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On the eve of the Red River Shootout, a conversation about the dynamic between the two programs, the keys to the game and where the rivalry goes from here.
** An IM conversation between two crack members of the SBN Dallas news team.
Ian Boyd: I was going to do an Athens-Sparta parallel to preview the Texas-OU game, but it would have taken too many words and not really contributed.
Jonathan Tjarks: It's about of equal importance in terms of historical significance.
Boyd: Agreed. In looking at the preview I wrote, anything stand out to you?
Tjarks: The part about whether the field has caught up to the two schools is very interesting. I was at UT from 05-09 and there weren't many home games that had the feel of the West VA game. Not very many big games in Austin with the rest of the conference so down and the OU game in Dallas every year.
Boyd: Yeah, I was there in that same period.
Tjarks: How many top 10 teams even went to Austin in that span? Ohio State in '07 and Missouri in '08?
Boyd: We were crazy loud for the Mizzou game. OSU -- there just weren't many chances to impact the game. The 12-7 defeat to A&M was another loud, semi-big game me.
Tjarks: I really would have liked to watch Johnny Football play in the Big 12; it's too bad A&M left just as they got interesting. I still don't know that any of these other Big 12 programs have the recruiting base to stay with the Longhorns and Sooners though. How much talent is in the West VA area? Everyone else is pretty much fighting for scraps in Texas.
Boyd: I think the opportunity for Texas and OU is on the lines. No matter how much the spread takes hold, it's still really useful to have athletic 300 pounders and there are only so many to go around, athletic 250 pounders too. Texas yielded that advantage until last year.
Tjarks: Watching Jeffcoat and Okafor last week was pretty instructive.
Boyd: We're wasting our crazy talented DL now with our embarrassing LB play.
Tjarks: I watch Demarcus Ware a lot on the Cowboys and it's absurd; there's no way to really block that type of thing. Sometimes he'll just bull-rush dudes and knock an NFL LT to the ground in 1-2 seconds.
Boyd: Yeah, Ware is crazy good. OU doesn't have anyone like that right now. Thank God those guys are rare too.
Tjarks: Is Jordan Hicks coming back for this game?
Boyd: Maybe, groin pull though, so who knows? And if he does play, will he be able to change direction?
Tjarks: How much does he help if healthy?
Boyd: A ton. He knows how to take on blocks; the others are not very good even at that. It's disturbing; you get the sense that Diaz doesn't know how to coach linebackers, and I'm reminded that his last 2 years he's had seniors trained by other guys.
Tjarks: That is interesting. He certainly didn't need to coach up Keenan Robinson and Manny Acho too much. Has Hicks lived up to being a 5-star recruit?
Boyd: I think he will if he stays healthy. I really like him; I think he shows a lot of impressive things. Edmond needs serious seasoning, but he played like 2A ball vs 150 pound white kids so that's to be expected. Cobbs has every athletic skill you would want, but he plays like a powerfully built 2-guard unleashed on a field.
Tjarks: If I'm OU, I'd think about using the Belldozer a lot. He was apparently a pro-style QB in high school, which is a fairly mind-boggling idea.
Boyd: Pro-style? I wouldn't have guessed that. I just assumed they ran spread option. He is willing in contact; he just doesn't know what he's doing
Tjarks: 3rd and less than 5, I have a hard time seeing the Texas defense holding up against a 6'6 250 running QB.
Boyd: I anticipate defeat because I think our run defense is so bad that it trumps every other factor, but that will be an interesting storyline to watch.
Tjarks: How is OU's defense this year? They've had a pretty soft schedule so far.
Boyd: Really solid. I'm curious to see how they handle our balance though; they usually gang up on what you do best with their secondary, which is where most of the best players are. As I talked about in my preview, I think we try and spread them out and run from 4 WR formations, with Ash as a runner.
Tjarks: Interesting. I'd like to see Johnathan Gray and Daje Johnson get the ball. Those guys are playmakers. Texas has got a ridiculous amount of weapons either way. It feels like this offense can average 35+ a game for the season. It's hard to see anyone else on this schedule giving them much trouble before Kansas State.
Boyd: If we get over 30, I think we have a great chance as far as the conference schedule. We should beat all but the Wildcats, but our atrocious run D means we're vulnerable every week. We have to find some answers there or we'll drop one to Iowa State or something.
Tjarks: The road games worked out very well this year. You don't want to waste conference home games on Texas Tech and Kansas when you can beat them anywhere. Though, at the same time, the schedule is always going to be a little easier than it appears on paper because TCU and Baylor are undercover home games anyway.
Boyd: What do you mean? If we had played them in Waco or Ft. Worth it wouldn't have hurt us?
Tjarks: I'd assume those stadiums would be 50/50. TCU for sure.
Boyd: Yeah, that's probably another reason the Frogs as the Thanksgiving Day game just isn't that satisfying.
Tjarks: A&M has got to happen eventually. If it takes the state government to do it, so be it. That's how they did it in South Carolina so that they would play Clemson every year even though they were in the SEC.
Boyd: At first, I was on board with "yeah screw them, we don't need them", now I realize that's dumb. As much as they measure themselves up to us, our identity is similarly based in looking down on them. All the people that say we don't need them still can't help but laugh at their misfortunes and pay attention to their gaffes. You can't replace the regional and cultural rivalry they offer.
Tjarks: I don't think it's a question of "need". Both schools would survive without the other, but why make the attempt? It's just an ego thing right now.
Tjarks: There's a lot of hurt feelings, but cultural rivalries are what make college sports great and ending one of your oldest rivalries hurts your program. At the same time, I'd be shocked if we don't see them in the Cotton/Champions Bowl set-up in Dallas at some point in the next few years. That would be pretty epic.