Frisbie -- The only reason Im going with the Horns is that I predicted in the August issue of Inside Texas magazine that they would beat Oklahoma. Once you are on record, and unless you are an elected official, you cant waffle with your pick. (By the way, Inside Texas publisher Michael Pearle picked Texas in that issue, too. He also picked Taylor Landin as Texas Surprise Player of the Year).
Thing is: it was relatively easy to make that call in late June.
Then, I knew that Oklahoma had lost its top four pass catchers in school history and that its running backs were not going to remind anyone of Quentin Griffin. Then, I thought QB Jason White would have been carried off on a stretcher by now but, to his credit, is averaging 294.4 ypg and boasts the Big 12s best completion percentage (67.5). Then, I never could have imagined that Texas would have been so exposed against Arkansas. Then, I thought both Roy Williams and the tight ends would be more involved with the offense than they have been. Then, I thought RB Cedric Benson would have been more effective by now (he runs hard but he doesnt run far).
On the other hand, I never fathomed last summer that QB Vince Young would be as groomed and fearless as he is now (simply because I didnt think coaches would give him the quality snaps. To Mack Browns credit, I think he has handled the QB situation about as well as he could up to this point).
Personally, Id like to see Texas keep its system (dont call it a "rotation"!) where QB Chance Mock starts and then Young comes in on the third series. But, against OU, I want Young to come in on the fourth series and fifth series and sixth series, and so on.
Young is magic. Even though it is early in his career, rare is the athlete that lives up to billing. And equally few are the kind of mobile, strong-armed quarterbacks that have given the Sooner defense fits. Young is the reason why I harbor any hope of Texas pulling the upset Saturday.
I dont entertain for a half-second the notion that the Texas offensive line is going to stop the likes of DT Tommie Harris. But I think Young can escape their relentless pressure and provide enough of a running threat to where the D-backs have to be as cognizant of him as they are the Texas receivers.
I have always looked to the OU game as the type of affair where the tight end comes up big. Heres hoping that TE Bo Scaife will have the kind of performance that he gave in the 2001 Holiday Bowl, and/or that TE David Thomas will pick up right where he left off in the 2003 Cotton Bowl. Otherwise, well see them in one of those two games again this year.
And this is the game where Roy just has to go nuts. Brown said Texas tried to go to Roy 10 times against Kansas State, but Roy needs 10 touches like he did against Nebraska last season. Unleash the Freak!
If the defense and/or special teams can come up with a score (or can significantly shorten the field), if Texas wins the turnover battle, and if K Richmond McGee doesnt grip on his punts and kickoffs, then the call is:
Texas 23, Oklahoma 20. Keep hope alive! Keep hope alive! Keep hope alive!
Pearle -- I have been about as good picking the outcome of this game in recent years as the Horns have been playing it.
In 2000, I thought Texas would keep on dominating Oklahoma and make it four straight over the remnants of John Blakes crew, and two straight against Bob Stoops & Co. Instead, the Horns got shellacked by a margin of seven touchdowns.
In 2001, I thought the Horns would use that anger and embarrassment from the 00 fiasco to fuel their rage and propel themselves to a revenge-is-sweet victory. Instead, they looked completely anemic on offense and gave up the INT for the clinching TD late when Sooner Roy Williams smashed Chris Simms on a play were still having to watch on SportsCenter three times a week.
Last season, I thought a motivated Texas had better talent across the board and would beat a Sooner squad that had shown its humanity by losing to lowly Okie State the season before with the national championship on the line. Instead, the Horns fizzled offensively again, allowing OU to finally turn the game into a fourth quarter rout.
So you know what? I just dont have much confidence in Texas, at least not against OU in October in the Cotton Bowl.
Im not going to get into matchups and keys to the game and all that in this space because on paper, the Horns always look better to me than OU, man for man. But it hasn't been playing out that way on the field. With regard to Texas, OU now has an aura of seeming invincibility which began with that ridiculously easy win in 2000 and has been solidified by fourth quarter victories in the two games since. They just seem to be made of stronger mental stuff than the Horns, at least head-up against each other.
If Texas had beaten Arkansas in week two instead of falling on its face, I probably would still be making starry-eyed predictions of a glorious win over the Sooners. But the Arkansas loss told me this Texas team is pretty much like all of the Horn teams under Mack Brown before them: great athletes everywhere, plenty of heart in most of the games, like against Kansas State last week, but some chink in their makeup, in the coaches, or in something, that keeps them from rising up and finding a way to win them all.
Might they come out Saturday and smash the cocky Sooners in the mouth? Sure they might, and to be honest, I wont be surprised if they do; they have that capability, and with the mobility of Chance Mock and Vince Young, the Horns have an offensive dimension they havent possessed since James Browns day. Certainly the motivation should be huge -- beat OU and the road to New Orleans opens up, despite the early loss.
But I think it is more likely that OU will do most of the smashing. I see the Sooner defense continuing to stuff the Texas running game, forcing the Horns to try to pass on every down, and harassing both Mock and a gimpy Young into sacks and mistakes. On defense, I fear that Jason White is gonna pick the Texas secondary apart, while mixing in enough run to keep the Horns D confused and vulnerable. I fear as the game wears on, OU will get stronger and the Horns will wear down.
In short, I fear more of the same thing weve seen for three years running. Im going OU 27, Texas 21, and hoping my ability to predict this game continues to be lousy.
Ross -- Over the last few weeks, watching UT struggle in many of the same ol' ways as it has for the last few years, even losing at home to Arkansas, an oddly reminiscent feeling crept over me as I looked ahead to Texas-OU weekend. It's similar to the feeling I had about this time almost every year in my days as a student on the Forty Acres from 1985-89. (Thankfully, I stuck around for a fifth year in school, or I would have ended my college career 0-fer in OU games.) Going into those games during that four-game losing streak -- particularly in '86, '87 and '88 -- the possibilities of beating the powerful Sooners seemed so remote that a sense of hopelessness was pervasive amongst Orangebloods. Mentally, I'm back to those days.
No, Texas is not the shell of a team, talent-wise, that took the field back in the 80s. Mack Brown's squads for the last three years have been on the borderline of solid and spectacular. It's just they don't show it in early October vs. Bob Stoops' Sooners and I don't see any reason to believe that will change Saturday in the Cotton Bowl.
Listen to the words coming out of Mack Brown's mouth this week and you'll know all you need to know in this one. Barring a lockerroom revolt that changes the psyche of the guys in the Orange and White, which they desperately need in this game, this team is bound for its fourth straight loss to the Sooners. Matter of fact, it's shaping up as one of those mid- to late-80s contests. Mentally, Texas is two touchdowns behind the minute they come out of the tunnel. OU's coaching staff gives them another touchdown (at least). And talent-wise, Oklahoma is now at least the equal of the Horns. That all adds up to a really bad day for the good guys. Oklahoma 42, Texas 21.