We’ll get to a proper preview tomorrow, but with the Red River Showdown just two days away, it’s time to have a look at what our neighbors to the south are bringing to the table.
The Texas Longhorns come into this game ranked (No. 19) for the first time since 2012 and looking to proclaim themselves as officially “back” at the expense of their biggest rival and tormentor.
How good is Texas? What should worry Oklahoma? After watching film on the Longhorns, here are a few conclusions.
Tom Herman may have come up under the Urban Meyer coaching tree, but this year’s team most resembles the Snyder Kansas State teams from the early 2000s. The Wildcats were always talented, but never overwhelming on offense. They played physical on defense and had a sound special teams unit.
That’s what Texas is becoming.
The Longhorns haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher since Maryland in last year’s season opener (Trey Sermon came close at 96 yards in 2017). Their defensive line doesn’t have a Poona Ford-type at its disposal, but they are capable of holding up offensive linemen long enough to allow athletic linebackers Gary Johnson, Anthony Wheeler and Jeffery McCullough to fly around and make plays.
The offense has some big-play ability, but it really plays like an extension of the defense. When they have the ball the Longhorns try to limit three-and-outs, play field position and keep their defense in good situations.
While they aren’t a great running team (they have yet to have a running back eclipse the 100-yard mark this year) they can move enough people around at the point of attack to play keep away.
Quarterback Sam Ehlinger will hit the occasional downfield pass, but he is truly at his best when he is taking care of the football, keeping opponents off guard with the run game and extending plays.
Much like those old Kansas State teams of the past, the Longhorns have turned non-offensive touchdowns into back-breakers. Against USC a blocked field goal returned for a score changed the momentum of the game in the second half and Anthony Wheeler had a pick-six helped seal the 37-14 win.
Against Kansas State the Longhorns returned a punt 90 yards for a score in a 19-17 win.
An interception return to the 2-yard line against TCU was all but another non-offensive touchdown (and a dagger for the Horned Frogs).
The recipe is familiar if you go back and watch Oklahoma play Kansas State from 2000-04. Texas wants an ugly game when it comes into the Cotton Bowl.
If they can drag the high-powered and polished Sooners into the mud, the Longhorns feel they will have the advantage. But if the Sooners can play clean, not make mistakes to feed into Texas’ momentum and make the game about talent on the field it should be advantage Oklahoma.
The Longhorns are as talented as anyone in the country in their back five. That includes the Clemsons, Ohio States and Alabamas of the world.
Still, the Longhorns are susceptible to the double move and misdirection from receivers. USC true freshman J.T. Daniels was able to rack up 322 yards through the air against the usually-stingy unit.
TCU quarterback Shawn Robinson was pedestrian at 197 yards through the air, but much of that was due to unforced errors on the part of the Horned Frogs’ signal caller. He threw a pair of bad interceptions and missed on a few open throws.
The Longhorns mixed up some coverage on Baker Mayfield last year in this game and even got the Heisman Trophy winner to throw a rare interception right before halftime. You can bet they are looking to do the same against Kyler Murray, but if Murray can look through his progressions, there’s a good chance someone will pop open.
Lack of pass rush
Last year Texas made life hard on Baker Mayfield by bringing tons of pressure in the second half, but the Longhorns have struggled to bring the heat on opposing teams this season so far. The Longhorns rank 105th in the country in sacks per game at 1.4. The Longhorns will certainly try to change that stat against the Sooners, but with the added danger of Murray’s running ability, it won’t be easy.
Texas has also been mediocre at protecting its quarterback. The Longhorns rank 60th in the country in sacks allowed at 1.8 per game – a number that could be higher if it weren’t for Ehlinger’s size and scrambling ability.
The Sooners, meanwhile rank 19th in the country in team sacks with three per game. That likely means there will be some chances to get to Ehlinger and disrupt the passing game, but we all know how poor the Sooners have been at tackling. That will have to change Saturday.