Texas and Oklahoma meet for the second time this season in Saturday’s Big 12 championship game. Five questions facing Texas:
1. Will Texas limit Kyler Murray’s running ability?
Four quarterbacks have been their team’s leading rusher when facing Texas this season — TCU’s Shawn Robinson, Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, Baylor’s Charlie Brewer and Texas Tech’s Jett Duffey. And that list doesn’t include Oklahoma State’s Taylor Cornelius or West Virginia’s Will Grier, both of whom had key late runs in their wins over the Longhorns. Murray had 92 yards at the Cotton Bowl in October, including one big 67-yard touchdown run. Eight weeks later, he’s averaging 7.5 yards per carry and has rushed for 853 yards. That ranks fifth nationally among quarterbacks.
2. What will be Lil’Jordan Humphrey’s biggest play?
In the first Texas-Oklahoma game, the junior wide receiver had nine catches for 133 yards and even threw a touchdown pass himself. But after the 48-45 win, UT coach Tom Herman didn’t rave about that trick toss to Collin Johnson or all those catches or all those yards. He instead pointed to a 19-yard catch in which Humphrey dragged a pile of Sooners on a play that showed “everybody what our culture is about.” Humphrey leads the team in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches, and he’s also run and thrown for scores this year.
3. Will Texas control the ball — and the clock?
Texas receiver Devin Duvernay noted this week that the Longhorns will attempt to “play the best defense on offense.” Keeping Murray and the NCAA’s top-scoring offense off the field would certainly help accomplish that. Texas’ average time of possession of 32:27 ranks 18th nationally. The team that leads the NCAA in that statistic? Army, which is the only team the Sooners haven’t scored at least 35 points on this season. In each of Texas’ last three games, the Longhorns have pieced together a touchdown drive that spanned at least 90 yards. In their October game, Texas held the ball for 33:50 and Oklahoma had it for 26:10.
4. Will Gary Johnson make up for last week with a big game?
Just ahead of last week’s 24-17 win at Kansas, UT announced that Johnson — the Longhorns’ leading tackler — would miss it because he’d been suspended for violating team rules. Texas survived without him and Jeffrey McCulloch, his replacement at the rover linebacker position, made the game’s biggest play. Still, that final 24-17 score may have been too close for comfort. Herman told reporters on Monday that UT will need to match Oklahoma’s speed. Johnson, who has registered a sack in four of his last five games, can help with that.
5. Will there be any unsportsmanlike conduct penalties?
Earlier this week, Oklahoma asked the Big 12 if a “Horns Down” signal on Saturday would earn them a penalty. (It might). But let’s not forget that the Longhorns have not shied away from ribbing the Sooners. Back in October, Charles Omenihu celebrated a sack of Murray — a first-round draft pick of the Oakland A’s — with a home run swing. And Breckyn Hager sacrificed a recovered fumble to the pigskin gods … and then six weeks later was reprimanded for comments he’d made about OU after the Iowa State game. Will referees be on the lookout for these taunts or will the Big 12 let a rivalry be a rivalry?