This is by-far the most fun matchup to watch. Last year, Williams had a hand in keeping an injured Broyles somewhat quiet, holding him to two catches for 33 yards. But one of those catches was a long touchdown. This year, Broyles is healthy and looking like an All-American, while Williams might also have a shot at AA honors. Most teams struggle to match up with Broyles in the slot. But most teams don't have a nickel back who is a potential high-round NFL Draft pick. WIlliams will also be counted on in myriad other ways, such as pressuring quarterback Landry Jones and helping out in the run game.
Texas linebackers vs. Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murray
Murray is one of the Sooners' best players in space, meaning the linebackers will have their work cut out for them. He'll get the ball on short flare-outs and a variety of screens. That isn't a new role for him, as Murray has always been dangerous in the passing game. The Longhorns found that out the hard way last year, when Murray had eight catches for 116 yards. He's the Sooners' second-leading receiver. Still, Texas has done a nice job this year of making sure that backs haven't had big receiving days. It's also important that they get a handle on OU's run plays (primarily inside and outside zone and power plays) and play more assignment-sound football than they did a week ago. If they can shut down Murray in the run game, Oklahoma doesn't have many other options. As a team, the Sooners average just three yards per carry.
Landry Jones has been hot in the past three games, completing nearly 70 percent of his passes with a 7-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. But the knock on the OU quarterback is that he can be pressured into making poor decisions. If there's any group capable of supplying that pressure, it's Texas's trio of ends. Eddie Jones (four sacks), Acho (three) and Jeffcoat (2.5) give the Longhorns three pass rushers who can rotate through and cause any tackle group problems. If the Sooners wind up in third-and-long, Oklahoma better watch out, as Jones could find himself on the turf early and often.
Hix and Mitchell have a huge task Saturday, keeping a pair of high-level defensive ends off quarterback Garrett Gilbert. With Texas struggling in the running game, the Longhorns will likely ask Gilbert to throw the ball 40 or 50 times. That puts a lot of pressure on HIx and Mitchell to keep those ends, especially Beal, who has four sacks this year, away from the young quarterback. Gilbert doesn't typically get flustered, though that could change if the Sooners' pass-rushers are able to hit him on a consistent basis. After a strong start, Texas has allowed seven sacks in its last two games, so protection could be an issue.Mike Davis will miss Saturday's game with a knee injury, the Longhorns need some receivers to step up in his absence. Goodwin did just that against UCLA, leading the Longhorns in receiving yards. Meanwhile, Kirkendoll is just as capable of a big game out of the slot (just ask Texas Tech). Goodwin brings big-time speed and explosiveness, while Kirkendoll brings craftiness and route-running ability. Jefferson will probably be an All-Big 12 player by the time he finishes his Sooner career, but as of right now, he's just a highly talented true freshman. He'll find himself working against Goodwin and Kirkendoll on a regular basis on Saturday, and those matchups could dictate how well Texas moves the ball.
Ask any coach who has coached in the Red River Shootout for his keys for success, and you'll get three indicators: turnovers, the kicking game and the running game. Neither team has excelled in the kicking game, nor in the running game this year, meaning turnovers could be the difference, especially in a field position game.
Many people are down on the Longhorns after last week, but they were hit by a perfect storm of struggles, from five turnovers to a defense trying to make too much happen. In college football, you're never as good as you look at your best, nor as bad as you look at your worst. I think the Longhorns bounce back in a big way this week. I see Texas's defense shutting down Oklahoma's offense, while the Longhorns' offense isn't necessarily consistent enough to move the ball on Oklahoma's struggling D. As with most Red River games, this one could swing either way, though we'll say that Texas wins another one like last year's game.