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It’s October, which means thousands of Sooners and Longhorns fans will be heading to Dallas this weekend for the 113th Red River Shootout between Oklahoma and Texas. College Gameday will also be at the Cotton Bowl for the highly anticipated matchup between the No. 19 Longhorns and No. 7 Sooners.
Oklahoma comes into the game undefeated at 5-0, while Texas is 4-1 following four straight wins after their opening weekend loss to Maryland. The winner of Saturday’s showdown will be in the driver’s seat in the Big 12 and remain undefeated in conference play. While both teams possess a multitude of great players, including a Heisman Trophy front-runner and one of the best wide receivers in the country, here’s a look at a couple players from both sides who will play a big role in the outcome of Saturday’s game.
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Kyler Murray, quarterback
The Oakland Athletics’ first-round draft pick and starting quarterback for the Sooners has lit up scoreboards in Oklahoma’s first five games of the season. Murray, who led the Allen High School (TX) Eagles to three straight state titles and never lost a game as starting quarterback in high school going 43-0, has terrorized opposing defenses this season with his arms and legs.
The redshirt junior is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in college football and has surpassed 1,700 yards of total offense to this point. Murray has accounted for 21 touchdowns and only thrown 2 interceptions, while being sacked just five times, showing off his elusiveness. The 5-foot-10, 195-pound Murray has emerged as a favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, but Saturday’s game will pose just as much of a challenge for him as it will the Longhorns’ defense. The Sooners’ signal caller will be a threat through the air and on the ground, and for Texas to win Saturday they need to keep Murray from having a big game.
Marquise Brown, wide reciever
Marquise Brown, also known as “Hollywood,” has been Oklahoma’s top receiving threat both this season and last season. The 5-foot-10, 168-pound receiver’s biggest skill is his lightning-quick speed.Long before Brown arrived in Norman, everyone in his hometown of Hollywood, Florida called him “Jet” because of his speed on the football field.
The junior wide receiver has caught 81 passes for over 1,600 yards and scored 12 touchdowns during his 18 games in a Sooner uniform. He has been the team’s leading receiver again this year and continues to put up big numbers with his break-away speed. The Longhorns’ secondary will have their hands full with the 2017 All-Big 12 Honorable Mention wideout, who has been Kyler Murray’s favorite target this season. If the Texas secondary can limit big plays between Murray and Brown, they will give themselves a great chance to come out on top Saturday.
Keaontay Ingram, running back
Texas has experimented with several running backs during the first five games of 2018, including Tre Watson, Keaontay Ingram and Daniel Young. The 6-foot, 205-pound Ingram stands out among the three so far this season, averaging 6.1 yards per carry. While he only has two touchdowns on the season, that’s more than Watson and Young have combined on the ground. Ingram, who hails from Carthage, Texas, is tied for fourth in catches (10), leading the other running backs in that category.
Ingram, as a freshman, has been more efficient running and catching the ball than Watson and Young. With the other guys failing to separate themselves from the pack, Ingram is poised to break out against the Sooners and earn the starting job in the backfield. Ingram will play a significant role in the Longhorns’ offense Saturday, and if they feed him the ball, he should put them in a great position to beat Oklahoma.
Collin Johnson, wide receiver
Marquise Brown is a huge weapon on the outside for Oklahoma, but Texas also has a big-time receiver in junior Collin Johnson. At 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, Johnson is a freak athlete and can go up and get any ball you throw his way. He has used his size advantage to amass over 1,400 yards on 106 catches in his three seasons in Austin. Johnson enjoyed a special season last year with the Longhorns in which he led the team in receptions (54) and receiving yards (765), and became a household name at his position across the college football sphere.
Some people, including myself, thought Johnson might forego his junior season and enter the NFL, but he chose to come back and has proven to again be a force for the Longhorns this season. Johnson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey have been quarterback Sam Ehlinger’s favorite targets this season and should be heavily involved in the Longhorns’ passing game. Look for Johnson to use his intimidating physical presence on the outside to create mismatches with the Oklahoma secondary and open up opportunities in the red zone.
Both Sooners and Longhorns fans alike should have their popcorn, or corn dogs, ready for when the two teams hit the field Saturday at the Cotton Bowl. There will be plenty of fireworks on the field as these elite athletes battle it out in the shadow of Big Tex. They will not only be playing for the Golden Hat, but also to keep their chances at a Big 12 title and national championship alive.