If Oklahoma wins the toss tomorrow in the Red River Shootout, chances are they'll take the ball. If they could, they'll leave their defense in the locker room. On the other side of the field, Texas will happily trot its defense out on the field, their offense, not so much. Such are the storylines heading into Saturday's game when Texas has the ball can they move the ball against an underperforming Oklahoma defense.
Oklahoma's defense looked the part early, against UTEP, Tulane, and yes, Ohio State. But as the Sooners reached their conference schedule they've become broken screen door, allowing 415 yards passing per game to Baylor and Iowa State. Not exactly murderers row. Mike Stoops is now firmly on the hot seat, though Lincoln Riley's been clear that he's not inclined to make a change on the defensive staff yet.
For Texas, the issue has been their anemic rushing attack. In three of Texas five games, the Horns averaged less than four yards a carry. The Texas offensive line struggled since the loss of Connor Williams, and none of their plethora of blue-chip backs has performed close to expectation. Were it not for a blowout win against an overmatched San Jose State; Texas rushing numbers would be among the worst in the country.
Texas' solution has been to turn the running duties over to Sam Ehlinger, but exposing Ehlinger to all those hits is problematic as well. In just three games, Ehlinger has carried the ball 46 times, third most on the team. In his two starts, he averages 19.5 carries a game. Ehlinger is a tough kid and bigger than Shane Buechele, but Oklahoma defenders will covet twenty plus chances to punish him.
For Texas, the cadre of giant pass catchers the Horns deploy have to feel good about taking on a shaky Sooner secondary. Collin Johnson, Reggie Hemphill-Mapps, Lil'Jordan Humphrey, and Armanti Foreman look more like the frontcourt of Shaka Smart's basketball team. Oklahoma won't see this quantity of talented receivers on the field again this season. In spite of Tom Herman's instincts, the better play seems to be to attack OU over the top.
When Oklahoma has the ball, Baker Mayfield will be in a chess match with Todd Orlando's defense. The Longhorns are coming into their own since the Maryland debacle. This game is enormous for Mayfield's legacy at Oklahoma. He's split his two trips to Dallas, and after last week expect Mayfield to go out guns blazing in his last game against the Longhorns.