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Blogging about college football by an Oklahoma Sooners fan.

The Red (River) Zone

This weekend, Texas’ immovable object meets Oklahoma’s irresistible force. And I’m not talking about Sam Bradford versus Colt McCoy.

This was supposed to be a down year for a young Longhorn defense playing under new hotshot coordinator Will Muschamp. Instead, UT is allowing just 11.4 points per game this year, good for fourth in the country. That surprisingly strong performance out of the Texas defense through the first five games of the season probably boils down to doing one thing very well: defending inside the 20.

In fact, the Texas defense ranks second nationally in red zone conversion, holding opponents without a score on nearly half their trips’ inside the Longhorns’ 20. Of the 15 times opposing offenses entered UT’s prime real estate, the Texas D surrendered four field goals and four touchdowns.

Of course, Texas also has been pretty good at preventing teams from even getting there in the first place. Longhorn opponents are averaging three red zone attempts per game, which appears to put UT a shade below the national average.

Across the way, the Sooners head into the Red River Shootout leading the country in converting red zone chances, a perfect 24-for-24 in five games. Note that this means the Sooner O averages nearly five trips to flavor country per game. That’s roughly a full possession ahead of the national average.

What may be even more impressive is that of those 24 red zone opportunities, the Sooners have hit pay dirt 23 times, settling just once for a field goal.

In all fairness, the numbers reveal that both teams excel when it comes to both scoring and defending inside the 20, and it seems to go without saying that how well you can do both goes a long way to determining the outcome of a game. Still, if this year’s Shootout is close, we may look back at OU’s success against Texas’ sturdy red zone wall as the difference in the game.