OU-Texas: One player, one problem, one preposterous prediction and one pick

OU-Texas: One player, one problem, one preposterous prediction and one pick

Guerin Emig: Texas makes it 6-0 against the Sooners Saturday, makes it 13-0 at the Red River rematch at AT&T Stadium Dec. 2, and gives the Big 12 a going-away present in the College Football Playoff.

Guerin Emig

By Guerin Emig

| Oct 6, 2023, 11:42am CDT

Guerin Emig

By Guerin Emig

Oct 6, 2023, 11:42am 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))

Before Brent Venables could hand-pick four spokesplayers for OU-Texas week, the Sooners’ version of closing ranks, wide receiver Jayden Gibson addressed Red River ‘23.

Everybody in our locker room knows what time it is. I know what time it is,” Gibson said after OU’s win over Iowa State last Saturday night. “I’ve been trying to keep next week out of my mind for the last two weeks. Focus on where your feet are, be in the present.”

It ain’t easy.

“Last year, it hurt real bad. Everyone remembers it and that’s all that needs to be said about that,” Gibson continued. “We need to have a great week of practice, a dedicated week of practice. We need to make sure that we’re executing on the highest levels. We’ve got a good opponent next week, a worthy opponent for sure. They’re a good team and a good coach. 

“I just feel like we’re gonna get it done. We’ve got to go out there and get it done.

Bulletin board material? Hardly. There are no Brian Bosworths or Trent Smiths on the ‘23 Sooners. Just a bunch of honest, thoughtful players.

Gibson’s close – “We’ve got to go out there and get it done” – is right on. This feels like the most important Red River rumble for the Sooners since 2000, the day Bob Stoops turned the corner like it was Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

The mission is about the present – OU enters undefeated same as 23 years ago – and the past and future. 

The Sooners were still trying to rinse John Blake and Howard Schnellenberger from the record in 2000; now is about wiping away yesteryear’s 6-7. 

OU-Texas 2000 set up Stoops’ national championship short term and his next 16 seasons longer term. I don’t think Venables has national championship ponies yet, but we can’t find out unless they outrun the Longhorns Saturday. We’ll see about Venables’ head coaching future. Wouldn’t hurt to use the Cotton Bowl as a launching pad. 

“We’re got to go out there and get it done.” So will they? 

Along those lines… 

One player: OU quarterback Dillon Gabriel

This isn’t so much the who, but the why. 

Gabriel doesn’t have the nation’s third-leading rusher next to him. Quinn Ewers does in Jonathon Brooks.

Gabriel doesn’t have a future NFL tight end to throw to. Ewers does in Ja’Tavion Sanders. 

Gabriel does have a deep fleet of wide receivers at his disposal. That’s typically a big advantage head to head. Texas cancels that edge with Xavier Worthy, AD Mitchell and Jordan Whittington. 

Ewers can play a pretty good game and Texas can still score 40 points. He played a pretty good game last year, nothing more, and the Longhorns dropped 49. 

Gabriel has to play his best game for OU to score 40. He has to be even more efficient, alert and careful with the ball than he has been over OU’s 5-0 start, because it will likely take 40 to win. 

Let’s hear from our spokes-Sooner again…

He always knows what to say,” Gibson said of Gabriel. “In the game, when he’s sitting there telling you, ‘We fixin’ to run the score up. We fixin’ to show them. We fixin’ to show everybody,’ it’s infectious.You have no choice but to be brought up by that.”

Gabriel has no choice but to elevate the Sooners Saturday. 

One problem: The line of scrimmage

The last thing Gabriel said after practice Monday night was about Texas’ defensive line: “They’ve very talented. The numbers speak for themselves as far as them being a dominant defense and setting the tone up front.”

Texas ranks 17th nationally in run defense, having limited Rice to 26 rushing yards and Baylor to 60. 

The Longhorns don’t always rush the quarterback, but they can. They posted 5 sacks in beating Alabama. Defensive end Ethan Burke has 3 tackles for lost yardage and 2 sacks on the year. Linemate Byron Murphy had 3 TFLs and 2 sacks against Baylor alone. 

If Murphy is the 308-pound boulder in Texas’ defensive interior, 6-4, 348-pound T’Vondre Sweat is the mountain. Bill Bedenbaugh must figure out a way to block that manpower with a line that hasn’t exactly overwhelmed anyone over five games. And he MUST figure that out, rushing yardage being the most important OU-Texas statistic the past 25 years. 

Flip sides of the ball and you’ll discover Texas returns all five offensive line starters for the first time since 1993. The group is more connected than an OU defensive line constructed via the transfer portal, and is the foundation for an offense that just flattened Kansas with 336 yards rushing and 329 passing. 

Sooner defensive linemen have gone places not considered possible in past Red Rivers. Obo Okoronwko in 2017 comes immediately to mind. 

They’ll have to go there again Saturday. 

One preposterous prediction: No seriously, Texas is back

OU showed ability and character in winning at Cincinnati despite an uneven offense and putting away Iowa State after a lousy defensive start. Venables’ second team has a higher gear than his first. More important, it has a firmer mental grasp, something a coach can’t detect until his team responds to difficulty. 

Venables should feel so much better on this year’s bus ride to Dallas, and not just because a healthy Gabriel rides shotgun. 

Steve Sarkisian should feel better than Venables.

His team showed even more ability and character in winning at Alabama and putting away previously unbeaten Kansas with the game still in doubt in the third quarter. If OU has a fifth gear, Texas has a sixth. 

As far as mentality, the primary thing holding back the Longhorns since their 2009 national championship appearance… 

I don’t know if Texas’ heads are screwed on tighter than OU’s. They just seem to be screwed on tight enough to complement all those biceps, torsos, legs and feet they’ve put to such effective use in starting 5-0. 

Texas makes it 6-0 against the Sooners Saturday, makes it 13-0 at the Red River rematch at AT&T Stadium Dec. 2, and gives the Big 12 a going-away present in the College Football Playoff

One pick: Hook Em 34, Boomer Sooner 26

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Guerin Emig is a columnist for the Sellout Crowd network. Read his work at selloutcrowd.com and guerinemig.com. Reach out with feedback and/or ideas at [email protected] or (918) 629-6229. Follow him on Twitter at @GuerinEmig and Instagram at @guerin.emig. .

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