Oklahoma-Texas: Under the Radar
OU-Texas has a habit of making legends out of the most unexpected players. Saturday will be another opportunity for someone to be forever ingrained in the lore of Oklahoma football history as the No. 6-ranked Sooners meet the No. 21 Longhorns at 11 a.m. The SI Sooners staff tried their hand at predicting what under-the-radar players could turn up huge inside the Cotton Bowl on Saturday.
Expect the Longhorns to deploy a lot of "12" personnel – that is, one running back, two tight ends. It's a heavy formation designed to overwhelm defenses at the line of scrimmage with extra blockers. The "1" is clear – star running back Bijan Robinson and backup Roschon Johnson are both physical, pounding backs with good power and acceleration into contact. But the "2" will be a mix of 6-foot-4, 243-pound Cade Brewer, 6-7, 251-pound Jared Wiley and 6-5, 238-pound Gunnar Helm. They've combined for just 8 catches for 65 yards and two touchdowns this season, but forget their contributions in the passing game. They're going to be asked Saturday to block. Brewer, a senior, has 27 career starts and has been through these fires. Wiley, a junior, is a physical beast. Helm, a true freshman, is considered the next great Texas tight end. Running with power into the teeth of Oklahoma's defense – and minimizing the stress on one-time Sooner offer, Norman local and OU legacy quarterback Casey Thompson – will be Steve Sarkisian's most direct path to his first Red River Rivalry win.
Drake Stoops only had two catches against the Longhorns last year, but none was more important than his 25-yard touchdown catch that proved to be the game winner. Though he’s never been the highest volume receiver at Oklahoma, Stoops has proven time and time again to be reliable in big moments, popping up with crucial third-down catches to move the chains and keep drives rolling. While OU’s downfield passing game has struggled all year long, Stoops could again be a key cog in keeping the Oklahoma machine rumbling down the tracks toward the Texas end zone. Stoops' ability to find the holes in the defense over the middle could be key while Texas’ linebackers, much like OU, often get lost in traffic over the middle. Despite a plethora of 5-star pass catchers to choose from, it could be Stoops who proves to be the difference when Oklahoma needs a big catch.
It has been well-documented that the Oklahoma linebackers have had a disappointing start to their season with David Ugwoegbu being right at the heart of that. Ugwoegbu’s raw talent is obvious, which is what makes his slow start and lack of impact plays so puzzling. So, it seems like this is the perfect opportunity for a breakout game. Watch for Ugwoegbu to make at least one truly game-changing play in this game like he did last year, when he blocked a punt and recovered it to set up a Sooner touchdown. Whether it's a big forced fumble or dropping back to intercept a pass from Casey Thompson or something again on special teams, this will be the day where Ugwoegbu begins a strong finish to the season.