Texas head coach Charlie Strong is one of the nicest guys in college football. He is a man of tremendous integrity. He leads young men with inspiration, and vigor. He is one of the most talented coaches in the game, and he is tremendously qualified.
And if he doesn't win against Oklahoma on Saturday, he may be employing his skills at another university.
The Texas Longhorns are BEYOND desperate for a win this Saturday against the Oklahoma Sooners. After last week's embarrassing 50-7 loss against TCU, everyone questioned whether or not this Texas team would ever flourish under Strong. And by everyone, I mean everyone: boosters, fans, media, alumni, and even the players (who did so via Twitter from the bench during the game).
The Longhorns must find a way to win this game. That statement is a massive one, due to the reality that the Sooners are a pretty good football team. The Sooners are riding high after soundly beating a ranked West Virginia team 44-24 in a game that didn't seem that close. Quarterback Baker Mayfield is quietly playing at a high level, completing 65 percent of his passing and throwing for 13 TDs after only four games. However it may be the Sooner defense that is truly to be feared, after it forced West Virginia quarterback Skyler Howard into three costly interceptions and holding the Mountaineers' passing game to under 200 yards. This game sets up to play into the Sooners' sweet spot. There is true danger for Texas in the Red River Showdown.
College Football Podcast: Week 6 Preview with Tom Dienhart
Oklahoma vs. Texas (Cotton Bowl, Dallas)
Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ABC
Spread: Oklahoma -13.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Texas Defense Must Show Up
Texas can't stop ANYONE. In five games, the Longhorns have given up 205 points. That is an average of 41 points per game. No team can win a game where they must overcome 41 points. The biggest problem for this defense is that it doesn't have a strength. The Longhorns are not good at stopping the run or the pass, which puts them at a considerable disadvantage, considering the Sooners' offense is good at both of those. This is the wrong kind of game for a struggling team to find its defensive identity, but find it they must.
2. Ladies and Gentlemen... Baker Mayfield
Mayfield does it all. He runs for TDs (4). He throws TDs (13) and he is very good at it. Mayfield will solidify himself (if he hasn't already) as a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate with another dominant performance. Texas (no matter how bad the Longhorns ACTUALLY look) is a nice addition to any Heisman resume and Mayfield may be able to generate a little buzz for his hopeful campaign from this game. He has scary weapons at his disposal like RB Samaje Perine, and WRs Sterling Shepherd and DeDe Westbrook, just to name a few. Mayfield is focused, and that is a dangerous thing.
3. Charlie Must Takeover His Own Future
Strong is known across college football as a defensive guru, earning that reputation during his tenure at Florida, and solidifying that at Louisville. It may be time for him to add more input to the Longhorns' defensive schemes. If the ship is going down, I would make sure that it went down with me driving. Strong's input needs to be clearly all over this game and after that, whatever happens, happens.
I have searched high and low for a reason that Texas will win this game. And other than the rivalry itself, there simply is nothing that leaps out at me. The one historical fact that does give a small pause is that in the eight times there has been a double-digit underdog in this rivalry, six of those times the underdog covered and twice the underdog won.
But let's be very clear. Texas is in real trouble. Charlie Strong and his staff are in real trouble. The Texas Longhorns football team is in real trouble. And this week will only add to those troubles. I just don't see a scenario where Texas can stop Oklahoma, or score enough points to keep up with the Sooners' dynamic offense. The Red River Showdown feels more like a duel with only one participant armed.
Good luck with that Texas.
Prediction: Oklahoma 48, Texas 14
— Written by Lloyd H. Spence, Jr., who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Spence also has written for the Dallas Morning News, Yahoo!'s Rivals.com, and ESPN Louisville. He can be heard on the radio of "Talkin NOIZ" and "The Football Show of Collin County." Follow him on Twitter @TalkinNOIZ.