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OU Football: Previewing Texas Before The Red River Rivalry

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Saturday brings us one of the best rivalries in college football when No. 20 Oklahoma and Texas square off in the Red River Rivalry, with the Cotton Bowl providing the perfect venue smack dab in the middle of the Texas State Fair.

Related: OU's Charles Walker Out For Texas Game With Concussion

Oklahoma enters this game with a win over TCU in the rear-view mirror, but it won’t be momentum that fuels this Sooner team come game time. Last year Texas punched the Sooners’ in the face from the get go, and went back to Austin with a year’s worth of bragging rights and a golden cowboy hat.

“There’s no hiding a year ago. I thought, no question, they were the tougher, more physical football team, so they did a lot better job coaching their guys to be ready to play that way than we did,” OU head coach Bob Stoops said. “Hopefully we can do a better job of it here going through this week and play a little better as we get on the field here this week.”

It’ll be crucial that the Sooners’ match the Longhorns’ intensity, especially since a game of the magnitude will likely bring out the best in both sides.

“This is a street fight, that’s absolutely what it is,” quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “There’s no hiding that, this is the biggest rivalry in college football. You get in that tunnel, there’s nothing nice to be said.

“They don’t like us and we don’t like them, there’s no beating around the bush but at the same time our guys are going to have to harness all that and go out and do our job.”

Texas is the only Big 12 program with a winning record against OU, and if the Sooners don’t want to improve on that this season, they’ll have to slow down a tricky offensive attack from Texas.

“Offensively they look very explosive” linebacker Jordan Evans said. “They’ve got great athletes, whether it’s at the quarterback position, running backs and receivers. They’re very explosive, they do a lot of great things and we’re just going to have to play what the coach calls us and keep them contained.”

Here are a few things to look out for when the Sooners square off with the Longhorns:

The 18 wheeler package is tough to slow down

OU fans are very familiar with UT backup quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, seeing he threw for 334 yards and two scores two years ago in the Cotton Bowl, but he’s now being used in a much different way in the offense.

Similar to how OU used Blake Bell when he was on campus, Swoopes will line up in the backfield with seven big bodies on the line, two fullbacks and a running back, and proceed to run the ball down the throat of opposing defenses.

“It’s still a challenge though when you have designed plays with a quarterback that way,” Coach Stoops said. “Just like you saw when we had Blake Bell or other people have had in those occasions, it becomes a numbers game, you’ve got an extra blocker, which he’s talked about a lot when a quarterback’s running instead of handing it off.”

Swoopes has five touchdowns on the season to go with a 4.1 yards per rush average. If needed, the senior can keep the defense honest by throwing the ball too.

“He’s huge, if you’ve seen him he’s a big dude running the ball but we’ve got to gang tackle and rally up and minimize the game so whenever you hit him you can’t let him keep going,” Evans said of Swoopes.

If it’s not Swoopes keeping the ball, then it’ll mostly be running back D’Onta Foreman toting the rock. Foreman is averaging seven yards per carry and uses his quick feet and 250-pound frame to lead the team in rushing with 436 yards.

It won’t be easy for the Sooners to slow down this UT package, especially since OU will be without defensive lineman Charles Walker, end Matt Dimon along with linebackers Will Johnson and Tay Evans due to injury.

Young gun slinger

While all the talk as of late centers around Swoopes, it’s true freshman Shane Buechele who starts at quarterback for the Longhorns. He’s thrown for nearly 1,000 yards on the season with eight touchdowns compared to only three interceptions, while Buechele grew up in an OU household and was recruited by the Sooners.

“He’s an excellent quarterback, excellent athlete,” Coach Stoops said of Buechele. “I know we recruited him initially and then once Austin Kendall became our guy, you don’t generally get two quarterbacks in a recruiting class so that’s just kind of how it fell and worked out, but he’s an excellent athlete, throwing the ball great, perfect for what they’re doing.”

Buechele has completed 65.5 percent of his passes, and looks to be the quarterback of the future for UT. There’s probably no better way to endear himself with the Texas fan base than leading the Longhorns to a win over their hated rivals, so look for Buechele to shake off his freshman jitters and come out slinging it against OU.

Changes on defense

Texas has seen a large share of success on the offensive side of the ball this season, but they haven’t had quite the same results on defense. UT currently ranks No. 87 in the nation in total defense and have yet to record an interception.

The early season struggles have forced head coach Charlie Strong to take over defensive play calling duties from coordinator Vance Bedford. The change of signal callers could be an advantage for the Longhorns, seeing the Sooners won’t have tape of Strong calling plays while at Texas.

“It’ll be something to consider, what they might do differently,” Stoops said. “Sometimes you can only change so much, but I really believe overall with all we see through the year, our guys our used to seeing a lot and we’ve worked against the odd front, which they see from our defense about every day, and we’ve also worked against the even front, for instance all last week.

“So we see both so I don’t know how much it can totally change but it’s something that we’ve got to be alert to of what possibly could they do different, that we have to adjust to.”

Outside linebacker Breckyn Hager is a playmaker on the UT defense, totaling 23 tackles (3.5 TFL) and two sacks. Sophomore linebacker Malik Jefferson is a force for the Longhorns on that side of the ball as well.

QUOTABLE

Jordan Evans on last year’s loss…

“Last year’s result of a loss was a bitter taste in my mouth. No one wants to lose any game, especially in a rivalry game. Everyone has that in the back of their minds but at the end of the day we know it’s a new team over there, a new team here, and we’re just going to work hard and try to win the game.”

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