Strength of Schedule: Texas

Red River Rivalry extends another chapter in 2015 with both teams having unanswered questions

For the second year in a row, Sooners Illustrated breaks down Oklahoma’s toughest games for the upcoming season. The rating system is based on the importance of a win, the strength of the opponent and a general idea of how key the game will be in terms of scheduling and performance.

It starts with the easiest game and ends up with the toughest.

8. Texas

This game will always be important for Oklahoma. It’s the Red River Rivalry. This year, it’s lost a little bit of its luster. In the Big 12 Conference alone, it might be the fourth-most important game. It’s pretty low down the line for Oklahoma, as well.

2014 record: 6-7

Last year vs. OU: 31-26, Oklahoma

Why this game is dangerous: Again, it’s the Red River Rivalry. Not to belabor the point, but anything can happen in this game and usually has. Neither team comes into this season with the stability of the past, but that can make for a challenge. Texas is a bit of a wild card this season after a first year of struggles under Charlie Strong. Now, Strong is starting to get his type of players in place and has a strong recruiting class bolstering the ranks. At some point, Texas will be back among the greats. It’s a cyclical thing, and the Longhorns are on their way back up – but are still not there yet.

Players to watch: You’ve got to keep an eye on the Longhorns’ backfield this season. Running back Johnathan Gray has spent three seasons toiling in Texas’ backfield – hampered by injury and depth. He’s got a big chance to break out, but that kind of relies on the Longhorns’ play at quarterback. Because of that, keep your other eye on Jerrod Heard – one of Strong’s guys. There’s a good chance the redshirt freshman surpasses Tyrone Swoopes as Texas’ signal caller. There’s two guys on Texas’ side, but it’ll be a big stage for Steven Parker or Sterling Shepard to shine for the Crimson and Cream.

Prediction: It looks like it might be another rebuilding season for Texas, which likely will trudge through another losing season. That also means that capturing the Golden Hat – something Texas has done only once since 2009 – will be one of the bigger prizes of the year. That’s another reason why this game can be scary. Will the second week in October be too early to Texas to have figured itself out? Will the Sooners have their offense clicking by that time? Both teams are likely to be better later in the season than in the morning surrounded by the Texas State Fair. Oklahoma will just be better on this day but will still be facing an athletic defense. The Sooners pick up a key victory, 24-17.

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