Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight played poorly against TCU, but the redshirt sophomore still possesses the arm strength and awareness to zip down-field passes into tight coverage. Knight has not been a huge part of the Sooner running game this season, but he totaled 445 rushing yards in 2013.
Texas’ sophomore quarteback Tyrone Swoopes’ steady rise took a nose dive after his 144-yard, two-interception performance against Baylor. The sophomore’s inaccurate passes forced wide open receivers to their knees, eliminating any hope for yards after the catch, and he still cannot hit the deep ball.
Bruising freshman back Samaje Perine has had success banging around between the tackles in the Sooner’s inside zone read scheme. Oklahoma’s feature back sports a 6.3 yards per carry average. Sophomore Keith Ford has been a great change of pace for the Sooner offense.
Junior Jonathan Gray and senior Malcolm Brown have yet to eclipse the 100-yard mark in a single game, but the tandem ran well against Baylor. The Sooners are likely to load up the box to stop the run, but both backs are capable of avoiding tackles at the line of scrimmage.
Junior wideout Sterling Shepherd anchors the inexperienced Sooner receiving corps with 436 receiving yards and a 19 yards per catch average. Former quarterback Blake Bell is slowly working his way into the offense after converting to tight end last season.
The Texas receivers can get open on short routes, but Swoopes has struggled to get them the ball. Having receivers who can catch over the middle is nice, but someone has to step up and be the deep threat in this offense. Junior speedster Daje Johnson’s injured hamstring is a huge blow to Texas’ big play ability.
The Sooner offensive line is a sight to behold. The starters weigh an NFL-caliber average of roughly 325 pounds. If senior guard Adam Shead and company can push back Texas’ physical front seven, this game could get out of hand very quickly.
The Texas offensive line did a decent job zone blocking on outside runs against Baylor, but it still isn’t generating enough push up the middle. Senior tackle Desmond Harrison may return from his suspension soon and would add much needed experience to this unit.
The defensive line had been in decline, but it played brilliantly against Baylor. Defensive tackles junior Malcom Brown and sophomore Hassan Ridgeway did a great job of shutting down the inside runs. Another great effort by the defensive tackles would be a godsend for Texas against Oklahoma’s power run game.
Mike Stoops’ defense is in its second season playing with a three-man front, and the results have been paying handsome dividends. The line has been criticized for not getting to the quarterback, but it does not have to in a 3-4. Opponents’ paltry 3.1 yards per carry more than compensate for the lack of pressure.
Unlike most elite pass rushers, junior linebacker Eric Striker is athletic enough to effectively drop into coverage. His versatility could be a massive headache for the Longhorns’ inexperienced line. His mere presence will draw attention away from the rest of the Sooner linebackers.
Senior linebacker Jordan Hicks and the Longhorn linebacking corps are getting better at defending the sidelines. Even so, Texas’ big bruising linebackers are better equipped to stop an interior rushing attack like Oklahoma’s, and, if they can get pressure on Knight, Texas could leave Dallas with its second consecutive Golden Hat.
Senior cornerback Quandre Diggs is putting together an impressive senior campaign, shooting up NFL draft boards in the process. The corner can lock down receivers and has been a key asset in stopping the run. Opposing quarterbacks have had a field day picking on sophomore walk-on safety Dylan Haines in recent weeks, though.
The Sooner secondary has had its struggles this season, but redshirt sophomore Zack Sanchez already has five picks on the year. The Longhorns tendency to favor the short pass should hide any serious flaws that this unit may have.
Explosive redshirt sophomore running back Alex Ross is always a threat to take a kick for six, as evidenced by his 41.4 yards per kick return for the Sooners. Redshirt senior kicker Michael Hunnicutt is a model of consistency. The redshirt senior has hit on seven of eight attempts this season, with his only miss coming from 45 yards out.
Every game this season has seen unacceptable special teams gaffes from the Longhorns. Junior kicker Nick Rose is due for a benching. He had another kick blocked against Baylor, and his play has forced head coach Charlie Strong to elect to punt rather than kick long field goals.