After being relatively quiet in its first four games, the Texas defensive line made some serious noise in a breakout performance against Geno Smith and the Mountaineers last Saturday. Defensive ends Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat provided constant pressure throughout the game, and the Longhorns were able to force Smith to fumble twice inside his own red zone. Okafor has six sacks this season, Jeffcoat has 3 1/2. The Longhorns as a whole have five more sacks than Oklahoma this season (13) and shouldn’t have a problem getting around an OU offensive line decimated by injuries.
While the defensive line had a strong game against West Virginia, the Texas linebackers continued to struggle against the Mountaineers. Andrew Buie ran for 207 yards and two touchdowns against the Longhorns and he was able to earn huge yardage on many plays once he got past the Texas defensive line. The Longhorns’ linebackers have struggled with tackling and stopping the run all season and the loss of Jordan Hicks has clearly weakened the unit in the past two contests. The Sooners linebackers have been decent this year, allowing 4.5 yards per rush, but they have been able to limit opponents to just four touchdowns on the ground this year. Oklahoma’s ability to limit big runs and stuff opponents in the red zone is due in large part to the play of the linebackers.
The Longhorns have a major advantage in forcing turnovers in the secondary, as they have intercepted seven passes while the Oklahoma backs have just four picks. That said, the Sooners have had the more solid unit overall unit, as they have not allowed an opposing quarterback to throw for more than 203 yards in four games and they have only given up one passing touchdown through the air. The Longhorns may have more big-play ability in the secondary, but they have given up considerably more yardage to opponents, allowing an average of 221.8 yards per game through the air.
Both of these teams have been successful on returns this year, with Texas averaging 26.5 yards on kickoffs and 16.2 yards on punts and Oklahoma averaging 28.2 yards on kickoffs and 22 yards on punts. The difference between these two special teams units comes down to field goals. Oklahoma has gone 5-for-6 on field goals and is perfect on attempts under 40 yards. The Longhorns on the other hand are just 4-for-9 on field goal tries and are 0-for-4 on attempts of greater than 40 yards. If this game comes down to a critical field goal attempt, the Sooners should have the edge.