Setting the stage: OU-Texas

Texas RB Johnathan Gray

What is going to be the telling story of the Red River Rivalry? Who is going to make the big play that matters most? Who will win?

SoonersIllustrated.com is going to set the stage every week breaking down Oklahoma's game during the 2013 season.

No. 12 OU (5-0, 2-0) vs. Texas (3-2, 2-0)

When: 11 a.m. CST Saturday, Cotton Bowl, Dallas

OU's biggest question going into the game

How will the defense react without Corey Nelson on the field? There's going to come a time or maybe a couple of times where OU fans will be saying "this never would have happened with Nelson out there."

That doesn't even mean Dominique Alexander or Aaron Franklin will play poorly, but you simply do not replace somebody like Nelson without a few hiccups.

"We definitely lose a great leader and communicator and a great athlete," linebacker Eric Striker said. "As far as communicating, he was the best at it – putting guys out there on the right spot on the field if anybody was confused. Somebody else has to step up and take the role."

OU will find a solution, but the question is will it have the answer Saturday morning? With the strength of Texas' offense being the running game, the loss of Nelson hurts OU even more than normal. Will it be something the Longhorns can take advantage of and make the Sooners pay?

Texas' biggest question going into the game

Is a wounded dog the scariest of them all? OU and Texas players have heard for the last few weeks about how this is going to be a Red River Romp for the Sooners.

Texas' defense hasn't shown the ability to stop anybody, and despite a potent running attack, the Longhorns offense isn't keeping people up at night, either.

Is that the worst thing that can be happening? Both schools are 2-0 in conference play, but it feels like Texas could play with a nothing to lose attitude.

"Coming into this game they don't have probably the most desirable record," OU defensive lineman Geneo Grissom said. "They want to make a splash. We've got to be ready to bring our A-game because we know they'll be bringing theirs.

"They have nothing to lose at this point so we have to make sure we're ready and clicking on all cylinders."

The Longhorns defense has shown signs of steady improvement under Greg Robinson, and this could be the breakout game for running back Johnathan Gray.

Most of the time it's a pick ‘em showdown that has both teams on edge. OU coaches have preached not being complacent. We'll find out Saturday if that worked.

Quotable

"I think of just a big rivalry, big tradition game. I think of coming out of that tunnel and seeing that split. It's just something you can never put into words. You can't put into words coming out of that tunnel." – OU defensive back Julian Wilson

Breakout player

Again, feeling pretty good in this department. Eric Striker came through two weeks ago, and Brennan Clay delivered the knockout blow last week. Going to go back to the defensive side of the ball and say this is a major game for senior captain cornerback Aaron Colvin. He has a knack for making the big play against the Longhorns, and he's going to do it one more year.

Prediction

OU 41, Texas 20. It feels weird even typing that large of a margin, but it's tough to see where the Longhorns can best the Sooners right now. OU's offense hasn't always been a well-oiled machine, but there are so many difference makers that all it takes is for one or two of them to be rolling. This week it's going to be Jalen Saunders and Blake Bell, who will connect two times for touchdowns as the Golden Hat stays in Norman.

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