(Photo: USA Today)
One of the most historic rivalries in college football takes center stage on Saturday as Texas and Oklahoma meet in the Cotton Bowl. The Longhorns enter the matchup 3-2 overall and 1-1 in Big 12 play, meanwhile Oklahoma also enters with a 3-2 record but is 0-2 in Big 12 play.
There are a ton of question marks surround the Sooners this week, specifically on the injury front. Let's take a look at what to expect from Oklahoma on both sides of the ball.
The most notable injury for Oklahoma was a concussion suffered by starting QB Dillon Gabriel. Gabriel exited the TCU game in the second quarter following the hit and did not return. It is unknown if he will be cleared and available on Saturday. If he is available, the left-handed transfer from UCF will look to build off a solid start to the season (11 TD's compared to 0 INT's). Gabriel has struggled with accuracy at times, ranking 8th in the Big 12 in completion %, and has a tendency to struggle with throws outside the hashes. He also is not afraid to use his legs situationally.
If Gabriel is not available, the Sooners will likely be turning to backup QB Davis Beville. Beville transferred to Oklahoma following 3 years at Pitt where he served as a backup. He struggled in limited action against TCU, completing 7 of 16 passes for 50 yards.
Starting RB Eric Gray is another player who exited the game against TCU due to injury. When healthy, he is a solid RB who has 460 yards and 3 touchdowns on the season. Backup Marcus Major did not travel to Fort Worth due to injury and is questionable for the game against Texas. Freshman Jovantae Barnes saw extended action last week and ran for 100 yards on 18 carries.
Wide receiver is another position that could be potentially impacted by injury. Theo Wease, who ranks 2nd on the team in receiving yards, is banged up and questionable for Saturday. Marvin Mims ranks 2nd in receiving yards in the Big 12 and is having a bounce-back season after a relatively quiet 2021. TE Brayden Willis is a chess piece offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby likes to move around.
Oklahoma returned a lot of experience on the offensive line and the unit has played relatively well through 5 games. Starting RT Wanya Morris was in a sling during the second half last weekend and is questionable at best to play Saturday. If Morris can't go, sophomore Tyler Guyton will likely start in his place. The rest of the offensive line is okay to above average.
Oklahoma allowed 668 yards to TCU last weekend. The Sooners sprung leaks multiple times at different levels of the defense, allowing touchdown plays of 73, 67, 62 and 69 yards. The Oklahoma defensive line has bounced between a 3 and 4 man front of much of the season. DE Ethan Downs is a promising player who has registered 2.5 sacks on the season. The interior of the OU DL has been suspect for much of the year.
The Oklahoma linebackers have shown flashes but are still searching for consistency. DaShaun White is playing a new position and new middle linebacker David Ugwoegbu has struggled mightily the last few weeks.
In the secondary, an injury to starting safety Billy Bowman looms large. Bowman was becoming one of the better players on the Oklahoma defense. Starting corners Jaden Davis and Woodi Washington did not have good games in Fort Worth, and the Sooners secondary as a whole struggled to defend the deep ball.
The amount of injuries for the Sooners makes this game very tough to analyze and predict. It is also tough to know where Oklahoma is at mentally. This rivalry has had some crazy twists and turns, including a Texas team in 2015 who lost 50-7 to TCU the week before going into the Cotton Bowl and beating a OU team who made the college football playoff. One would think that OU will pick themselves up and be ready for a fight, but what the Sooners have shown the last few weeks is alarming. Brent Venables is a good defensive mind who will surely have a trick or two up his sleeve for the Texas offense, but for the first time in over a decade, the Longhorns look like the better team on paper.