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Sooners: Don't Overlook The Longhorns

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Saturday’s “Red River Rivalry” game won’t be the most anticipated in the history of the matchup, but this game tends to present plenty of surprises. Oklahoma enters the game with a top-10 ranking, while Texas only has one win through five games and the patience in Austin is thinning.

Jerrod Heard a difference maker

Despite a 1-4 start, there are some people out there that still believe the Texas football team still has reason to remain optimistic about the rest of 2015. That’s because of quarterback Jerrod Heard.

The 6-foot-2 freshman at has been the lone bright spot in throughout this horrid Longhorn start—which featured a 38-3 tromping by Notre Dame to start the season. That lopsided loss led to the demotion of Shawn Watson and the promotion of former Sooner coach Jay Norvell to offensive play caller.

Norvell’s first move was to insert Heard into the lineup, and the decision has paid off even though the record doesn’t reflect it.

In the Longhorns’ 45-44 loss to Cal in early September, Heard eclipsed Vince Young’s school record for total offensive yards with 527, to go along with his three rushing touchdowns. Texas could’ve forced that game into overtime if it weren’t for missing the extra point to tie it after a Heard touchdown late in the game.

The loss was devastating, but the emergence of Heard gave those in burnt orange hope. Through four games, Heard has thrown for 661 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 318 yards and three scores.

OU head coach Bob Stoops knows what Heard is capable of.

"He has [given the Longhorns a spark]. He's an exceptional player, an exceptional athlete. When you watch him he throws a nice ball, he runs. We're very aware of how talented he is. We'll have to play well against him,” Stoops said.

If Texas is hoping to upset the Sooners on Saturday, chances are that Heard will have a lot to do with it.

Texas’ tough schedule

The lone Longhorn win this season came against a Rice team that holds a 2-3 record, but looking at the four Texas’ losses paints a better picture of it season. Notre Dame, Cal, Oklahoma State and TCU have combined for only one loss, which proves the Longhorns haven’t had a cake walk to start the season.

"We are very aware of the tough schedule [which] is probably the most that is overlooked in regards to Texas and where they're at right now. Their four losses are to four ranked teams. I believe, it was just pointed out to me, that those four teams are 19-1,” Stoops said. “So they've probably played the toughest schedule to this point of anybody in the country with a couple of tight losses to Cal and Oklahoma State. We understand they'll work hard and they'll play hard.”

The Sooners are battle tested as well with wins over Tennessee and West Virginia, but it’s definitely worth noting that UT has gone through the gauntlet to start the year.

Don’t underestimate the “Red River Rivalry”

It’s hard for any team to not overlook a 1-4 opponent, but it would be a massive mistake by the Sooners to show up to the Cotton Bowl unprepared. Along with the reasons I have listed above, history also shows that the Longhorns have a chance in this matchup.

It was only two seasons ago when the Sooners were ranked 12th in the nation and entered the Texas game with people questioning if it would be Mack Brown’s last game as UT head coach. Instead of the Sooners continuing their undefeated season, they were sent back to Norman after losing 36-20.

The Sooners also entered last year’s game as heavy favorites, but snuck away with a narrow 31-26 win after Texas showed up ready to rumble. This year’s contest sets up similarly to the last two in that OU has a lot to gain from a win on Saturday, while the Longhorns have nothing to lose.

A rivalry of this magnitude brings out the best in both teams, and records tend to be forgotten once kickoff arrives. Don’t be surprised to see a close matchup when these two rivals clash in Dallas. 

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