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  • Texas is 5-0 against the spread in the last five Red River Shootouts. But it will be tough for the Longhorns to slow down Oklahoma's Kyler Murray enough to stay within a touchdown of the Sooners.
By Sam Chase
October 02, 2018

Oklahoma Sooners vs. Texas Longhorns (+7.5)

Sat. 10/6, 12:00 p.m. ET in Dallas, TX

Three things to know before betting on Oklahoma-Texas:

1. Saturday's game between Oklahoma and Texas at the Cotton Bowl will mark the 113th playing of the Red River Shootout. The Longhorns enter with the all-time series lead (61-46-5), but it has been the Sooners dominating the rivalry in recent years, winning six of eight Shootouts played this decade. Texas was an underdog in all eight of those games, but has gone undefeated against the spread in the last five contests. Thanks to a 4-1 start that includes an impressive win over TCU two weeks ago, the Longhorns are getting the fewest points (7.5) against Oklahoma since 2011.

Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley and Texas coach Tom Herman are each in their second season at their respective programs. Their inaugural Shootout in 2017 was a fun one. After jumping out to a 20-0 lead in the first half, Oklahoma, which entered as a nine-point favorite, trailed 24-23 midway through the fourth quarter before getting a game-winning touchdown pass from Baker Mayfield. And while Herman failed to knock off the Sooners last year, he has done it before. The season prior, his Houston Cougars took down Oklahoma to open the season.

2. After a crushing season-opening loss to Maryland—the second straight year Texas suffered an upset to the Terrapins to start off its schedule—Herman's Longhorns have looked solid. After going down 14-3 to USC at home three weeks ago, the Horns scored 34 straight points to roll to a 37-14 victory. The week after that came a statement win, when they dominated late in the game to take down TCU 31-16 as 2.5-point home underdogs.

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Much of that success can be attributed to the development of sophomore quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who has thrown nine touchdowns and just two interceptions to this point. Wideouts Lil'Jordan Humphrey (402 yards, 3 TDs) and Collin Johnson (350 yards, 3 TDs) have both contributed to that improvement and benefited from it.

Texas got off to a hot start at Kansas State last weekend, jumping out to a 19-0 halftime lead thanks in part to a 90-yard punt return TD and a safety. But in the second half, the Wildcats controlled the ball, the Longhorns' offense stalled, but Texas escaped with a 19-14 victory. According to Herman—who was calling the plays with offensive coordinator Tim Beck in the hospital—the play-calling became overly cautious once Texas had the lead.

"We got a bit conservative in the middle of the game," Herman said. "It turned into, 'Don't lose this game or screw it up.'"

3. Whoever's calling the plays for Texas this weekend (Beck is out of the hospital, but it's unclear when he'll be back on the sideline), he'll need to be aggressive to keep pace with an Oklahoma offense that is averaging 48.6 points per game. Quarterback Kyler Murray, a top-tier Heisman candidate, had an explosive game against Baylor last weekend, completing 17 of 21 passes for 432 yards and six touchdowns, and adding 45 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground. Murray has completed a touchdown pass of 58 yards or longer in four of the Sooners' five games, and he leads the nation with 13.4 yards per attempt.

The Texas defense is solid, ranking 28th in the nation with 4.8 yards allowed per play, but its weakness is allowing big plays, which could be exploited by Murray and the Sooners. Until the victory at KSU, Texas had allowed a touchdown play of 20 yards or longer in all four of its games and a touchdown of 30 yards or longer in three of the four. And while Longhorns fans would like to view the Maryland loss as an outlier at this point in the season, the damage done through the air by the Terrapins suggests that Oklahoma could do even more with speedster wideouts CeeDee Lamb and Marquise Brown.

Part of the Longhorns' problem with big plays stems from their inability to pressure opposing quarterbacks. Texas ranks 122nd in FBS with a dismal sack rate of 3.0%. With Murray unperturbed by a pass rush, it's hard to see him not putting up huge numbers once again this week. And as improved as Ehlinger is this season, keeping pace with an in-tune Oklahoma offense is a lot to ask.

Pick: Oklahoma -7.5

Confidence Level: High (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)

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