Jenni Carlson's Game Day in Oklahoma: Why Dillon Gabriel is the most important Sooner in this game, and the fair food I can’t wait to try.
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)
Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark talked a good game during the conference’s football media days last summer.
He said the league intended to celebrate OU and Texas in their final year in the conference. Even though they are headed to the SEC next year and their decision to leave kicked off a round of conference realignment still rippling through college athletics, Yormark indicated the Big 12 would play nice and recognize all that the Sooners and the Longhorns have brought to the league.
But his actions say something else entirely.
Yormark is skipping the OU-Texas game. Even though he lives closer to the Cotton Bowl than probably three-fourths of the people who will be at the game, he won’t be there Saturday.
Now, I don’t know that many Sooners or Longhorns will miss him — SEC commissioner Greg Sankey is expected to attend, and that likely means a lot more to the departing schools — but Yormark’s absence isn’t the best of looks. Of course he’s not happy OU and Texas are leaving. No one staying in the Big 12 is. But these teams and this rivalry has made the Big 12 a lot of money over the years. Brought it a lot of clout.
The Big 12 commissioner should be at the last one before the schools leave. He should be the bigger person.
Don’t just talk good.
Here are some other tasty nuggets for you to chew on before OU-Texas gets under way:
Sooner to watch: I was thinking about digging into the numbers and going with someone like Nic Anderson, who has five touchdowns in only 10 catches this season. Or Rondell Bothroyd, who is going to have to be spectacular to help stop the Longhorns’ running game. But the best answer is often the most simple, and Dillon Gabriel is the Sooner to watch. The OU quarterback has been splendid this season, and a year after he was sidelined for this game by a concussion, how he plays this year is crucial to the Sooners’ chances of turning around a 49-0 loss a year ago.
Sooner newcomer to watch: Texas has an outstanding group of receivers, led by Xavier Worthy and Adonai Mitchell. The OU secondary will be tested, so I’m putting true freshman Peyton Bowen in the crosshairs. The reserve strong safety has played a lot of snaps already this season and been stout all the way around, but this is his first Red River Rivalry. How will Bowen react? Definitely something to keep an eye on.
Longhorn to watch: Texas running back Jonathon Brooks rushed for 218 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries last week against Kansas, a Jayhawk team that had only allowed 9 rushing yards to BYU the week before. Brooks is carrying a hot hand into the game; his total last week surpassed his season totals each of his first two seasons as a Longhorn.
A familiar face in Dallas: Longhorn running backs coach Tashard Choice got his college football start at OU. He left Norman after the 2004 season when he found himself caught behind a freshman who had an outstanding first season. Guy by the name of Adrian Peterson. But things turned out well for Choice, who became one of the most decorated running backs in Georgia Tech history. He twice led the ACC in rushing.
Cool stat going into OU-Texas: The Sooners have held all five of their first five opponents to 20 points or less. (The Longhorns average 36.0 points a game, if you’re keeping score at home.) The last time OU held its first five opponents to 20 points or less was 2000, the last time the Sooners won a national championship.
Something to watch in Dallas: Even though OU’s defense has been good throughout its first five games, the in-game adjustments being made by the Sooners have made them even better as games have gone on. After halftime this season, OU has allowed only 14 points total and an average of 122.4 yards. Last week after a rocky start against Iowa State, the Sooners held the Cyclones to 88 yards on 35 plays (2.5 yards per play) over the final 39:06 of the game. The Texas offense will test OU like no other offense has this season, so adjusting to the Longhorns will be key.
Did you know?: Quinn Ewers is the only non-SEC quarterback to throw for more than 250 yards and at least two touchdowns against a Nick Saban-led Alabama team. The Texas quarterback threw for 349 yards and three scores in Texas’ 34-24 win at Alabama.
If you go to Dallas …: Try the Pineapple Dole Soft Serve. This week on The Jenni Carlson Show, I had a chance to talk to Bob Hilbun, the general manager of the State Fair of Texas, and he said the food he gets multiple times during the fair each year is the Pineapple Whip, as he calls it. If the guy who has undoubtedly tried everything at the fair says it’s good, I’m sold. See you in line!
If you don’t go …: I’m guessing being inside a sports bar anywhere in Oklahoma would be interesting Saturday morning at 11 a.m. I’ve never had a chance to give that OU-Texas experience a try. If anyone has a unique game-day experience back home, shoot me an email ([email protected]). I’d love to hear about it.
If I could be in two places: OU-Texas is clearly the game of the day, but I’m intrigued by Kentucky at Georgia. The top-ranked Bulldogs have looked sluggish this season, and the Wildcats are unbeaten and coming off a dominating win over Florida. Not saying I’d pick Kentucky to pull the upset, but it’d be fun to be in Athens.
Playing favorites: So much about OU-Texas is awesome, but the thing that never ceases to amaze me is the clear split of crimson and burnt orange inside the stadium. Rare is the time you find a Sooner fan sitting on the Texas side of the 50-yard line or a Longhorn on the OU side. Super cool.