This 113th edition of OU-Texas is big. Really big. For both.
A Texas loss puts fourteen asterisks alongside the "Texas is back" refrain. An OU loss could set up a rough final six regular-season games.
Like him or not, UT head coach Tom Herman will get Texas back to being a program with teams that will be more reminiscent of Darrell Royal and Mack Brown Texas teams – not the wannabes we saw in the late-Mack, Mackovic & Strong times. And let no one fool you: The times in Texas have not been pretty. For example, UT’s combined record entering the OU game the past five seasons is 11-13.
But Riley, who was under the weather and unable to make his weekly Monday news conference – Cale Gundy the pinch-hitter – isn’t taking OU anywhere. But up. Sooner fans have come to realize my accuracy beginning three seasons ago when I’d already become convinced the Man from Muleshoe had something special and soon after foresaw this natural progression in the head coach seat. And it’s his success in the entire recruiting process and in bringing elite level talent on both sides of the ball that makes the future very promising.
Texas comes into this 113th Red River Rivalry having won four straight games. After the shocking and atrocious opening-game loss to a ho-hum Maryland team in turmoil, the Horns immediately fell behind an overrated USC team in Austin. But since taking control of that game and winning going away – igniting another ‘Texas is back’ proclamation – UT has not lost. 4-1, 2-0 coming in. However, Saturday’s listless performance in its 19-14 barnburner at K-State, was unimpressive. We’d discussed and expected something like that – fresh off playing well, heaps of praise & with the Vaunted Sooners a week away – as Sooner fans hope this 2018 OU bunch doesn’t fall into a trap like so many others; not preparing well and not performing at an aggressive, crisp level, because of overconfidence. My generation of players can’t understand any Oklahoma team being overconfident of any Texas team. But it’s a different era.
Assistant coach Cale Gundy fielded questions for the head coach on the IR. One particular response stood out to me. He was asked if Kyler Murray’s supreme skillset means he is good enough to play in the NFL. Gundy immediately said, “yes, 100 percent.” I remember when I asked Riley if then-junior QB Baker Mayfield would have a chance to play in the NFL. It felt awkward at the time – a 6-footer who was really good in college but that no one was seriously calculating whether he could make the mammoth jump.
Of course we’ll likely never know of Murray’s NFL potential. Because the son of Kevin Murray also has the ridiculously rare luxury of being so good at baseball that he’s a first-rounder who realistically has the chance to make an absurd amount of money in that high-dollar game. Why play pro football with more violence, an increased concern for injury, with money that wouldn’t compare to what QB1 will bring in if the scouts are right about his baseball ability.
I’ll soon get into specifics about why I not only believe Murray’s performance is the most important factor in this game, but that the atmosphere and the Texas Longhorn defense will make it the most difficult challenge he’s ever faced since first picking of a PeeWee football; and ball and bat.
And I’ll also get into some of the odds and ends of OU-Texas history. Stuff like this fact: In the past 18 matchups (since 2000) Texas has entered the game ranked ahead of OU in the AP Poll only three times – 2005, 2006 & 2009.