If the devil you know truly is better than the devil you don’t, then Oklahoma has Saturday’s latest installment of the Red River Shootout in the bag.
A tough early-season gantlet has exposed the ugliest of OU’s warts. The Sooners’ biggest flaws have been laid bare for all of college football to see: the offensive line is shaky; the wide receivers have struggled to get open and make catches; and the defensive backs remain prone to busting coverages.
But what do we actually know about Texas?
Currently, the Longhorns sit third in the major polls. All that respect, however, looks more like the product of faith in UT’s strength, as opposed to being rewarded for merit.
Three home games against tomato cans + road game against tomato can + home game against alright Texas Tech = guaranteed 5-0 start.
The watered-down schedule should cast aspersions on Texas’ impressive defensive statistics. That’s not to say the Longhorn D isn’t good. But the popular claim among UT faithful that this could be the best defense of Mack Brown’s reign in Austin seems more than just a little premature, considering the competition.
Of course, throttling the teams you’re supposed to throttle is preferable to muddling through, which best describes the performance of the Texas offense so far. It may seem unfair to criticize the highest-scoring team in the country, averaging 47.2 points per game. However, against the parade of pathetic defenses Colt McCoy and Co. have faced this season, they’re gaining 6.1 yards per play, down from 6.5 in 2008.
I’d certainly rather be in the Longhorns’ position, sitting at 5-0 with my national championship dreams intact. Yet, at this time last year, Texas was firing on all cylinders. The Longhorns were blowing teams away to start games, and then cruising to easy wins in the second half. This year, though, the script has been flipped: UT has tended to treat first halves as 30 minutes to be endured before turning it on in the second half.
The malaise reflected in UT’s slow starts should cause concern in Burnt Orange Nation.
If Texas follows suit today, the Sooners have a decent shot at pulling off the upset. An ugly game doesn’t exactly favor OU, but the Sooners definitely can’t hang in a high-scoring shootout like last year’s 45-35 Texas win.
The big problem for OU, however, is that an ugly, low-scoring affair looks like the Sooners’ only real chance to win, whereas Texas has more margin for error. In a huge game like this, I tend to lean towards the one that doesn’t seem to “need” a game to go one way to win.
Really hope I’m wrong. Texas 22, Oklahoma 19.