By Riley Zayas, Contributing Writer
The 114th game. Five ties. Sixty-three Longhorn victories. And 119 years of Texas-Oklahoma football. Every year, history is in the making as these two powerhouse programs meet for a matchup that many refer to as “The greatest rivalry in college football.”
Over the years, this game has seen Heisman Trophy winners, future NFL stars and Hall of Fame coaches as well as 47 games that were decided by eight points or less. Individual matchups have contributed to these close wins, and the same should be true in 2019.
Sooners’ efficient run game vs, Texas’ defensive line and linebackers
Ironically, Oklahoma’s leading rusher is quarterback Jalen Hurts, who has 499 yards on the ground, and is followed up by running back Trey Sermon. Sermon has run for 345 yards this season, but the number you need to know is 7.7. That is how many yards the senior averages per carry. At that rate, two carries would result in a first down.
But if Texas wants a chance claiming a victory, those numbers will need to decrease significantly. Although inexperienced against top-ranked teams, the Longhorn defensive line and linebackers unit will carry important responsibility in shutting down Hurts, Sermon and the rest of this rushing unit.
“We’re a bit inexperienced and I get that,” Texas defensive coordinator Todd Orlando said. “But they learn everything and they play for each other, and you can’t coach that.”
The two Longhorns to keep an eye on will be linebackers Joseph Ossai and Juwan Mitchell. Both have two sacks to go along with a combined 31 tackles. And the Sooners better hold onto the football. near Ossai, as he leads the team in forced fumbles with two.
Oklahoma Wide Receivers v.s Texas Wide Receivers
While both teams can effectively run, the passing game for each team is also superb. This is partially due to the speedy and tall wide receiver groups on both squads.
“I think our receiving corps is as good as any receiving corps in the country,” Longhorn offensive coordinator Tim Beck said. “I’m really pleased with their effort and work ethic.”
A breakout star for the Horns in 2019 has been Devin Duvernay, who leads the time in nearly every category. Through five games, the senior has 463 yards and four touchdowns, numbers that would come awfully close to Lil’Jordan Humphries’ phenomenal 2018 stats. Recently named a team captain, he has been there at the right place at the right time multiple instances this season, just ask LSU.
“His development on the field, and off the field, how much he’s grown over the past three years, you see that,” said Beck when talking about what makes Duvernay a team captain. ”He’s having an incredible season, it’s almost storybook.”
The Sooners have a breakout star of their own. That would be Jadon Haselwood, a former five-star recruit who is in his first year with the Sooners. Third on the team in receiving yards with 218, he has reeled in 14 passes, one for a touchdown. These guys, along with the well known names like Colin Johnson for the Longhorns and speedy CeeDee Lamb for the Sooners, will make this battle between the two opposing wide receiver units an exciting one.
Longhorn O-Line vs. Sooner D-Line
It’s general knowledge that without a good offensive line, the offense can’t work properly. The quarterback doesn’t have enough time to look upfield, and the running game won’t gain any traction. That is why Texas’ offensive line, which was ranked second in the Big 12 by Athlon Sports will make their matchup against Oklahoma’s defensive line such a thrilling one.
“They’re like brothers,” Beck said.
Between Georgia Tech transfer Parker Braun, senior center Zach Shackelford, and left tackle Samuel Cosmi, they will do all the can against a Sooner D-Line which has 13 total sacks this season. The thing to remember about the Sooners is that nine of the 11 defensive starters from 2018 returned this season, including all three on the line. That group of Kenneth Mann, Neville Gallimore and Ronnie Perkins, along with some help from All-American linebacker Kenneth Murray will be charging full speed ahead at Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger all day, making it a long day for Texas’ offensive linemen.
No matter who comes out on top, this is guaranteed to be a hard fought and most likely close showdown between the best two teams in the Big 12 in what UT head coach Tom Herman called “One of the greatest rivalries in sports.”
There is no doubt about it. Be prepared for a battle in Dallas, especially with Big 12 title hopes on the line.
“You just want to let their talent take over, their instincts to take over,” Beck said. “They’ve been playing this game for a long time and know what to do, and you just gotta let them go do it. They’ll be amped up enough.”