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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RAVENS 33, TEXANS 16

5 observations from the Ravens win over the Texans

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Let's be honest; the Texans were not going to beat the Ravens. Baltimore has better players, a better quarterback and a better coaching staff. (And oh, a better kicker). All of that was on display in the Ravens' 33-16 win.

The Ravens move to 2-0, while the Texans dropped to 0-2 after facing the AFC's two best teams.

The Texans will still likely contend for a playoff spot, but nothing the last two weeks indicates they are anywhere near contending in the AFC. A look at five things from the Ravens win:

1) Oh, Brien...It did not take long for Bill O'Brien's goofy coaching to rear its ugly head. Down 3-0 at their own 34 as the first quarter was running out, O'Brien chose to go for it on fourth and one. The play was predictably blown up, the Ravens quickly scored to make it 10-0, and the Texans were instantly in a hole against a superior opponent. You can't give points away against the Ravens. They might have scored anyway with a punt, but there was no stopping them with a short field.

2) Some positives on defense. Despite the score, The Texans looked much better on that side of the ball against an explosive offense. J.J. Watt had two sacks, the team had four total, and they kept Lamar Jackson from destroying them. Seven of the points were scored by the Ravens defense, and O'Brien's gaffe led to seven more. The Ravens wore them down in the fourth quarter, but they played well enough until then to keep the team in the game had the offense been better. They did not force any turnovers, however, and that was one of the differences in the game. They were also blown off the ball on a fourth and one in the fourth quarter that led to the Ravens' 30th points and could not stop the run at all in the fourth quarter. But that's what the Ravens do with a lead, and the Texans offense gave them no breaks by being unable to stay on the field.

3) The difference between real contenders...The Ravens were just so much more skilled on both sides of the ball. Defensively, they focused on taking away the run. David Johnson averaged 3.1 yards per carry. Will Fuller had as many catches as you did. The Ravens forced two turnovers on just really good football plays. The Texans don't make plays like that. They might against lesser teams, but if your goal is to compete with the best, it's just not good enough.

4) Deshaun Watson needs to be better. His numbers looked so so on the surface (25 of 36, 275 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception). He was sacked four times and added 17 rushing yards on five carries. He did not make plays late when they needed one here or there to maybe get back in the game. With his big contract, it's time for Watson to stop being close to elite and take the next step. His interception was more of being fooled by Marcus Peters than throwing a bad ball, but the Texans were just 3 of 9 on third downs. Throw in the ill-advised fourth down play, and they were just 3 of 10 extending drives. Give the Ravens a lot of credit, but again, to compete with the best, you have to be better than that.

5) Now what? The Texans travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers, who have not been impressive in their two wins. Still, it's hard to see Houston as anything but serious underdogs. They are last in the AFC South, and have a lot of work to do. The defense showed some promise at times, but will have to continue to improve. The offense has a long way to go. They match up better with the Steelers than they do the Ravens and Chiefs, but that does not mean they can win. If you were hoping they would give you some indication they can be more than just also-rans, they failed to do that on any level against either the Chiefs or Ravens.

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