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Oklahoma Football: Previewing The Red River Rivalry

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NORMAN, Oklahoma -

The 108th edition of the Red River Rivalry will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday from the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. For Oklahoma and Texas, it's another game in one of the best rivalries in college football. However, it could be the end of an era on the coaching side.

This will be the 15th and possible final game between Bob Stoops and Mack Brown. Even though the Longhorns are 3-2 and (somehow) 2-0 in Big 12 play, it seems like a given that unless Texas executes a dramatic turnaround, Brown will no longer be the coach. Suffer a third straight blowout and Brown may not last the rest of the season.

The retirement of athletic direct DeLoss Dodds seems to be the final sign Brown won't be back next season. Dodds was Brown's biggest supporter and with him out, there's no reason to think a new regime would want to keep Brown around any longer.

Brown defeated Stoops in 1999, but hasn't won another game in the rivalry without Vince Young or Colt McCoy behind center. He's also had four games in his entire coaching career in which his team gave up 55 or more points, all to the Sooners.

The Mack Brown era in Austin is drawing to a close. The Sooners could play a part in that on Saturday. A win probably seals his fate. A blowout could seal his fate by Monday. However, a Texas upset would be enough to save Brown for the rest of the season, or maybe even his job.

Three questions for Oklahoma:

1. How will the defense fare without Corey Nelson?

Nelson was having a great season before a torn pectoral muscle against TCU put him on the sidelines, likely for the remainder of the season. Freshman Dominique Alexander and redshirt junior Aaron Franklin will take his place, but replacing Nelson will be about more than on-field production. Nelson was the leader of the unit both on and off the field. That's a lot more difficult to replace than just a quota of tackles each game. Alexander and Franklin have to step up, but the rest of the defense, particularly seniors like Gabe Lynn and Aaron Colvin have to step up into the leadership void left by Nelson. Oklahoma's success on defense may depend on it.

2. Can Texas force Blake Bell beat them with his arm?

Mack Brown said this week one of the Longhorns' main goals was stopping the Oklahoma rushing attack. If the Longhorns are able to do that, it will be up to Blake Bell to beat Texas with his arm. Texas has had good success stopping the run against Oklahoma. In 2009, OU had negative-16 yards on the ground and in 2011, despite a 55-17 final score, OU managed just 86 yards rushing, 64 of those on one touchdown run. The Texas secondary isn't great, but still has talent in Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom. However, the Texas run defense is atrocious this season, giving up 248.4 yards per game, 117th in the country. It's unlikely Bell will be on his own in this one. OU should run all over the Horns.

3. What will the crowd look like?

If you have ever wanted to go to this game, this would be the year to go. Tickets in the Texas section have been selling on StubHub.com for as little as $75 this week. And they're not in short supply, either. Meanwhile, the OU section is in quite a bit higher demand, as tickets online are at least $150 each. Most years, there are more Texas fans in the OU section than vice versa for the simple reason the game is played in Texas (calling it a neutral site is questionable). It will be interesting to see just how much crimson infiltrates the burnt orange section. Suffice to say, the total attendance will most certainly not be 50/50.

Three players to watch for Texas:

1. Quarterback Case McCoy- 574 yards, 60.8 completion percent, 2 touchdowns

McCoy gets the start after David Ash was ruled out due to lasting effects of a head injury he suffered earlier in the year. He doesn't have the same accuracy or running skills as Ash, but he's got plenty of experience. He doesn't have great arm strength, so the OU secondary should be able to do a good job of limiting the Texas passing game.

2. Running back Johnathan Gray- 439 rushing yards, 4 touchdowns

Gray was an incredible talent coming out of Aledo High School last year, and has been impressive for the Longhorns in his sophomore season. He's got great speed and is powerfully built at 5-foot-11, 208 pounds. The Longhorns will have to establish the run game if they want to have any chance of winning this game and Gray will be a big part of that.

3. Defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat- 30 tackles, 6 TFLs, 3 sacks, 1 interception

Jeffcoat has been plagued by injuries throughout his career, which has prevented him from having the kind of impact most expected him to have at Texas. Here in his senior season, Jeffcoat is looking like the dominant defensive end many saw coming out of high school. He's fifth on the team in tackles, and leads the team in sacks and tackles for loss. The OU offensive tackles will have their hands full with Jeffcoat on Saturday.

Key Matchup: Oklahoma front seven vs. Texas run game

Since 2010, Texas is 3-10 when it passes more than it runs. On the flip side, Texas is 18-2 when they run 10 more times than they pass. Needless to say, the Longhorns are going to do everything they can to establish the run against Oklahoma to take pressure off McCoy and try to open up something in the passing game. Based on what we've seen so far from the Oklahoma defense and Texas offense, the Sooners seem plenty capable of committing the front seven to stopping the run, leaving the secondary in man-to-man coverage against the UT receivers. Texas has to establish a semblance of a run game in order to even have a chance to win. If they can't, it's going to be ugly.

Prediction: Oklahoma 45, Texas 13

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