Preview: The Red River Rivalry

(5) Texas at (1) Oklahoma

Red River- A flowing geographical boundary
that separates the states of Oklahoma and Texas.

Rival- (a) One of two or more striving to reach or obtain something that only one can possess: (b) One striving for competitive advantage.—Webster’s Dictionary

Everyone will give a different opinion of the greatest rivalry in college football or in all of sports, but when it comes to rivalries this century, no other may compare to the one played along the Red River. In each season since 2000, the winner has claimed the Big 12 South 7 of 8 times (OU lost and won the South in ’06). In this century, the winner has also appeared in 4 of the 7 BCS championship games played, and crowned national champion twice. Only twice in this period has this rivalry failed to produce the Big 12 conference champion, and only once has both the winner and loser managed to qualify and play in a BCS bowl game in the same year (’04).

Most rivalries possess the hate, and all winners can claim the yearly bragging rights. But you would have to dig deep to find a single rivalry this century that offered equal rewards for the winner, while also having that single game severely punish the loser. And here we are in 2008, and that body of water not only divides two states, it more importantly separates numbers “1 “and “5” in the national polls. This is the making and breaking of championship dreams. This is Texas and Oklahoma. This is the “Red River Rivalry”.

SOONERS (5-0)
Last Opponent: W-Baylor

The nation’s No. 1 team has been playing like it, leaving no doubt in any of the 5 games played. They will enter Saturday’s game ranked 5th in the country in total offense, averaging 540 yards and 49 points per game. Without a doubt, their greatest offensive weapon is sophomore QB Sam Bradford, who stands among the best in college football at his position. Bradford ranks second in passing efficiency, already tossing 18 touchdowns to only 3 interceptions, for a passer rating of 205.0. Juaquin Iglesias provides a skilled receiving target for the young quarterback, and has a touchdown reception in each of the 5 games played. Iglesias is coming off his best performance of the year, with 6 receptions for 133 yards in the Sooners’ rout of Baylor. And though he’s only cracked the century mark in 2 of the 5 season contests, running back Demarco Murray provides the necessary offensive balance.

The Sooners’ defense is ranked 11th overall, and first in the Big 12. They surrender less than 160 yards through the air, and are the most efficient in the nation against the pass. These numbers are impressive, when you consider that OU jumps all over their opponents early, leaving the defensive unit to face multiple pass situations in an opponents’ game of “catch up”. Fittingly, Oklahoma also allows less than 100 yards per game on the ground.

LONGHORNS (5-0)
Last Opponent: W- Colorado

One quarterback that deserves far more praise than he’s getting is Texas’ Colt McCoy. He’s been shadowed in his own conference by Sam Bradford, Graham Harrell, and Chase Daniel, but McCoy has been a staple of the Longhorns success. To put it in a better perspective, check out his stats. In 5 games, he’s thrown for 16 tds and only 3 interceptions (ranks 4th in pass efficiency). His yardage may not be comparable to the others, but there’s more to him than his arm, because he also leads the Horns in rushing.

McCoy has 317 rushing yards, and 4 rushing tds to go with it. That’s only 114 yards and 1 touchdown less than Oklahoma RB DeMarco Murray, who used 85 carries to achieve his stats, to McCoy’s 45. If not for the reduction in sacks, the numbers could have been much closer. The media has been feeding us the dual threat performances of Florida’s Tim Tebow for 3 years now, but somehow managed to overlook and give the same credit to this Longhorns quarterback that ran for a high of 103 yards in the season opener.

Something has to give, as you have a Longhorns defense allowing less than 12 points per game to opponents, against an OU offense averaging 49. But though the Horns are great against the run, they’re ranked 96th in the nation against the pass, and now face an opponent with a passing fancy. To notch this victory, their strength must be prevalent, which is rushing the passer. And their 3.8 sacks (1st) per game is an indication that no one in the country does it better.

Analysis: Viewing the outcomes of the past few years, one would easily be deceived into thinking Oklahoma owns the series. The Sooners have shown dominance this century, winning 6 of the last 8 meetings, but still trail in the overall series. Unlike previous years, neither program managed to look ahead and stumble before this game, adding to the luster of the rivalry, and sweetening the reward. I would give the Sooners an edge, if ever so slight, because of their ability to feast on defensive secondaries. But the Horns represent a greater foe than they’ve seen in the first 5 games, and possess an offense that is capable of long sustained drives to keep Bradford and company on the sidelines.

All Time Series: Texas leads 57-40-5
Streak: Oklahoma won 1

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~ by Anthony on October 6, 2008.

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