Oklahoma football: The two Big 12 departees head to Red River showdown with perfect records

Oklahoma's Danny Stutsman (28) brings down Texas' Casey Thompson (11) during the Red River Showdown college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the University of Texas (UT) Longhorns at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021. Oklahoma won 55-48.Ou Vs Texas
Oklahoma's Danny Stutsman (28) brings down Texas' Casey Thompson (11) during the Red River Showdown college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the University of Texas (UT) Longhorns at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021. Oklahoma won 55-48.Ou Vs Texas /

The annual Oklahoma football battle royal with the Texas Longhorns went on long before both were members of the Big 12 and will continue long afterwards, but on Saturday, in the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, they will meet for the final time as representative of the Big 12.

The No. 12-ranked Sooners and No. 3 Longhorns head into the 119th renewal of the Red River Rivalry both sporting perfect 5-0 records and with equal loathing for each other.

Although Oklahoma has won seven of the last 10 games against Texas and 16 of the last 24, the vivid memory of last season’s 49-0 humbling by the hated Horns weighs heavily on the minds of the Sooner players and fans.

OU players have been adamant this week that they are fully focused on this year and this week’s opponent and not on anything that happened in the past, but you last year’s shellacking is not forgotten and as much as anything serves as added Sooner motivation coming into Saturday’s showdown.

815. 851. Longhorns -6.5. 11 a.m., CT. No. 12, 5-0. ABC. Saturday, Oct. 7. No. 3, 5-0

Sixth-year Sooner Drake Stoops has played in four Texas games and attended many more as the son of former OU head coach Bob Stoops. “(Last year’s game) left a bad taste in all our mouths,” he told reporters this week.

"“The past has nothing to do with the present,” he said. “At the end of the day we want to go 1-0 every week. That’s really our goal.”"

Past or present, Oklahoma is going to have its hands full with Texas. This is not the same Longhorn team as last year. Yes, they have many of the same highly talented players, but they have added even more talent to what they already had. And make no mistake, the 2023 Texas team is even better than a year ago.

The Sooners are a touchdown underdog in this year’s game (interestingly, that is similar to what the line was a year ago), but there are virtually no experts — none I’ve seen, anyway — giving Oklahoma much of a chance against the Longhorns on Saturday. It’s almost as if the Sooners shouldn’t even bother to show up at the Cotton Bowl this weekend.

Most all of the hoopla surrounding Texas football this season, however, is based on the impressive 34-24 win by the Longhorns over Alabama in Tuscaloosa in Week 2. The big Texas defensive front manhandled and bullied Alabama at the point of attack, which is something Oklahoma needs to be concerned about in protecting Dillon Gabriel and in the suspect Sooner running game.

This doesn’t mean that Oklahoma can’t win the game and avenge the embarrassing loss from last season, but to do so the Sooners are going to have to be at their best, and not beat themselves, in all phases of the game, and especially on the defensive side.

As most college football fans know, you can throw out the records and all the stats in a long-standing rivalry series like OU-Texas because anything and everything generally goes. The underdog team has won in the OU-Texas rivalry series before. In the past 50 games in this series (since Barry Switzer’s first season as head coach in 1973), the team that came into the game as the underdog has won 16 times.

The Longhorns’ No. 3 ranking in the Associated Press poll is the highest when playing OU since 2009. Since 1999, Oklahoma has come into the Red River Rivalry game as the lower-ranked team five times. The Sooners won just one of those games.

Both teams have been ranked in this game 15 times since 2000, with the higher-ranked team coming out on top 11 times.

In the 28-year history of the Big 12 Conference, the team that won the classic rivalry battle between Oklahoma and Texas was in the best position and frequently (17 times to be precise) went on to win the conference title. And one of those times (2018), the same two teams met in the Big 12 Championship. That outcome would be a nightmare scenario for the Big 12 this season, given that this is the final season for both teams as members of the Big 12.

Saturday’s game is set for an 11 a.m. CT kickoff on ABC-TV. ESPN’s No. 1 announce crew of Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and Holly Rowe will call the game. The Sooners are the designated visiting team this year.

What to know about Texas

The Texas teams of recent seasons lacked a winning balance. When the Horns were strong offensively, they struggled defensively. And in years when the defense was good, the offense was erratic. This year, Texas actually may be back for real and balanced and strong on both sides of the ball. The Longhorn offense is triggered by sophomore quarterback Quinn Ewers, who has completed 66 percent of his passes along with 10 touchdowns and just one interception.

Ewers has weapons a plenty. RB Jonathan Brooks is averaging 6.9 yards per carry and has 597 yards rushing in five games. When the Longhorns throw the ball they have three extremely talented wide receivers with length and speed, all of which have at least a dozen catches on the year. And they can add to that with perhaps the best tight end in college football in Ja’Tavion Sanders.

On defense, Texas leads the Big 12, allowing 290 yards per game and just 4.7 yards per play. The Longhorns ranks first in the big 12 and ninth in the country in third-down defense, holding opponents to a 27-percent success rate in third-down conversions.

What to know about Oklahoma

Quarterback Dillon Gabriel ranks in the top-10 nationally in several categories: fourth in passing TDs (15) and points responsible for per game (22.8), fifth in completion percentage (75.2), sixth in passing efficiency (189.4) and seventh in total offense (337.6 yards per game).

The Sooner wide receiver corps started out the season as a prime concern, but this group has turned into the strength of the offense. Four Sooners (Andrel Anthony, Drake Stoops, Nic Anderson and Jalil Farooq) have over 200 yards receiving and 16 different players have caught passes this season. Eight different OU players have caught touchdown passes. This could be a key against a Texas defense that gave up several long gainers through the air last week against Kansas.

OU ranks third among FBS teams in scoring offense (47.4 points per game), fourth in scoring defense (10.8 points per game) and sixth nationally in third-down-conversion offense (55.2 percent success rate). Danny Stutsman is tied for 16th among FBS teams with 49 tackles along with 9 tackles for loss and two sacks.

Key matchup

Oklahoma ranks sixth nationally in third-down conversions on offense (55 percent success rate). Texas, on the other hand ranks ninth in college football this season in stopping teams on third down (73 percent success rate)

Striking Sooner stats

  • The last time Oklahoma played a regular-season game against a top-five opponent was in 2017 when the Sooners played at No. 2 Ohio State. OU won that game 31-16.
  • Oklahoma’s 25 touchdowns this season are seven more than the next closest team (UCF).
  • OU and Texas have met once before in the series history as the respective No. 12 and 3 teams in the AP Top 25. That was in 1980 with Texas winning 21-13.


This may be the only game this season in which Oklahoma is not favored. This may be the best Texas team Oklahoma has faced since the Longhorns’ 2005 national championship season. Texas beat OU 45-12 that year. The Sooners will put up a strong fight on Saturday — the polar opposite of last season — against a very good Longhorn team. I’m in conflict, however, between my head and my heart. My head says Texas is stronger and more talented and should win 35-24. I’m going with my heart, though, and some Sooner Magic. Sooners in an upset. Oklahoma 31, Texas 28.