AUSTIN, TX – APRIL 23: University of Texas Longhorns quarterback Quinn Ewers makes a throw during the spring game on April 23, 2022, at Darrell K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, TX. (Photo by Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Texas (3-2) v. Oklahoma (3-2)
When: October 8, 2022
Gametime: 11:00 AM ct
What’s at Stake: The winner of the Red River Showdown this week will keep hopes of a Big 12 Championship, or at least a major bowl bid, alive. While the loser will be facing serious questions about the future of their program.
Texas is searching for consistency. A win in a big game will show tangible proof of progress as Steve Sarkisian guides the Longhorns through year two of a complete rebuild. If Texas can back up a strong performance against West Virginia with a rivalry win, it would go a long way to silencing critics and answering questions about the Longhorns’ ability to deliver in big games. The win would also keep the Longhorns hopes for a conference championship alive with games remaining against most of the teams above them in the Big 12 standings.
On the other hand, if Texas can’t defeat a battered Sooner squad this year, the questions and criticism will only grow.
Oklahoma comes into the game in the midst of a two-game losing streak and coming off a thorough shellacking at the hands of TCU last weekend. The Horned Frogs racked up 55 points and 668 yards of total offense on the Sooners and knocked out starting quarterback Dillon Gabriel. Brent Venables is in his first year as a head coach, and the direction of his first season at the helm in Norman could be salvaged with a win versus the Longhorns. A loss in this rivalry game will cast doubts about his leadership of one of the Big 12’s perennial heavy weight programs.
When the Longhorns have the ball: Despite Venables’ well-deserved reputation as one of the sharpest defensive coaches in college football, the Sooners have struggled defensively the last two weeks. After starting the season 3-0, Oklahoma has given up almost 96 points in the first two games of Big 12 play. After being torched on the ground against TCU and Kansas State, the Sooners will have to make big adjustments in order to stop the Texas ground game especially with Longhorn running back Bijan Robinson averaging almost 6 yards a carry.
If the Sooners do commit to stopping the run it could lead to opportunities for the Longhorns in the passing game. Quinn Ewers is expected to start on Saturday, and his return could give the Horns a boost, but Hudson Card has been playing well in his absence. Regardless of the QB, Xavier Worthy and the other Longhorn receivers should find openings and it could be a long day for the Oklahoma secondary.
When Oklahoma has the ball: Starter Dillon Gabriel left the TCU game last week after receiving what appeared to be a concussion. This has left Oklahoma searching for a replacement signal caller. Davis Beville came in for the injured Gabriel but was largely ineffective. Venables has said this week that three quarterbacks will get reps in practice, but the decision on a starter will be closely guarded. Other options at quarterback include General Booty, a highly touted junior college transfer, and four-star freshman Nick Evers.
All of these options present opportunities and challenges for the Longhorn defense. The chance to face an untested starter in a rivalry game of this magnitude would make any defender drool, but preparation will also be a challenge. Crafting a game plan versus an unknown quarterback can be difficult. With no film on the starter there are no tendencies to study.
In the Red River Showdown emotions and intensity will be high, expect the Longhorn defense to take advantage of that and to exploit the Sooners’ weakness by bringing pressure and making it difficult for the new Oklahoma starter.
Key Horns to Watch: All eyes will be on the return of Quinn Ewers and the running game with Robinson, but the game could be won with big plays by Ewers and the Texas passing game.
Ja’Tavion Sanders has developed into a reliable threat in the passing game to go along with Xavier Worthy. In the play action game Sanders could have a big day with the Sooners focused on stopping the run.
Last year Texas blew big leads against Oklahoma and let the Golden Hat slip away as they were unable to close. This year DeMarvion Overshown, the leader of the Longhorn defense, is on a mission to prove that times have changed.
The Bottom Line: If Texas can perform up to the standard they set last week and earlier in the year against Alabama, this diminished Oklahoma team should pose little threat. However, in a rivalry game anything can happen.