Five key matchups to watch Saturday:
JERROD HEARD VS. BAKER MAYFIELD
Granted, these two won’t head to head. But the Texas-Oklahoma matchup between quarterbacks feels like a more even pairing than in recent years. Heard, a redshirt freshman from Denton Guyer, has cooled since his breakout showing three weeks ago against California. He’s completed 17 of 37 passes for 167 yards and no touchdowns the last two weeks. Mayfield, a junior from Lake Travis, has thrown for 807 yards and seven touchdowns in his last two games. Both can make it happen with their legs, although Heard has more flat-out breakaway speed. The quarterback that can get it going early is the one with a decided advantage.
SAMAJE PERINE VS. TEXAS’ RUN DEFENSE
When Texas coach Charlie Strong arrived in Austin, he joked about how nobody in burnt orange had offered Perine a scholarship. The Hendrickson star had 1,713 yards last season and scored 21 touchdowns. This year, Perine had a slow start but still averages 4.6 yards per carry. The Longhorns’ defensive front was supposed to be the team’s strength. And at times, it certainly looks that way. Defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway was basically unblockable against Oklahoma State. But Ridgeway and his teammates looked awful against TCU. The Frogs had 228 rushing yards, and quarterback Trevone Boykin wasn’t sacked once.
TEXAS RECEIVERS VS. OKLAHOMA’S SECONDARY
On the surface, it doesn’t appear that Texas would have much chance without its fastest playmaker, Daje Johnson. He suffered a concussion last week and hasn’t been ruled out. The coaching staff will only say he’s been day-to-day. But OU’s secondary will give up some yards, as Tulsa discovered. The Golden Hurricane piled up 427 passing yards and four touchdowns. Can that be exploited? This must be the week Marcus Johnson, Armanti Foreman and John Burt make things happen. They’ve got to show breakaway ability. It’s likely Heard won’t have a lot of time to go through his checks, not with Kent Perkins (knee) likely limited or out altogether. From a season-long perspective, OU’s pass defense ranks fourth in the Big 12.
OKLAHOMA VS. BIG 12 OFFICIALS
If Texas fans think the officiating has been tough, that’s nothing compared to what Oklahoma fans are feeling. The Sooners rank second in the league in penalties per game (9.5). Last week, OU was flagged multiple times for unsportsmanlike conduct. To his credit, Bob Stoops said his team deserved all the flags, and he talked about playing with better discipline. Emotions will be high, and those who keep their tempers in check will have an advantage. These games always turn on one or two big mistakes. Regardless of what happens out there, the Longhorns must keep their cool.
CHARLIE STRONG VS. BOB STOOPS
Stoops used to take Mack Brown to the woodshed in this game, regularly scoring 60 if he could. Stoops is 10-6 vs. the Longhorns during his time in Norman. He’s used to the spotlight and scrutiny that comes with losing this game. Strong’s biggest defenders are growing weary of defending a coach who is now 1-4 this season and 7-11 overall. It’s not that Texas is losing; this team is getting blown out. Last week’s 43-point loss to TCU was the biggest loss Strong has ever suffered as a head coach. Stoops usually has a new wrinkle up his sleeve just for this game. Strong should have one, too.