By. Geoff Ketchum
It was just a year ago when Charlie Strong enjoyed one of the greatest moments of a career that has spanned across four decades.
With the weight of the world seemingly on his shoulders in the face of a 1-4 start to begin the 2015 season, public discussion was already centered on his ability to handle the totality of being the head coach at one of the top jobs in the nation heading into a morning showdown with arch-rival Oklahoma. Those inside the Texas athletic department cringed over the thought of the atmosphere in Austin following a loss to the Sooners.
Yet, a funny thing happened on the way to Strong’s run last year.
Texas beat OU.
Not only did Texas beat an Oklahoma team that would go on to win the Big 12 and play in the college football playoffs, but it dominated the Sooners for the better part of four quarters. When the clock finally expired in the fourth quarter, Strong’s players lifted him into the air and tossed him around in the air with the jubilation normally reserved for a five-year old’s birthday party.
At that moment, it seemed as if Strong’s program had turned the corner at the perfect time.
Yet, here we are one year later and Strong is in an even more precarious position heading into the biggest game on the Texas schedule. With one of the worst defenses in college football under his watch, the 2016 season for the Longhorns has entered a free-fall stage, as Strong himself has become the fifth different coordinator to coach his team in less than 30 career games in Austin.
With his job security, hanging in wind on Saturday, you can make the case that his head coaching career at the highest-levels is on the line against the Sooners.
Making sense of what we can all expect to see in the Cotton Bowl is nearly an impossible task.
On one hand, the Sooners can absolutely be had. It’s a team that has already lost twice this season and there’s nothing special about OU’s defense that can keep it out of a shootout in most Big 12 weeks.
On the other hand, Texas is such a mess on defense/special teams and the offense is banged up to such a degree that it’s hard not to see this team playing in six days with one hand tied behind its back. Even with D’Onte Foreman expected back in the line-up after a third-quarter injury against Oklahoma State, it seems clear that the Longhorns will go into the Red River Shootout with a lot of weight on the shoulders of true freshman Shane Buechele.
I think we’re all certain that it’s going to take a lot of points to beat the Sooners, especially after Bob Stoops’ team dropped 52 points on a TCU defense that appears to be more competent than the defense Strong is fielding. The Sooners might be the best offense the Longhorns have faced so far this season.
What are we talking about as the number Texas has to reach to win the game? Forty points? Fifty points? SIXTY POINTS?
Crazy things happen in this rivalry game, but we’ve seen enough beat-downs over the years to know those can happen, too. Frankly, it’ll take the coaching week of Strong’s career to create something crazy enough to happen that the Longhorns repeat last year’s history with a second-consecutive win in this series, especially if his top two backs are out of action or even slightly limited.
Despite all mentioned in the article about the struggles of both the Sooners and the Longhorns, this game still boasts as the hottest ticket remaining in Big 12 play by over $100.00 increase in price per ticket. In addition, most people believe the hottest game of the weekend is happening in College Station, TX where the Aggies welcome the Vols to town. Playoff implications clearly state it is. But, the ticket market says otherwise. The median price to attend the Red River Rivalry game is $240.00 while a ticket to Texas A&M this weekend currently has a median ticket price of $175.00.
Kickoff is at 11:00 AM and while crazy things happen in this rivalry game, we’ve seen enough beat-downs over the years to know those can happen, too. Frankly, it’ll take the coaching week of Strong’s career to create something crazy enough to happen that the Longhorns repeat last year’s history with a second-consecutive win in this series, especially if his top two backs are out of action or even slightly limited.
He’ll need to let it all hang out and you have to wonder if letting it all hang out will open up the door for exactly the kind of loss that he can’t afford right now.
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