Case McCoy will start against an Oklahoma team he’s totaled 218 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions against. He’s been efficient with 574 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions on the year. Blake Bell has been accurate, completing 69.2 percent of his passes without getting picked off this year. The “Belldozer” has no rushing touchdowns as the Sooners rely less on his legs and more on his arm.
Texas’ third-best rushing offense in the Big 12 mustered just 119 in a one-point win against an Iowa State team that ranked 69th in rush defense. Johnathan Gray played ran for 89 yards and scored for the third straight week but fumbles have been an issue recently. The Sooners have the 17th-best rushing offense in the country, averaging 246 yards per game. Damien Williams is not off to same start he had last season but has been an effective second-option to Brennan Clay.
After losing both Kenny Stills and Justin Brown to the NFL last season, the Sooners reloaded with Sterling Shepard and Jalen Saunders. Shepard made a name for himself in a 123-yard, two-touchdown performance against Tulsa before showing his speed in a 54-yard touchdown reception against Notre Dame. Senior Mike Davis dropped a few passes in his return from injury against Iowa State but Daje Johnson’s return gives depth and versatility to a group that offers McCoy plenty of options.
The Longhorns offensive line gave up three sacks against a Cyclones pass rush that previously had only four all season. Texas has given up 6.6 tackles for loss per game this season, ranked No. 92 in the nation and must improve before facing an Oklahoma defense ranked No. 9 in the nation. Sooners center Gabe Ikard is the only senior on his offensive line but the seemingly youthful unit returned three starters and has helped Oklahoma gain 455 yards per game and give up 1.4 sacks per game, the third-fewest in the Big 12.
Texas’ defensive line has marked the biggest improvement under new defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, accounting for two sacks, a forced fumble and an interception against Iowa State. Since the loss to Ole Miss, Jackson Jeffcoat has three sacks and a game-sealing interception last week. Oklahoma has doubled their team’s sack total with four sacks against TCU last week. Sophomore Charles Tapper leads the line with 23 tackles and 2.5 sacks on the year, two coming in the win against the Horned Frogs, who were held to just 44 yards on the ground.
The impact of losing junior linebacker Jordan Hicks was felt last week as Texas gave up 201 yards on the ground to the Cyclones. Steve Edmond and Dalton Santos must step up against an effective Oklahoma run game while Peter Jinkens and Kendall Thompson must provide depth. Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops has implemented an effective three-linebacker system, whose success was most notable against Notre Dame, when sophomore Eric Striker forced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. Sophomore Frank Shannon intercepted a pass on the next possession. Age has not been an issue for a defense that has forced nine turnovers in five games.
Long plays like Quenton Bundrage’s 97-yard touchdown catch last week and broken tackles at the goal line continue to be issues, which are sure to be exploited by Oklahoma. The Sooners have the 10th-best pass defense in the country and the best in the Big 12, allowing just 168 yards a game. Senior Gabe Lynn and junior Julian Wilson each have two interceptions this year.
Senior Anthony Fera continued his success with five punts inside the Iowa State 20-yard line. But the Texas kick coverage team continued to struggle, allowing a 39-yard return for the second straight game. With a punt returned against them for a touchdown already this season, Texas must improve on the battle for field position. The Oklahoma kick coverage team held a TCU return game that averaged 30 yards a return to just 18 yards a return but were surprised by an onside kick that TCU recovered early in the third quarter.