Bill Frisbie, Lead Writer -- History dictates Texas will beat Oklahoma; logic says Texas will not.
Most folks with a vested interest in this series understand that it is the most cyclical in college football. Since World War II, each team has taken turns stringing together successive wins until the worm finally turns. In short, it's a vicious cycle for those on the losing end. As such, history says Texas is not scheduled to lose to OU until 2009, or so.
But then logic takes over. The flaws on the 2007 Texas team are well documented: poor tackling, an inconsistent running game, an inexperienced offensive line, special teams breakdowns, and a suddenly "hesitant" QB who has been knocked out of three straight Big 12 games. Honestly, Texas can overcome those deficiencies with its outstanding defensive line, experienced wide receivers, and with a little bit of help from the backup linebackers and backup QB John Chiles (who needs at least 12 touches Saturday). But I don't think Texas can overcome the type of offensive game plan that has handcuffed the talent in the Red River Rivalry for the better part of this decade.
Offensive Coordinator Greg Davis has come up smaller in this game than any other on Texas' schedule. Roy Williams and Cedric Benson never scored a TD against OU. The two historic blowouts in 2000 and 2003. The shutout in 2004, snapping the nation's longest active scoring streak at 24 years. Those zero-yard out routes, hitches, curls, slants and the dink-and-dunk passing game so typical of Davis' MO against Oklahoma mitigates the deep-ball threat that Limas Sweed, Billy Pittman, Quan Cosby, Nate Jones and Jordan Shipley bring to the table. Last year, Mack Brown told Davis at halftime to junk the underneath routes and throw the ball downfield; the result is Texas overcame a three-point deficit by scoring on its opening drive with a 33-yard fade to Sweed.
Texas has a chance Saturday if its defense can get to QB Sam Bradford and make him play more like a freshman in his first Texas-OU game. He's protected by the best O-line Texas will face all season but DE Brian Orakpo's return is a huge plus.
Obviously, both teams are coming off losses, but the feeling here was that OU's fourth quarter collapse at Colorado was an aberration while Texas' stinker against K-State further exposed the genuine flaws in this team.
Having said that, the Horns have enough talent to post a third straight win in this series. Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if Texas wins. History dictates it will; logic dictates it won't.
Keep hope alive!, but I'm calling it Oklahoma 31, Texas 20.
Ross Lucksinger, InsideTexas.com Editor -- Oklahoma, 63-14.
Maybe I've been convinced by Eeyore (Clendon Ross) and his generally pessimistic stance. Maybe it's my frustration building up over the years with Texas going into its shell, philosophically, in big games. Maybe I just wanted to have the biggest margin of defeat in all of the staff picks (I assume, we don't see each other's picks before we make them). But I think it has most to do with how devoid of leadership and confidence the 2007 Texas Longhorns are.
For at least the past seven years, the winner of this game has been determined before the first kick. It could be seen in pregame warm-ups. Before each of Texas' last three losses to the Sooners, I stood down on the field and watched the teams warm-up. I knew, long before the games started that Texas was going to lose. You could see it. There was no swagger, no leadership, no life in the Longhorns.
But when Vince Young marched his troops out onto the field in 2005 for the annual game against Oklahoma, I said with absolute certainly: "Oh wow. Texas is going to win this game."
And they did. The talent level is usually similar in these two teams and confidence and leadership can make all the difference. This year, the Longhorns don't have it.
Also, in my game preview, based on the strengths and weaknesses of this Sooner squad, the way you beat Oklahoma is by holding on to the football. Unfortunately, this is the last thing that I have faith in Texas doing.
This will be just like 2000, when the No. 10-ranked Oklahoma Sooners crushed a disjointed, quarterback-switching Longhorn team that had suffered a disappointing early-season loss to Stanford.
With a strong finish to the rest of the Big 12 season, the Horns can hope for a return to Dallas for the Cotton Bowl, but that's about as high as the expectations should be. OU wins and wins easily. Oklahoma 63, Texas 14.
Mike Blackwell, Inside Texas Magazine Editor -- Let's just get right to it: I want to pick Texas to win Saturday, but I can't. I want to pick Texas to win because I always want the Longhorns to win, but I also have more personal motives - my wife's an OU grad, and she and my in-laws will spend the next 365 days verbally abusing me should Texas lose. Christmas in Norman is never fun when Oklahoma beats Texas.
Hopefully I'll be wrong about this, but I just simply cannot envision a logical scenario whereby Texas can win. In a warped way, maybe that's comforting for Texas fans; quite often in this game, the team that has no logical reason to believe it should win, wins. Or at least that was the case prior to the Mack Brown-Bob Stoops eras.
The best team has usually won this game in the last 10 years, or at least that's my opinion. When Brown had Ricky Williams, he won. When Stoops was struggling to build his program in his first season at OU, Texas also won. When Brown had Vince Young at quarterback, Texas won. But when OU had the better team – during the five-year dark period of losing to OU in the early ‘00s – OU won. Yes, people griped and moaned long and loud when Brown lost five straight to the Sooners, but OU whipped plenty of folks during that period and usually had a better team when they faced Texas.
They have a better team right now, too. Maybe if Texas can pull a Kansas State and scored three non-offensive touchdowns, the Longhorns can win. But they are a 9- or 10-point underdog to the Sooners for a reason: the Sooners are better. I do think Texas will score, however, because I think defensively OU has shown a tendency to give up some ground.
However, I shudder to think what the OU offense will do against Texas. OU has big, fast receivers, and Texas has small, fast defensive backs. Put it this way: Jordy Nelson, Kansas State's star receiver who pierced Texas last week, might not start for Oklahoma.
The Sooners have been told all week – by Stoops and others – that they were terrible in the second half last week against Colorado. They've also been told that to beat Texas, you knock the quarterback down. They'll be chippy and a little bit on edge, and they'll be rushing Colt McCoy like crazy, against a Texas offensive line that hasn't yet proven it can beat strong competition.
As much as I hate to say it, it will be Oklahoma 42, Texas 28.
Michael Pearle, Co-Publisher -- So much for trying to figure out who this Texas team is. In last week's prediction for Kansas State, I asked of the Horns, "Are they a mediocre team just waiting for a decent team to expose them or are they truly top 10 caliber, putting the pieces together week by week as they build momentum and confidence heading into conference?" Of course, my faulty take was that they had worked all of the kinks out in their first four games, got the distractions behind them, would use revenge as a motivator against K-State, and were ready to play their best football. Umm – WRONG.
A lot has been said in the Austin media this week about how the Texas players and coaches don't sound angry or desperate coming out of a humiliating home loss to KSU, as they should, given that a loss Saturday to OU pretty much kills any chance at a Big 12 South or overall championship. I've heard others state they think the Horns might go in with an "us against the world attitude" and will use the KSU loss and their underdog role to fuel an effort that shocks the Sooners.
I don't know what their mindset will be – I'm done playing Sigmund Freud with this team. What I do know is that Texas has an offensive line that is banged up, young and not playing all that great, a running game that has produced some decent numbers but which is inconsistent, and big-play receivers who aren't stretching the field vertically. Colt McCoy is getting battered so much that I truly worry for his health this Saturday. I received a concussion in high school and now in my late 40s am still suffering migraines from the injury. Seems to me McCoy might well be a little fragile. I think the Sooners will come after him hard and frankly, I'm not sure he'll be able to stand up to it so soon after the injury. In short, McCoy needs to get great protection, get the ball downfield, and not turn it over. He needs Jamaal Charles, Chris Ogbonnaya and Vondrell McGee to do enough on the ground to keep the Sooners honest.
Defensively, we are about to see whether Duane Akina and his buddy Larry Mac Duff can live up to their Desert Swarm press clippings. The defense actually played pretty well last week I thought after the first KSU drive, repeatedly having to defend short fields but barely breaking until late. But in the Cotton Bowl, they will face a productive redshirt freshman quarterback coming off a game in which Colorado shut him and his big play receivers down. The OU players and coaches heaped praise on the Colorado defense after their game, rightfully so. The Buffs' coverages took Malcolm Kelly out of the game completely. He had zero catches. Can Akina and Mac Duff find a way to duplicate that feat or even come close? Can they rely on their front seven to get to Bradford and slow down the Sooners' power running game led by Allen Patrick and DeMarco Murray, leaving the secondary to focus on OU's dangerous receivers and tight ends?
The Texas defense will have to have a great game, on par with last year's effort in which they corralled Adrian Peterson and created turnovers. They will benefit from the return of Brian Orakpo, giving Akina a speed rusher off the edge. But unless the linebacking play improves, meaning more snaps for Jared Norton and Rod Muckelroy, I see OU establishing the run, drawing the Horns' safeties up, and leaving Juaquin Iglesias and Kelly more room to create havoc.
I hate to say it, but after the KSU loss, I have lost some confidence in this Texas team. While I expect them to come out fighting and make a game of it, I see OU wearing down the Texas defense, and repeatedly getting to McCoy, disrupting the Texas offense. I see the Horns' OU win streak turned into a mini-series. Oklahoma 38, Texas 20.
Clendon Ross, Co-Publisher – Wow. This is depressing. I just finished looking back over my Texas-OU picks from 2001-2006 (I picked all six of those correctly, by the way) and that 2003 pick, with just a couple of slight edits bracketed, comes close to summing up my feelings toward this weekend's game:
"Over the last few weeks, watching UT struggle in many of the same ol' ways as it has [in the past], even losing at home to [Kansas State], 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…
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 [sixth loss this decade] to the Sooners. Matter of fact, it's shaping up as one of those mid- to late-80s contests… Oklahoma 42, Texas 21."
I was a bit off on my score pick (if 31 points from the final margin of victory is "a bit off") but I think I accurately caught the dynamic that led to the Horns' defeat, which I believe is at play again this year.
The words coming out of Bellmont, both from Mack Brown and from the players (almost certainly reflecting what Brown is telling the team privately) are not indicative of a team that has the mental edge that they had in '05 and '06, or the mental edge that the Sooners owned from '01 through '04. Add on top of that a pedestrian offense with a wounded quarterback, a porous offensive line, a inconsistent running game that simply can not pick up tough yards, a defense that too often telegraphs its intentions and has the wrong personnel on the field at linebacker, and a dearth of leadership both within the team and from the coaching staff, and you have a recipe for another disaster in Dallas. Oklahoma was exposed last week as a national title pretender, and this series is known for its upsets, so Texas could win this game (I may be pessimistic, at times, but I'm sure holding out hope), but for that to happen given the state of this Longhorn team, it would require so many improbables each piled on top of one another as to be near fantasy. Oklahoma 50, Texas 20.
Average of IT Members Picks: Oklahoma 32, Texas 22