Berry’s college football predictions: Why Texas has the edge

Berry’s college football predictions: Why Texas has the edge

Berry Tramel: If a romp is an igniter of change on the crimson side of the Cotton Bowl, it’s an igniter of change on the burnt orange side, too.

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

| Oct 4, 2023, 9:59am CDT

Berry Tramel

By Berry Tramel

Oct 4, 2023, 9:59am CDT

Editor’s Note: Sellout Crowd’s Coverage of the Oklahoma-Texas game in Dallas is Sponsored by Modelo – The Official Beer of Fans with the Fighting Spirit (https://www.modelousa.com)

DALLAS – Texas had won 12 of 13 Red Rivers when Chuck Fairbanks’ first full-year wishbone team emerged from the Cotton Bowl tunnel in 1971. Then the Sooners beat the Longhorns 48-27, which for that time was a rout.

The series was sufficiently turned. The Sooners won the next four games in the series, too.

In 2000, the Longhorns had gone 8-2-1 in the previous 11 Red Rivers. But Bob Stoops’ second OU team went to Dallas and hammered a 63-14 nail into Texas, embarking on yet another five-game series win streak.

But what goes around on the Sooner Schooner comes around with Bevo. A year ago, Texas produced its own blowout win, 49-0, ending a stretch in which OU had won six of seven from the Longhorns.

If a romp is an igniter of change on the crimson side of the Cotton Bowl, it’s an igniter of change on the burnt orange side, too.
Texas certainly seems capable of taking control of the series. Steve Sarkisian, coach of the 5-0 Longhorns, has built up UT’s talent base to the point it went to Tuscaloosa and upset Alabama 34-24 a month ago.

The 5-0 Sooners seem improved over the 6-7 debacle of 2022, but they have played a soft schedule and played no teams remotely close to Alabama.

Will Brent Venables’ team squelch the momentum the Longhorns created last October? We find out Saturday in the Cotton Bowl.

It’s college football’s game of the day, the first time since 2011 both OU and Texas enter unbeaten, the first time both are 5-0 since 2008. The ‘00s were a golden age of the Golden Hat rivalry, with four top-10 showdowns.

But for 20 years, even during those glory years, I’ve had a steady strategy on which team to pick. I always go with who won the year before.

Seemed reasonable for such a streaky series. Since World War II, the OU-Texas previous year’s winner is 46-25-3, a much more dominant pattern than the Sooners’ 39-36-3 edge over that time.

Most coaches discount my momentum theory.

“I mean, I don’t know,” Venables said. “Usually you say the momentum a year ago shouldn’t have anything to do with this year. We’ve got a much different team. Many of the players in our locker room weren’t here. But there’s certainly many that were. I don’t want to skirt over that issue.”

My theory: OU-Texas is a no-excuse game. Neutral site. Same conference, so officiating conspiracy theories don’t hold. The winners know they won. The losers know they lost. Confidence soars in the winner, flees in the loser. The inner rationalizations don’t hold the same water. 

“I want to win every year, every game, whether it’s this week or was last week,” Venables said.

But he knows that’s a hollow proclamation. OU-Texas is bigger than the rest. Heck, Venables has a working knowledge of the series history, which no way is true when you’re talking about OU-Texas Tech or OU-Kansas State or any other long-time Sooner rivalry.

“There has been some streaks,” Venables admitted. “I don’t know what that exactly looks like. We need to play well this week. That’s the expectation, that’s what we’re working for, that’s what we’re preparing for, that’s what our guys should expect, if they have a great week of work. And again, we should be a confident football team, going against another confident football team.”

But Texas should be more confident. The Longhorns won last season.

Let’s get to the predictions:

Oklahoma vs. Texas in Dallas: Longhorns 28-25. In this series, routs aren’t always followed the next year by the same team winning. The 2013 Longhorns upset OU 36-20, a year after losing to the Sooners 63-21. But mostly, it’s hard to win the year after being routed. 

Kansas State at Oklahoma State: Wildcats 32-17. The Cowboys lost at K-State 48-0 last season. The only redeeming thing about that result was that it was one point better than the Sooners fared against Texas. That’s right. The Bedlam rivals this week are playing teams that beat them a combined 97-0 last year.

Central Florida at Kansas: Knights 35-32. Big 12 upset special. UCF has to be reeling from its meltdown against Baylor, which outscored the Knights 26-0 in the fourth quarter to win 36-35. But UCF is talented, and Kansas might again be without injured quarterback Jaylon Daniels.

Texas Tech at Baylor: Red Raiders 38-33. Baylor’s season seemed headed for disaster until the fourth-quarter rally in Orlando. Can the Bears keep the rebound going?

Texas Christian at Iowa State: Horned Frogs 27-17. A year ago, TCU lived a charmed life by winning tight games – the Frogs were 6-1 in one-possession games. Now TCU is 0-2 in close games. 

Alabama at Texas A&M: Crimson Tide 20-18. When Bama is great, it struggles with the Aggies. So when Bama no longer lives atop Olympus, the Aggies are poised to win. But let’s stick with Nick Saban over Jimbo Fisher.

Louisiana State at Missouri: Bayou Bengals 34-24. Mizzou is ranked 21st in The Associated Press poll; LSU is No. 22. Mizzou is 5-0; LSU is 3-2. LSU has a great quarterback in Jayden Daniels, but Mizzou has Brady Cook, who has thrown 348 straight passes without an interception. And in LSU’s one and only trip to Columbia, Missouri, Mizzou won 45-41. It’s just hard to pick against the Bayou Bengals.

Kentucky at Georgia: Bulldogs 26-7. This might be the Southeastern Conference’s East Division title game. Kentucky has outplayed Georgia so far, but doing so on the same field is quite the task.

Arkansas at Ole Miss: Rebels 38-20. The Razorbacks were futile on offense against Texas A&M – 10 first downs, 174 total yards. Just like it was 1967 or something. 

Vanderbilt at Florida: Gators 31-15. Florida leads the race for America’s most schizophrenic team. The Gators looked awful against Utah and Kentucky; in between, UF whacked Tennessee. 

Western Michigan at Mississippi State: Bulldogs 27-13. Mississippi State has made a bowl game 13 straight years, but that streak is in jeopardy after a 2-3 start. 

Maryland at Ohio State: Buckeyes 31-16. Fox’s Big Noon Kickoff takes another break from its Deion Sanders Tour to be in Columbus for this battle of (unequal) unbeatens.

Michigan at Minnesota: Wolverines 29-7. Michigan is OU North. Totally untested. Cincinnati is better than anyone (Nebraska? Rutgers? Bowling Green?) Michigan has played.

Purdue at Iowa: Hawkeyes 18-15. Iowa has lost quarterback Cade McNamara to a season-ending knee injury. It’s going to be tougher than ever for the Hawkeyes to score.

Nebraska at Illinois: Illini 22-20. Matt Rhule’s inaugural season is going rough in Lincoln. But not as rough as Rhule’s first season at Baylor (1-11).

Rutgers at Wisconsin: Badgers 23-21. Wisconsin quarterback Tanner Mordecai, a former Sooner who transferred to and then from Southern Methodist, has just two touchdown passes with three interceptions.

Howard at Northwestern: Wildcats 44-10. What’s next? A game against Howard Payne.

Washington State at UCLA: Cougars 30-28. All you need to know about the demise of the Pac-12 is this. The best game this week in the nation’s best league will be presented on the Pac-12 Network.

Colorado at Arizona State: Buffaloes 36-14. ASU is the anti-Colorado. No buzz. No glitz. No energy. I’ve been to an Arizona State home game this season, and the Sun Devils have zilch home energy.

Oregon State at California: Beavers 27-10. The Atlantic Coast Conference chose academic standing (Cal) over athletic prowess (Oregon State).

Arizona at Southern Cal: Trojans 45-15. Enjoy the trip to the desert, USC. After this, five of its final six games are against Notre Dame, Utah, Washington, Oregon and UCLA, plus a potential Pac-12 championship game.

Notre Dame at Louisville: Fighting Irish 21-16. It’s not like Notre Dame has an easy path, either. After a stretch of Ohio State, unbeaten Duke and now unbeaten Louisville, USC is next week. 

Marshall at North Carolina State: Wolfpack 20-17. Brennan Armstrong, who quarterbacked Virginia for three years, entered the transfer portal and was heavily sought by OSU. But Armstrong chose N.C. State. Now he’s been benched after the Wolfpack’s 3-2 start, which include five touchdowns and six interceptions from Armstrong.

Syracuse at North Carolina: Tar Heels 41-22. UNC is 4-0, but star QB Drake Maye has a 5/4 touchdown to interception ratio. Is any quarterback outside the Pac-12 playing well?

Virginia Tech at Florida State: Seminoles 52-10. The first of three straight home games for Florida State, which has one of the easier schedules left among the playoff contenders.

Georgia Tech at Miami: Hurricanes 42-17. The Yellow Jackets seemed to be making progress – until a 38-27 loss to Bowling Green last week.

Wake Forest at Clemson: Tigers 33-10. Clemson’s goal – scratching its way back to the ACC title game.

Boston College at Army: Cadets 20-10. First series meeting in a decade. The Eagles and the Black Knights played 36 times from 1959-2013. 

William & Mary at Virginia: Cavaliers 21-10. Virginia is 0-5. This might be the Cavs’ last chance for a victory.

Tulsa at Florida Atlantic: Golden Hurricane 33-23. TU continues one of the most remarkable streaks in NCAA history – three straight games against Owls. Temple last week, FAU this week, Rice following.

Texas-San Antonio at Temple: Roadrunners 45-10. Temple showed against Tulsa that it is not overly-competitive in the American.

South Florida at Alabama-Birmingham: Blazers 28-27. USF leads the American Conference at 2-0, and UAB is off to a 1-4 start under novice coach Trent Dilfer. But the Blazers have played some good teams tough.

North Texas at Navy: Midshipmen 17-13. Navy is in last place in the American Conference, and a loss here might condemn the Middies to that status all season.

Connecticut at Rice: Owls 24-20. UConn has lost seven straight. 

Fresno State at Wyoming: Bulldogs 34-16. Fresno State and Air Force could be headed for a showdown in the Mountain West championship game.

San Jose State at Boise State: Broncos 25-20. Boise State isn’t lighting up college football the way it did several years ago, but the Broncos have won nine straight Mountain West regular-season games.

Colorado State at Utah State: Rams 31-24. Colorado State has made more news for its Deion Sanders-aftermath than it has for anything else. Which is OK. The video of Colorado star Travis Hunter, who suffered a lacerated liver via a cheap shot by Colorado State’s Henry Blackburn, inviting Blackburn to go bowling and hang out, made you feel better about the human race. Sure, the result video was sharp marketing, but still, Hunter appeared void of resentment or anger.

Texas State at Louisiana: Bobcats 31-28. Auburn transfer T.J. Finley has been impressive at quarterback for Texas State, with 10 touchdowns and just one interception.

Arkansas State at Troy: Trojans 33-14. Butch Jones was 2-14 in his first two Sun Belt Conference seasons. But his Red Wolves beat Southern Mississippi last week and could get to 2-0 with an upset of Troy.

Old Dominion at Southern Mississippi: Monarchs 28-18. Fifteen years ago, Southern Miss was one of the top mid-major programs in America and Old Dominion did not field a football team. Now ODU has a much better program than does Southern. The football gods are fickle.

South Alabama at Louisiana-Monroe: Jaguars 31-17. South Alabama is 0-2 since routing OSU. Probably need to hold the horses on the Jags being a juggernaut.

Last week: 41-9. Season: 252-55.

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Berry Tramel is a 45-year veteran of Oklahoma journalism, having spent 13 years at the Norman Transcript and 32 years at The Oklahoman. He has been named Oklahoma Sportswriter of the Year by the National Sports Media Association. Born and raised in Norman, Tramel grew up reading four newspapers a day and began his career at age 17. His first assignment was the Lexington-Elmore City high school football game, and he’s enjoyed the journey ever since, having covered NBA Finals and Rose Bowls and everything in between. Tramel and his wife, Tricia, were married in 1980 and live in Norman near their daughter, son-in-law and three granddaughters. Tramel can be reached at 405-760-8080 or at [email protected].

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