The Big 12 Report Championship week

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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Walter will host The Night of Champions. Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images.

In 2014, Austin Walter rushed for 2,704 yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior at Crosby High School. Despite falling short of a state title, Walter was named District 19-4A MVP and finished his prep career with a little over 6,000 rushing yards on 613 carries (6,062 yds). Seven years later, Walter will be returning to his high school alma mater to give back to the community that laid the foundation for an NFL career as a member of the San Francisco 49ers.

"It's a blessing to be able to come from a small town and be one of the guys who made it out," Walter said. "Not a lot of people made it to the NFL or the NBA from Crosby High School. To be one of the first, it's an amazing feeling. It's a blessing and an honor."

On Thursday, April 15, Walter will host The Night of Champions to benefit the Crosby High School Booster Club from 6-9 p.m. The event will be a weight lifting competition at Crosby High School for student-athletes around the area to showcase their talents and abilities.

In addition to hosting a weight lifting showcase, Walter will also share his life teachings with student-athletes in attendance. Perseverance and not taking no for an answer will be one of the most vital messages the Crosby native will share with aspiring pro-athletes. It's the two virtues Walter has leaned on from little league football to the NFL. And as an undrafted prospect in 2019, it was that same morale that helped him outshine six other running backs during the 49ers rookie training camp that same year.

"Before I started playing football in high school, a lot of people thought I was too small," Walter said. "They thought because we played little league and not in middle school we would not make it in high school. My twin brother [Ashton Walter] and I did not listen to that. We just kept pushing forward."

"When I left Rice, people thought I was going to play in the Canadian league or AFF, and I did not take no for an answer. I believed in myself. And I believed in God. And if I can make it out of a small town like Crosby, anybody can make it...It's the mentality I've had my entire life of not quitting. I feel like that is what got me to the point I am at right now."

Whether their life goal is to play in the NFL or not, Walter's primary objective for The Night of Champions is to be an inspiration and show kids they can find success despite their environment. It is one of the things the former XFL running back (Dallas Renegades) wished he would have seen growing up in Crosby.

After graduating from Crosby High School, Walter went on to have a record-breaking collegiate career at Rice University. He became one of two players in school history to rush for over 1,500 yards (1,744 yds.) and 1,000 kick return yards (1,548 yds.) in four seasons with the Owls. In February, Walter signed a one-year contract extension to re-join the 49ers ahead of the 2021 NFL season.

Click here to learn more about The Night of Champions at Crosby High School or support Walter and the Crosby High School Booster Club.

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