Most people, because he's the Sooner star receiver, would include a matchup against Ryan Broyles. But because of the way the Sooners use him, the Longhorns will be able to bracket cover him and do some things to take him out of the game. Remember that Broyles had a quiet Texas game last year. But the attention given to Broyles will leave players like Byndom, Diggs and Phillips on an island against the Oklahoma outside receivers. The best of that bunch is Stills, who had a nice game last year. He'll be the best outside receiver that the Longhorns have faced this year, and will put players like the above trio — who are having an excellent year so far — into some tough situations.
Simply put, the Red River Shootout, when coached by Mack Brown against Bob Stoops, has come down to which team has run the ball the best. And both teams have had their issues at times stopping the run. Missouri had a lot of success with Henry Josey and even quarterback James Franklin, which gives some hope for the Longhorns' quarterback rushing and Wildcat game plans. But the bulk of that running game has been, and will be, attributed to Brown, who should get between 20 and 30 carries against a fast group of linebackers, including Lewis. Brown's best attributes so far have been his vision, his decisiveness once he sees a hole and his ability to come downhill and earn extra yards after contact. All will be huge on Saturday.
This is one of the most intriguing matchups of what should be two big, and vitally important, line battles. Allen has been one of the lynchpins of the Texas offensive line, combining with left guard David Snow to create holes for the Texas running backs to blow through. In fact, most of the team's yardage has come over that left side. But Allen will have his hands full against an excellent pair of Sooner ends, especially when Texas calls a pass play. Since switching quarterbacks, Texas hasn't had a player sacked, and neither Case McCoy nor David Ash have been especially pressured. Allen will be key in paving the way for the Texas running game, though he'll be even more so in protecting the backs of the Longhorn quarterbacks against what should be a relentless pass rush.
Shipley has been the best, and most consistent, receiver on the Texas roster. But if there's any team equipped to deal with him, it's the Sooners, thanks to jack-of-all-trades linebacker/nickel back Tony Jefferson. Jefferson can be one of the most destructive Big 12 defensive players, somebody who's stout enough against the run and athletic enough against the pass that the Sooners don't have to shuffle players in and out according to situation. That means he'll find himself matched up against Shipley, who might be the league's best slot receiver not named Ryan Broyles or Kendall Wright.
The Texas linebacking duo played like All-Americans in last year's game, helping the Texas defense overcome a slow start to allow 14 points over the game's final 45 minutes. They'll be just as important Saturday, when they'll have to slow down the Oklahoma rushing attack, account for the backs out of the backfield and attempt to disguise their blitzes while putting pressure on Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones. That's a big plate of responsibility, but the two have already proven they can handle it. On the Oklahoma side, players like Dominique Whaley and Brennan Clay will not only have to run and catch the ball well, but they'll also have to throw their bodies around to protect Jones against what should be a blitzing onslaught.
This could be an X-factor any week, but if the Longhorns want to pull out a win Saturday, they'll likely have to achieve a plus in the turnover column. McCoy and Ash have done an excellent job of taking care of the football so far, while Jones has been a bit careless at times. But anything can happen in this game, particularly with a pair of young quarterbacks who haven't played in it, versus a quarterback with plenty of experience.
If there's one thing that we know, it's that Texas will get pressure on Jones. It might not be with four players, but defensive coordinator Manny Diaz will find a way to make the quarterback uncomfortable. Here's guessing that he throws a couple of interceptions to athletic Texas defensive backs, and that could make a lot of difference, both in terms of keeping Oklahoma's scoring down and in setting up the offense in good situations. Texas needs to keep the scoring down, as the Longhorns won't win a shootout against a team with more weapons. They have the pieces to do just that.