Oklahoma Football: Previewing the Sooners and Texas

Friday, October 10th 2014, 5:55 pm
By: News 9

Trevor Knight was raised on Texas football. His dad played for the Longhorns and took him to many games in Austin as a kid. Knight even experienced the Cotton Bowl and the rivalry between Oklahoma and Texas, although he wore a different color than he will wear on Saturday when the Sooners and Longhorns face off for the 109th time.

It's ironic Knight's most important game to this point in his career would come in a game where he was raised on the other side.

Knight's performance against Alabama in January has become more of an aberration than a steady showing based on his play this season. But Knight said this week he feels more comfortable now with his command of the offense than he did on that night in New Orleans, once again proving adrenaline and nerves can make you do some pretty remarkable things.

A 14-of-35 showing with two interceptions against TCU has begun to draw out some of the critics, some wondering if Knight will ever get any better—or if he even CAN get better—and others wishing Baker Mayfield was eligible to play this season.

The Sugar Bowl shows Knight is plenty capable of becoming a very good quarterback, and maybe that's what makes it harder to stomach his performance so far this year. Last week's game against TCU was the first when Knight truly looked like the player that got benched after not even two games last year. There has been improvement, but it's very easy to forget how much Knight still has to grow.

Knight is just a sophomore and has not started a full season's worth of games yet (Saturday will be his 11th career start). In addition to his youth, there's the small fact he's growing up with an almost entirely new receiving corps, which is proving to be a bigger problem for the Sooners than most expected at the beginning of the season.

Related Story: Oklahoma Football: OU-Texas As Unique As They Come In Sports

So far this year, Oklahoma's three starting wide receivers have caught 64 of Knight's 94 completions. One other true wide receiver has caught a pass this year. Think OU's coaches saw this coming when they tried so hard to get Dorial Green-Beckham eligible for this year? Imagine how much of a help he'd be.

The reality remains no else is walking through that door to help, so Knight has to work with what he has and get better because of it. Knight isn't going to lose his job to Cody Thomas or even Blake Bell, but progress needs to be shown.

Saturday is as good a place as any to start. It will be Knight's first game action in the Red River Showdown, a game during which he used to wear a different color.

Three questions for Oklahoma

1. Can the offense get back on track?

Trevor Knight and the OU offense were solid through the first 35 minutes against TCU, but forgot about the last 25 minutes. Knight's passes were off, the Sooners abandoned the run game and it all added up to a stunning loss. Knight has shown the Sugar Bowl last year was more fluke than commonplace, but the talent is certainly there to be a very good quarterback. He can't do it alone, though, and the Sooners need to take advantage of the great offensive line it has and run the ball effectively, something it chose not to do in last year's loss to the Longhorns. The Texas offense won't be able to put up a bunch of points, but the Sooners can't win if they don't get things in order and score points themselves.

2. Will the secondary play better?

Corners Zach Sanchez and Julian Wilson did not have a good day against TCU, but the duo, along with the rest of the Oklahoma secondary, gets a great opportunity to rebuild their confidence against Texas. Tyrone Swoopes is still growing as a quarterback and while he has shown flashes of brilliance, he's not to the point where he can march the Texas offense up and down the field. He also doesn't have very many targets to throw to, so the OU secondary should be able to lock down the Texas passing game and be aggressive on the outside. If the Sooners managed to get burned by a Longhorn offense averaging 185 pass yards per game, there's a major problem.

3. Will the Sooners come to play?

Last year, just like this year, the Sooners walked into the Cotton Bowl as a big favorite and got punched in the face and never recovered. It's clear the Sooners remember how embarrassing that performance was a year ago and they're going to be out to rid themselves of that feeling. There are few reasons why Oklahoma could lose this game if the Sooners actually show up and play anywhere between average and well, and all of them involve Texas playing MUCH better than it has so far this year. But the Sooners do have to play well in order to win, something it failed to do last year. You better believe they're reliving last year's showing quite a bit behind closed doors. Here's betting it won't happen again.

Three players to watch for Texas

1. RB Johnathan Gray- 62 carries, 301 yards, 1 TD, 4.9 yards per carry

Gray and Malcolm Brown are a formidable one-two combo in the backfield, but it's Gray's speed that sets him apart as the better back. Brown is a more between-the-tackles guy, and with the Texas offensive line in shambles, his production is suffering. Gray has been good, but hasn't had a breakout game yet this year. Last year, both Gray and Brown rushed for over 100 yards against the Sooners. The Oklahoma defense probably remembers that very well.

2. DT Malcom Brown- 33 tackles, 9 TFLs, 3.5 sacks

Not to be confused with the running back, Brown has been a dominant force in the middle of the Texas defensive line. Already with nine tackles for loss through five games, Brown is very far down the list of reasons why Texas isn't better than they are this year. Brown going up against a big and experienced OU offensive line should be a great battle within the game on Saturday.

3. CB Quandre Diggs- 23 tackles, 1 sack, 2 interceptions

It seems like Diggs has been around for about 10 years, but no, he's just now a senior. The cornerback is well known for his solid soundbites, but he can play a little football as well. Diggs is tied for the team lead with two interceptions and anchors a passing defense that is fifth in the country, giving up just 134.6 yards per game.

Key matchup: Texas front seven vs. OU offensive line

Last week, the Sooners abandoned the run game when it needed to grab control of the game and turn it in the direction they wanted it to go. The same could be said for this game last year. Oklahoma had experienced backs and a very good offensive line, but didn't use them much at all, instead trying to rely on Blake Bell's arm. If the Sooners are going to win this game, they are going to have to figure out a way to run the ball consistently. The Longhorns aren't great at stopping the run this year, giving up nearly 200 yards per game. Oklahoma has all the tools necessary to run the ball and run it well and it needs to do that to create opportunities for Trevor Knight to make some easy throws against a very good Texas secondary. It's not a complicated thing.

Prediction: Oklahoma 27, Texas 10

It's not as close as it looks, as the Sooners pound the ball down the Longhorns throat. Texas scores a fourth quarter touchdown after the OU defense suffocates Swoopes and the Longhorns' offense through the majority of the game.