Going behind enemy lines for Texas-Oklahoma with Sooners Wire

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For the fourth time in four years, Texas and Oklahoma will meet up as ranked opponents. No rivalry in college football has been more consistent in producing entertaining and high quality games.

Saturday’s matchup at the Cotton Bowl is going to be no different. It’s a battle of Steve Sarkisian and Lincoln Riley, two of the best offensive minds in the sport. The rightful name for the game, Red River Shootout, should truly become a shootout this year.

Tipico Sportsbook has the Sooners favored by 3.5 points. 2012 was the last time Texas-Oklahoma was decided by at least double digits, putting the term “throw the record books out the window” to good use.

To get a better idea of how Oklahoma is going to attack Texas, we turned to our friends at Sooners Wire. Thanks to managing editor John Williams for featuring in this week’s “Behind Enemy Lines” feature.

Come for the football questions, stay for the State Fair food.

Stopping Bijan Robinson?

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How do you expect Alex Grinch to stop Bijan Robinson consistently?

Consistently? That seems to be impossible. The Texas Longhorns running attack is one of the best in the country for a reason. Bijan Robinson just keeps coming at you. He’s so good at everything. Even when you think you have him bottled up, he’ll break free for a nice gain.

The Sooners will try to use their speed to get a gaggle of defenders to Robinson. Tackling in bunches will be imperative as Robinson leads the FBS in missed tackles forced per Pro Football Focus. There’s no way the Oklahoma Sooners can win this matchup if they’re forced to tackle in space often. Last week against Kansas State they missed 15 tackles, which was an issue in Week 1 against Tulane and was a problem last year in losses to Iowa State and Kansas State.

Expect Oklahoma to commit extra defenders to the box and play more man coverage on the outside.

"We want Caleb"

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Spencer Rattler infamously got benched in last year’s Shootout after a tough start. What are the odds we see something similar on Saturday?

I think it’s very unlikely.

Spencer Rattler’s been better than people want to give him credit for. He’s still throwing some questionable balls at times, but that’s usually because he’s throwing it up there and trying to let his receiver make a play. They’re just not winning many 50/50 balls this year. Even on Saturday against Kansas State, two of his three incompletions (one an interception) were because he and the receiver had a miscommunication on what the coverage was doing. Both times, Rattler thought it should be a back-shoulder throw, while the receiver kept going downfield on his route.

Rattler was fantastic on Saturday going 22 of 25. Aside from the high completion percentage, it was the most accurate, comfortable, and confident that Spencer Rattler had looked. I expect he’ll build off that game and continue to trend in the right direction.

On Billy Bowman

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Billy Bowman was a long-time Texas commit and somebody Longhorn fans wanted on their football team. He ended up flipping to Oklahoma in favor of playing wide receiver under Lincoln Riley. Now, he is the starting nickel. How has he performed and is there a chance we see him on offense?

With the depth the Oklahoma Sooners have at wide receiver, it would be really unlikely they put him out there unless it’s in a gadget play situation, but Lincoln Riley doesn’t run many of those.

Bowman’s been really good in coverage for the Sooners. Against Kansas State’s outstanding slot wide receiver Phillip Brooks, Bowman allowed just one reception for eight yards. He’s a true freshman, so he’s still adapting to life at the college level, but for the most part he early returns have been pretty good. He’ll get better the more he plays and it will be a key matchup this week against Longhorns receiver Jordan Whittington.

Early offensive line struggles

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Why has Oklahoma not been able to run the ball as effectively as years past? Is it as simple as only having two scholarship guys? Or is the offensive line performing that poorly?

The offensive line just hasn’t been consistent. They’ve had some good games, but struggled against West Virginia, who boasts one of the best defensive fronts in college football. Their starting center, Andrew Raym, missed the first part of the season due to COVID protocols, so he’s still acclimating and they’ve been moving guys around a lot this year, tinkering to try and find the best combination. Against Kansas State, they were much improved. Kennedy Brooks had more open running lanes to work with and he had his best rushing output of the season. It’s a unit that’s growing together after losing Creed Humphrey to the Kansas City Chiefs.

They can be better, but they have to cut down on penalties, as Lincoln Riley mentioned earlier this week.

Oklahoma's pass rush

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What’s your prediction for the pass rush? How many times will they get home and will Casey Thompson’s run game have any effect in the game?

The pass rush is obviously Oklahoma’s strength on defense, even without stud interior defensive lineman Jalen Redmond. Oklahoma’s Nik Bonitto and Isaiah Thomas will threaten off the edge and Perrion Winfrey will make life uncomfortable up the middle. They’ve put a lot of pressure on opposing quarterbacks and have been able to get home. Teams have done a good job of neutralizing the pass rush by getting the ball out quickly. Some of it will be dependent on Steve Sarkisian’s game plan through the air.

As far as Casey Thompson’s legs, it will undoubtedly be a problem for the Sooners. With so much attention paid to Bijan Robinson, Casey Thompson will get opportunities to win in the running game when he keeps it on read-options, something the Sooners have struggled with at times this season.

Thompson’s athleticism will allow him to buy time when under pressure. If the Sooners are able to contain him and keep him in the pocket, their pressure should be able to affect Thompson’s ability to connect with his receivers.

Bonus: Top five State Fair of Texas food/drinks

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

I’ll have to turn to my writers Jay Attal and Bryant Crews for this answer!

Jay Attal

  • Chicken and waffles on a stick

  • Pineapple dole whip

  • Funnel cake

  • Fried cheesecake

  • Fletchers has a new corn dog /hot dog hybrid this year

Bryant Crews

  • Deep-fried seafood gumbo balls

  • Funnel cake

  • Deep-fried Peach Cobbler Soul Rolls

  • Country fried shrimp grits

  • Crawfish Étouffée Stuffed Turkey Leg

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