trojans and Cyclones, both pass-heavy offenses. The Horns struggled against the Terps and Wildcats, both run-heavy offenses that utilize the option attack and balance between a perimeter and inside running game.

Oklahoma excels at various read plays, which allow either quarterback Baker Mayfield to run or, depending on the play, to hand the ball to one of his able running backs, the bruiser Trey Sermon, or the speedy big-play threat Abdul Adams -- or throw a screen on the perimeter. The Sooners also use misdirection plays to combat the aggressive overpursuit of defenders to their advantage by allowing Mayfield to utilize his diverse skill-set at wide receiver.  Texas' vulnerability to the big passing play could be disastrous.
 

The Verdict

Decisive in this game will be Texas' ability to control time of possession and keep Oklahoma's offense off the field. Neither the Horns' undisciplined defense nor Sooners' exposed defense will be ready for the opposing team's offense. But even if Oklahoma completes a few big large passing plays, expect Texas to potentially achieve an upset.

Free NCAAF Pick: Texas +8Best Line Offered: Heritage

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