Here are five key matchups to watch Saturday in the 115th installment of the Red River Showdown at the Cotton Bowl.
OU quarterback Jalen Hurts vs. Texas nickel back B.J. Foster
Foster raised eyebrows on Tuesday when he praised Hurts’ running and passing ability. He also said the Horns had “seen some bad things” in Hurts’ game. While Foster didn’t elaborate, he said the OU quarterback was likely to get those things fixed before kickoff. As UT’s nickel back and hardest hitter, Foster can’t wait to get a crack at Hurts. OU coaches remember Foster, too. He was the one chasing Grant Calcaterra into the end zone during the Big 12 title game. Tacklers who miss get burned by Hurts. He’s averaging 99.8 rushing yards per game.
Texas receiver Devin Duvernay vs. Oklahoma secondary
In last year’s Big 12 championship game, the Sooners lost track of Lil’Jordan Humphrey in the slot. He finished with seven catches for 51 yards and a touchdown. Humphrey’s numbers are minuscule compared to the damage Duvernay is doing. The senior is averaging 10.3 yards per catch and has four touchdowns. Patrick Fields and Delarrin Turner-Yell, along with corners Tre Brown and Parnell Motley, know full well what Duvernay is capable of. OU’s pass defense ranks third in the Big 12. The Sooners allow almost 200 yards per game.
Oklahoma receiver CeeDee Lamb vs. Texas secondary
Duvernay is spectacular. So is Lamb, a star who has caught at least one touchdown pass in OU’s last seven games. In three career games against the Horns, Lamb has 15 catches for 316 yards and two touchdowns. Texas’ secondary is young overall, but the group is gaining confidence. Cornerback D’Shawn Jamison had two interceptions last week against West Virginia. Fellow corner Anthony Cook had seven tackles. Texas is susceptible on the back end, especially with no consistent pass rush from its defensive line.
Texas left tackle Sam Cosmi vs. OU defensive end Ronnie Perkins
Cosmi invited attention when he said Tuesday that OU’s defensive line wasn’t “super special. But they’re good players, they’re solid players. But not anything to worry about too much.” Perkins tried to downplay it with OU reporters. “I don’t really pay attention to the trash talk,” he said. “He can catch me at 11 a.m. in Dallas with the rest of the Texas football team.” Cosmi loves a fight. This will be a brawl. Perkins has seven career sacks and 12 tackles for loss. Watch if OU sends extra rushers through UT’s left side to overrun Cosmi and Parker Braun with numbers.
Texas play-caller Tom Herman vs. OU defensive coordinator Alex Grinch
The statistics would say that this year’s OU defense is a vast improvement over last year’s embarrassment. Kudos to Grinch, who came to OU in January after serving as the co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State. The Sooners have piled up 13 sacks and 34 tackles for loss. Herman is 2-2 as a head coach against OU. Texas is averaging 41.8 points per game, an even higher total than the 2009 season (39.3). Expect the Horns to push the pace, put the Sooners on their heels.
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