No. 10 OU needs a win over the struggling Longhorns

Trap game: A game in which a highly favored team with a lot to lose is subject to an upset over a team with multiple losses or a low reputation.

No. 10 Oklahoma is heavily favored to crush the Texas Longhorns Saturday in Dallas in the Red River Rivalry game at the Cotton Bowl. The Sooners are 4-0 after blasting previously No. 24 West Virginia 44-24 in Norman last Saturday.

Texas, on the other hand, is reeling after an historic 7-50 loss to rival TCU in Fort Worth. The Longhorns are 1-4 for the first time since the 1950s after losses to No. 15 Notre Dame, No. 23 California and No. 21 Oklahoma State. Texas did manage to beat Rice.

An indication of the perceived mismatch is the price of tickets for resale in the sold-out Cotton Bowl. On one website, the cheapest ticket is $120 in the Texas half of the stadium. The cheapest ticket on the OU side is $150 and there were only seven left at that price Monday. At the 50 yard line, Texas tickets are reselling for $275 while OU tickets go for $400.

“We are very aware of the tough schedule [which] is probably the most that is overlooked in regards to Texas and where they’re at right now,” said OU coach Bob Stoops. “Their four losses are to four ranked teams. I believe, it was just pointed out to me, that those four teams are 19-1. So they’ve probably played the toughest schedule to this point of anybody in the country with a couple of tight losses to Cal and Oklahoma State.

“We understand they’ll work hard and they’ll play hard. There’s a lot of good football players out there as you watch them and put on the tape. I know coach [Charlie] Strong and his staff do an excellent job. We’ve got to keep preparing to be our best. We’re not even five games into [the season], so we’ve got to really push to make our improvement. I’m still really angry with our team, disappointed, on our lack of discipline. We’ve got way too many foolish penalties that will hurt us. We continue to have two turnovers a game, which can’t happen. We’ve got to do some things across the board in every area to get better. That’s what we’re really going to focus on this week.”

A loss to Texas would damage Oklahoma’s chances for a Big 12 title and might knock them completely out of a shot at a playoff spot. A win by Texas would give Longhorn fans a reason to want their coach to hang around at least through the end of the year.

“I told [the team] we’re not going to give up and we’re not going to give in,” said second year Texas coach Charlie Strong.  “We have to learn how to compete. We don’t know how to compete yet. There’s something about pride – pride in yourself. It’s a very competitive sport- this is a game of life. You have to know when things aren’t going right, that someone has to step up. That’s just not what we’re getting right now. “

Texas was so bad against TCU that cornerback Kris Boyd at half-time retweeted a message from a fan indicating he should transfer to Texas A&M. Boyd has apologized for that indiscretion.

Texas is No. 90 in total offense, averaging  just 339 yards per game. OU is averaging 522 yards per game – 193 more yards.

“I feel that we have a lot of things to get done, as far as offense,” said Longhorn quarterback Jarrod Heard. “I think we got out executed… That lack of execution hurt everyone. Another part of that is having heart, we can’t get down. We have a big game next week, and we’re not a team that can’t battle. We’ve shown it before, but today was one of those games that…it took the best of us and we lost.”

On defense, OU ranks No. 28 in the country, allowing 363 yards per contest. Texas is surrendering 507 yards per game and is just four spots from the bottom at No. 125.

“It’s a big game,” said Texas linebacker Peter Jinkens said. “Hopefully, we’re ready to play this game. It’s a rivalry game in Dallas. We’ve got to just play.”

Against West Virginia, OU quarterback Baker Mayfield was outstanding, hitting 14 of 25 passes for 320 yards passing and three touchdowns. That came against a West Virginia defense that entered the game allowing a Big 12-low 154 passing yards per game. Mayfield has 17 touchdown passes in four games – that ties him with former OU great Josh Heupel for the number of TD passes in his first four starts. Mayfield has three thrown at least three TD passes in each game and has passed for more than 300 yards in three of four games.

Mayfield, who transferred from Texas Tech to OU, is from Texas. He can’t wait to play the Longhorns. “Yeah, it’s always a game you want to play in as a little kid and now it’s finally here,” he said. “Preparation starts now. Even with how they’re playing right now, you can’t go in there and take them lightly. That’s how rivalry games are. We’re going to go in there and give it our best shot.”

OU’s offense ran 58 total plays to West Virginia’s 87 on Saturday but outgained the Mountaineers, 427-369 (7.4 yards per play to 4.3).

Wideout Durron Neal had his fourth career touchdown on a 71-yard pass in the third quarter from Mayfield. Neal’s 87 yards receiving were a career high.  Running back Samaje Perine had 65 yards for the game to give him 2,041 for his career.

OU linebacker Jordan Evans recognizes the challenge of a wounded Texas team. He doesn’t believe UT is as bad as commentators say.

“Yeah, we’re not going to listen to that,” Evans said. “We’re just focused on us this week. It’s a rivalry game… They’re going to be really focused on beating us, so we’re just focused on us getting better and have a great game against Texas.”

OU’s defense picked off West Virginia quarterback Skyler Howard three times Saturday. The Sooners’ defense had five turnovers (three interceptions, two fumble recoveries) against WVU, its most in a game since the 2014 Sugar Bowl against Alabama.

Oklahoma finished with seven sacks versus WVU, its most in a game since the 2014 Sugar Bowl against Alabama. Eric Striker recorded two sacks for the Sooners to up his career total to 18, most ever by an OU linebacker.

“I was just out there having fun, doing my assignment and going hard on every snap,” Striker said. “It was a very tough opponent. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t tough. It’s always a fight until the end with them (West Virginia).”

Striker, who was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week, forced a fumble that was returned by Evans 41 yards for a touchdown to help ice the Sooners’ second win over a ranked opponent this season.

OU freshman kicker Austin Seibert was named Big 12 Special team player of the week. He made all three of his field goal attempts and each of his five point-after tries while also averaging 43.4 yards on his five punts. His field goals came from 40, 25 and 44 yards as he moved into first place among Big 12 kickers (second overall) in points per game (10.5). Three of Seibert’s punts were downed inside the 20-yard line and two went for more than 50 yards (51 and 58). Seibert is perfect on his kick attempts on the year, connecting on all seven field goal and all 21 of his point-after tries.

“The first guy getting the game ball was Austin Seibert,” said Stoops. “Again, guy was just perfect on the day [keeping] the ball down the middle. He punted well and it was a solid day.”