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In two days, the Oklahoma Sooners and the Texas Longhorns will clash for the 117th time in one of college football’s greatest rivalries. Four of their last five meetings have been decided by a single score, and Saturday marks the fourth straight year that both teams take the field as nationally-ranked programs.
While Saturday’s meeting is unlikely to end in another quadruple overtime thriller, fans of both squads should be in for a treat in a battle of Big 12 unbeatens.
Texas enters Red River averaging 43 points per game. While perfectly capable, the Sooners will have their hands full corraling a potent offense featuring a dynamic rushing attack, a tandem of dynamite pass-catchers, and a dual-threat quarterback under center.
Here are OU’s three defensive keys to walking out of the cotton bowl with a win.
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Oklahoma missed on 15 tackles last week per Pro Football Focus. While Kansas State doesn’t possess the arsenal of playmakers to capitalize on OU’s sloppy tackling, Texas absolutely does.
Running back Bijan Robinson has already forced 51 missed tackles in just five weeks, and his 3.6 yards after contact routinely keeps the offense on the field.
But it isn’t just Robinson that can make the Sooners pay for poor tackling technique. Converted running back Jordan Whittington is dangerous in the open field and has the right combination of strength and elusiveness to turn routine catches into game changers.
Jordan Whittington can be THAT DUDE at Texas — or anywhere for that matter. He was a five-star and No. 2 ATH in the 2019 class. pic.twitter.com/H41F8gcOV6
— RJ Young (@RJ_Young) September 4, 2021
If a Sooner has trouble bringing down the ball carrier, pin his knees together and wait for help. Big plays from broken tackles could prove to be the backbreaker for Alex Grinch’s defense if this game becomes as close as everyone expects it to be.
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Capitalize on Limited Pass-Rushing Opportunities
Texas has thrown the football 115 times this season, the second-lowest mark in the Big 12. However, their nine sacks allowed are second-most in the conference. While the offensive line isn’t solely to blame for the sack count (Casey Thompson is still adjusting to the rhythm necessary of a starting quarterback), opportunities are there for Oklahoma’s pass rush.
Even without Jalen Redmond, Perrion Winfrey can muddy up the interior of the Texas line as Nik Bonitto and Isaiah Thomas come screaming off the edge. Of course, the Sooners’ edge rushers will be at the mercy of the run defense. A bottled-up Bijon Robinson will allow Oklahoma’s best position group to open season on Thompson.
Up Next: The Bijan Effect!
Understand The Bijan Robinson Effect
Texas has very, very good receivers. In our weekly Threat Assessment here at Sooners Wire we took a look at Jordan Whittington and Xavier Worthy. Part of what makes them so effective is Bijan Robinson.
Defenses have to respect Robinson on play-action, motion, and however, Steve Sarkisian chooses to use him. He’s a player that carries tremendous gravity and pulls linebackers into his orbit.
Understanding Bijan’s impact is the first step to mitigating it.
Casey Thompson (3 rushing TDs, 24 carries) can use his star running back’s presence to bait defenders on read-options. Robinson is also showcased in two-back formations and has even served as a lead blocker. The Sooners must understand the various ways Robinson can impact the game without the ball in his hands.