Game Week: Big 12 Championship (Texas)

Remember how you felt on the afternoon of October 6th?

The sickening feeling in your gut as that field goal sailed through the Cotton Bowl’s southern uprights? The numbness as you watched Austin Kendall randomly trot out for a desperation touchdown attempt? The burning anger as you listened to the burnt orange throngs of Longhorn bellow out “OU SUCKS” at the end of their fight song?

Walking out of the Cotton Bowl after a loss to Texas is one of the worst feelings as an Oklahoma football fan. It feels like all the hype of the season up to that point of the day just collapses on you, with no shot at redemption until next October.

Until now.

Yes, the Sooners get another shot at Texas and the stakes have never been bigger. While the State Fair, Big Tex, the Cotton Bowl, Corny Dogs and the Golden Hat will have to wait for next season, this game still features what this hallowed rivalry really boils down to: Oklahoma, Texas, and ol’ fashioned split crowd full of pure hatred.

However this time there is an added twist, a ghost pepper thrown into an already scorching pot of chili. If OU wins, they are all-but returning to the College Football Playoff. If they lose, the season is not only a bust but they would have lost to Texas again. For both, the winner gets to celebrate a Big 12 title in front of their most hated rival.

The loser takes the most gut-wrenching walk of their life.


Meet the Longhorns:

A few weeks ago, this game looked incredibly unlikely to happen. After losing two straight game to Oklahoma State and West Virginia, Texas needed the Mountaineers to have a late season collapse to make the Big 12 title and to win out themselves. The Horns got their wish: West Virginia blew close games to both the Cowboys and Sooners to end the season. The Horns took care of business against Iowa State, thumping the Cyclones in Austin and wrapped up the season with a struggle-win against Kansas.

Texas has looked a little different since the first Saturday in October. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who torched the Sooner defense with his legs, hasn’t looked quite the same all season. The defense has been porous at times. In general, they aren’t quite back like we thought they were.

Don’t fool yourself; these Horns are dangerous. The quarterback running game is still there, as are receivers Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Collin Johnson. The defense can still be stingy at times. This needs to be an especially inspired and passionate performance from the Sooners for them to take home their forth straight Big 12 title on Saturday.

Who to Watch For:

WR #84 Lil’Jordan Humphrey

All season on The Schooner Pod we’ve discussed how big receivers are the biggest factor when discussing things that break apart the Oklahoma defense. There is no receiver in the Big 12 more suited to wreak havoc against the Sooners than Lil’Jordan Humprey and you don’t have to take my word for it.

Look at the tape from earlier this season and you’ll see why L.J. is a terror; the guy just simply is too big to cover for our receivers. I don’t really know how to fix this; this man will just play bully ball. I suppose you take your chances and scrap when he scraps. Look for him and Collin Johnson to give you plenty of headaches on Saturday.

QB #11 Sam Ehlinger

Just as I said in October, Ehlinger isn’t exactly a great quarterback. With that being said, he is the perfect fit for punishing the Sooner defense. In October, Ehlinger’s running game was the factor that pushed both the game and Mike Stoops over the edge, rushing for 72 yards and three touchdowns. While he is struggling with a shoulder injury, expect to see him run the ball often.

As far as passing goes, Ehlinger doesn’t need be great, but just good enough. His receivers (mentioned above) are big enough to cover up any accuracy issues that he may have. In the Red River Showdown he torched the Sooners for 314 yards and two touchdowns. For the OU defense to be successful against both him and this Texas offense they will need to put pressure on Ehlinger and confine him to the pocket.


Series History (Texas, 62-46-5)

This is gonna be a weird one. Not only was the last time the Red River Shootout was played outside the Cotton Bowl was 1923, but this game’s venue, AT&T Stadium (aka, Jerry World) couldn’t be more different. The Cotton Bowl is in the middle of a state fair; AT&T Stadium is in the middle of $60 parking. The Cotton Bowl struggles to have working plumbing; AT&T Stadium has 18 different art installations. You get the gist.

In my biased opinion, I think AT&T Stadium is a soulless corporate hole of venue, while the Cotton Bowl is holy ground that should be protected at all costs. The split on ideology of whether or not to move the main game from the State Fair has been heated already and will only grow hotter after Saturday’s game. I don’t know whether or not fans will warm up to the new digs or immediately miss their Corny Dogs and demand the Big 12 Championship move to Fair Park.

The one thing we know for sure? This will be something the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

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