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Inside the Gameplan: Red River roundup

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The beginning of Texas’ 2019 Big 12 schedule would have been absolutely brutal in 2018. After the Rice game the Longhorns start their league slate with Mike Gundy’s Oklahoma State Cowboys, then get a bye week to “prepare for a road trip to West Virginia,” with the Red River Shootout against the Oklahoma Sooners looming the following weekend. Like any head coach with any sense, Tom Herman will pack extra anti-Sooner prep into that bye week. The likely collapse of the Mountaineers in year one after Dana Holgorsen will only increase the amount of extra Sooner gameplanning that Texas sneaks into that bye week. You’ll hear the exact opposite from Herman, the staff, the players, and gullible commentators but feel free to ignore that.

There’s an argument to be made that the Red River Shootout is considerably less important now that the Big 12 has a conference championship game and either team can sneak into it as the no. 2 team even if they drop the rivalry game or some other Big 12 contests. The 2018 season is a nice counter-argument to that since the Longhorns won the RRS and then relied on that win as a tie-breaker to elevate them into the conference title game. Additionally, the emphasis that both teams necessarily put into this game will always make it a season-defining contest. Refusing to take this game seriously sets either team up for a beating against a more intense opponent that could rock their confidence or stain the season. Some of Mack Brown’s teams know what I’m talking about.

The good news for this stretch of games is that it won’t include Taylor Cornelius, Will Grier, or Kyler Murray. All three of those QBs brought a lot of knowhow into their battles with the Texas defense in 2018. Cornelius threw for 321 yards and scored five touchdowns, Will Grier threw for 346 yards and three touchdowns while running in that two-point conversion to win the game, Kyler Murray threw for 304 and 379 yards and scored eight total touchdowns. All three schools will look to reload but it’ll nice for Texas that their collective experience in attacking Todd Orlando’s defense with their own respective systems has departed.

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History major, football theorist.