The undefeated Sooners are a 14-point favorite in Saturday's Red River Rivalry showdown with Texas. On the surface, this thing has all the earmarks of yet another Bob Stoops beat down of Mack Brown. Let us count the ways:
OU pummeled the Longhorns by 42 points last year (63-21), 38 points the year before (55-17).
PHOTOS from the Sooners blowout win in Dallas last year http://bit.ly/outx2012
Right now, there isn't a single player on the Sooners' roster who has experienced anything but Bevo butt-whoopings.
There isn't a single player on the Texas roster who has experienced even a modicum of success against the Sooners.
Confidence is exclusively north of the Red River right now.
This Texas team stinks. Losses to BYU and Ole Miss. Unimpressive victories over Kansas State and Iowa State. That resume won't scare anybody, especially the Sooners.
The Longhorns have serious issues on defense, where the firing of Manny Diaz has helped, but only a little. Against BYU's big, physical, running quarterback, the Longhorns surrendered 550 yards rushing. 550! You know who else has a big, physical, running quarterback? Yep. OU.
So... the Sooners have the edge on the field and between the ears. Get ready for another Red River Rout, right? Well, I'm not so sure. Here's why:
1. Blake Bell is no Landry Jones. In at least a few ways (mobility, poise) Bell is an upgrade over the Sooners' all-time leading passer, but there is no denying Landry could 'sling it' like very few college QB's. When he was on, there was nothing defensive backs could do and in his last two Red River games, Landry was on.
Texas can game plan very differently for Bell and TCU gave 'em the blueprint last week: Jump the underneath routes, make Bell hold the ball and beat you by throwing down the field. This Texas defense may not be stout, but it is fast. 55 or 63 points seems unlikely this time. I say OU scores about 34.
2. Corey Nelson's injury is HUGE. This guy was the Sooners' best defensive player thru five games. His 27 tackles don't even begin to tell the story. Nelson was clearly the emotional leader of the D and its leader, in terms of getting players lined up and moving in the same direction. Compare last year's Notre Dame defense, with Manti Teo to this year's without him. A middle linebacker who makes sure the entire unit is on the same page is invaluable. I fear Nelson was exactly that player and while this Sooners' defense still has a ton of talent, it can't possibly be as good without Nelson as it was with him.
Also, if Texas does anything well offensively, right now. It's running the ball north-south with Jonathan Gray. Nelson was a very good run-stopper. His replacements (Dominique Alexander and Aaron Franklin) are both a bit smaller. Getting off blocks and making stops on runs up the middle could be tough Saturday. I expect Texas to have some success running the ball.
3. This is Mack's last stand. Many in the Lone Star State believe a loss Saturday will make it impossible for Brown to keep his job past this season. I know, I know, Mack's teams have a history of quitting on him in this game. Stoops' nine defeats of Brown have come by an average of 26 points. When times get tough, the Longhorns get buried in the Cotton Bowl. But... I just have a sneaking suspicion that this time will be different. I think Texas plays hard, moves the ball on offense and doesn't let the game get away from 'em, like they have the last two years.
Oklahoma wins, but it'll be closer than you might think -- 34-24.