AUSTIN — If the past four games — all wins that have elevated Texas to 19th in the nation in the latest Associated Press poll — are any indication, things are rolling about as smoothly as possible on the 40 Acres.
That’s been reflected in the mood of Longhorns coach Tom Herman and the energy and confidence from his team that four straight victories can produce.
Herman was pleased with the perception of “smoothness” that surrounds his program right now, even as the No. 19 Longhorns prepare for their biggest game of the season so far — the annual Red River Rivalry against undefeated No. 7 Oklahoma on Saturday afternoon at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.
“Our players trust us, and we trust them,” Herman said. “Winning on Saturdays certainly helps. But at times even last year, that didn’t. There’s a belief and a commitment and a buy-in into the way we do things.”
The Texas-Oklahoma series is being played for the 113th time on Saturday. The series, which began in 1900, has been played in Dallas since 1912 and at the State Fair since 1929. Only Texas A&M (118 times) has played the Longhorns on more occasions.
Since 1900, the only years Texas and Oklahoma have not played were 1918, ’20, ’21 and 1924-28. The first matchup between the two teams in 1900 ended with a 28-2 Longhorns victory. Texas is the only Big 12 Conference team that holds an all-time series lead against the Sooners (61-46-5).
The Texas-OU game predates Oklahoma’s statehood and has helped decide conference and occasionally national championships in the past. This year’s dustup looks to be particularly intense as both the Sooners and Longhorns carry national ranking into the contest for the first time in over a decade.
After all the “noise” created around the Texas program that produced three losing seasons under coach Charlie Strong and an unsatisfying 7-6 campaign in 2017 in Herman’s first season, winning — and the way Texas (4-1, 2-0 in Big 12 play) is doing it — is eliminating some of that drama.
The Longhorns’ latest win was on the road at Kansas State last Saturday, when they roared out to a big lead and held on for a 19-14 victory that snapped a 16-year losing streak in Manhattan.
Perhaps all the Longhorns’ momentum will have an effect on Oklahoma on Saturday, but don’t count on it. The hyper-talented Sooners (5-0, 2-0 in Big 12 play) are salivating at the chance to knock Texas off the rails and continue on their own road to a repeat spot in the College Football Playoff.
Oklahoma warmed up for Saturday’s game in Big D with a 66-33 blowout over Baylor last week in which the Sooners offense rolled up 607 total yards on 54 plays, an average of 11.2 yards per snap.
The Sooners also set school records for yards per pass attempt (18.8), yards per completion (25.2) and pass efficiency rating (317.8) in the win over the Bears.
OU sports one of the nation’s most exciting players in quarterback Kyler Murray, who has passed for an average of 294 yards per game with 17 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He’s third in the country in touchdown passes.
Murray has added 55 rushing yards per game with four rushing touchdowns. He said Monday that he’s not deaf to the Heisman hype that’s surrounding him.
“Obviously I hear it,” Murray said. “I’ve dreamed of it my whole life, winning the Heisman. But for me, it’s just about winning games and doing what’s right for the team. Individual goals will come along if you do what you do.”
“I don’t really need any talks on how to listen to it,” Murray said of the hype. “I’ve been a highly touted dude coming into high school, coming out of high school. I’ve dealt with awards.”
Oklahoma has won 27 of its last 28 games against Big 12 opponents (including its past 10) dating back to the 2015 season. Sixteen of those 27 victories have been by at least 15 points, and eight by at least 30 points.