The Big 12 Report Championship week

The Red River Rematch: 3 things to watch in Texas-Oklahoma 2

The Red River Rematch: 3 things to watch in Texas-Oklahoma 2
Sam Ehlinger will be a big key for the Longhorns. Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

This year’s Big 12 Championship game should be one for the ages as Oklahoma and Texas face off in a heated rematch for the conference title. On Dec. 1 the Sooners and the Longhorns will clash in Jerry’s World (AT&T Stadium) with not only the Big 12 title on the line but also a chance at the college football playoffs for OU. Oklahoma currently sits just one spot outside the final four and a big win over a talented Texas team will go a long way in making their case to the playoff selection committee.

The last time OU and UT went head to head in week 6 the Longhorns topped the Sooners 48-45. Just as Oklahoma, lead by star quarterback and Heisman hopeful Kyler Murray thought they made a historic comeback by scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter, Texas broke Sooner fans hearts with a last second 44-yard field goal. While Texas took bragging rights for a year, OU got the last laugh after Texas would go on to lose three games and fall outside of national championship contention. Oklahoma on the other hand kept from losing another game all season and holds one of the best records in the nation at 11-1. Now the two will face off again for what is looking to be an epic battle.

3 things to watch for

The elite quarterback showdown: While Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray has captured the attention of the nation all season with jaw dropping displays of athleticism and big play ability, Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger should not be overlooked. Ehlinger has not only been one of the most prolific passers this year but also has been one of the most efficient. The young star has racked up 24 touchdowns while only throwing four interceptions. Another big element of Ehlinger's game that separates him as one of the best young quarterbacks in college football is his physical but elusive running ability. Ehlinger has toted the rock 128 times for 376 yards and an impressive 11 touchdowns. The Longhorns dynamic leader causes fits for opposing defenses and will look to do so for a second time this season vs. Oklahoma. While there is no doubt that Ehlinger is an elite talent, he will be hard pressed to steal the show from Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray. In his first year as a starting quarterback on the collegiate level Murray is ranked 7th in the nation with 3,674 passing yards with 37 touchdowns and like Ehlinger is a dangerous threat with his legs as well. Murray has racked up 853 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns in 2018. No matter which way you look at it, these two young stars will be the highlight of the Big 12 championship and are sure to go blow for blow on Saturday.

Which playmakers will outshine the others? While the quarterbacks in this matchup are true next level talents, a large part of their success is directly related to the playmakers they have at the wide receiver position. Both the Longhorns and the Sooners have wide receiver duos that are among the best and most dangerous in all of college football. What is interesting is the fact that they do it with completely different styles. Texas has two towering wide receivers in 6’6 Collin Johnson and 6’4 Lil’ Jordan Humphrey, who play with a physicality that utilizes their size advantage to dominate opposing defensive backs. Oklahoma on the other hand relies on two speedsters at the wide receiver position, CeeDee Lamb and Marquise Brown, who constantly take the top off of defenses and live for the deep ball. Brown and Lamb are amongst the tops in the country in yards per reception, both averaging more than 17 per.

Not only has the duo combined for over 2,000 yards this season but they have also been responsible for 19 total touchdowns. Though Johnson’s and Humphrey’s numbers may not be as jaw dropping, the Texas duo still deserves their respect as they have combined for nearly 1,800 yards and 14 touchdowns, in an offense that is not nearly as fast paced or pass oriented as the Sooners. Putting all the numbers and accomplishments aside, these dangerous playmakers will have plenty of chances to impact the game on Saturday and could very likely make the play that ultimately decides which one of their teams come out on top.

Whose defense will show up? The final aspect of this game to keep your eye on is the defensive comparison. While the Longhorns defense arguably has the more difficult assignment ahead of them trying to slow down one of the most prolific and dangerous offenses in college football, Oklahoma’s defense has struggled mightily in 2018 and has already been gashed by Texas once this season.

In their first matchup this season both defenses gave up over 500 yards of total offense. The biggest difference was the fact that the Longhorns defense was able to collect the lone turnover of the game when safety Brandon Jones intercepted Kyler Murray. What this shows is whichever defense is able to win the turnover battle, will most likely give their team a greater chance of winning the game as well. Don’t be surprised if defensive playmaking turns out to be the deciding factor or difference maker in this heated rematch, despite all the focus on each team’s offensive capabilities.

 

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Astros defeat the Orioles, 5-1. Composite Getty Image.

Ronel Blanco pitched seven strong innings and Chas McCormick homered twice to lead the Houston Astros to a 5-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday.

Yordan Alvarez added a two-run shot to help Houston extend its winning streak to four games.

Blanco (8-2), who threw seven hitless innings in his last start, allowed four hits and a run with three strikeouts for his third straight win.

Alvarez put the Astros on top with his 16th homer, which came off Corbin Burnes (8-3) in the third, and McCormick made it 4-1 in the fifth. McCormick got his fifth career multihomer game when he connected again in the eighth.

Burnes allowed five hits, including a season-high two homers and a season-most four runs in seven innings to snap his career-best streak of 10 consecutive quality starts. He was 5-0 in seven starts since a loss at Washington on May 7.

Jordan Westburg homered in the second for the Orioles, who set a franchise record with 21 straight games with a home run to surpass the 1998 squad's 20-game streak.

Baltimore had troubled stringing hits together Saturday after scoring 28 runs combined in the last two games. The top four batters in their order combined to go 1 for 13 against Blanco and Houston's bullpen.

Ryan Pressly threw a scoreless eighth before Josh Hader struck out two in a perfect ninth to end it.

Westburg connected off Blanco with one out in the second to put the Orioles up 1-0.

Yainer Diaz opened Houston’s second with a triple on a line drive to right field. The Astros tied it when he scored on a sacrifice fly by Mauricio Dubón with one out.

McCormick singled with no outs in the third and the shot to center field by Alvarez came with two outs to put Houston on top 3-1.

McCormick’s home run to the seats in left field extended the lead to 4-1 with one out in the fifth.

Cedric Mullins tripled off the wall in center with one out in the seventh. Colton Cowser hit a sharp line drive, but was robbed of a hit when shortstop Jeremy Peña made a leaping catch for the second out. Blanco then retired Ramón Urías to end the inning and leave Mullins stranded.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: RHP Jake Bloss, who made his major league debut Friday night, was placed on the injured list with right shoulder discomfort.

ROSTER MOVES

Astros: RHP Nick Hernandez was optioned to Triple-A Sugar Land on Friday night. ... LHP Bryan King was selected to the MLB roster and RHP Luis Contreras was recalled from Sugar Land on Saturday. … RHP Alex Speas was designated for assignment.

UP NEXT

Houston LHP Framber Valdez (5-5, 3.91 ERA) opposes RHP Albert Suárez (3-1, 2.05) in the series finale Sunday.

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