Tom Herman was very clear that Saturday is not the Red River Showdown. Saturday is much bigger.
The No. 14 Longhorns travel to Arlington to face off with No. 6 Oklahoma in the Big 12 Title game Saturday without the Golden Hat trophy on the line. Texas won the regular-season showdown on a late field goal by Cameron Dicker.
“That one is over,” Herman said. “Our motivation, I would hope, playing in the conference championship game would be the same were it any other opponent. And I think our team believes that and buys into that.”
Oklahoma has the most explosive offense in the conference and one of the best in the nation.
The Sooners average more than 584 yards per game over the regular season and averaged more than 10 yards per play in a 59-56 shootout win on the road against West Virginia last Friday night.
Quarterback Kyler Murray is No. 1 in the Big 12 in total offense with 377.2 yards a game. He accounted for nearly 400 yards and six touchdowns in the Red River Showdown on October.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Herman said. “Especially because of the quarterback and what a special player he is, you’ve got to stop the run. They were doing all this stuff before we played them.”
This will be the ninth time in the last 40 years that the Longhorns and Sooners will meet as Top-10 teams in the Associated Press poll. Then-No. 5 Texas beat top-seeded Oklahoma 45-35 in 2008.
Herman said the Longhorns has evolved since the October meeting in that they have learned they can run the ball more consistently while learning that they can throw for big numbers and win.
Defensively, Texas has held Iowa State and Kansas to 27 points in the last two weeks.
Herman confirmed at his press conference that he had been in touch with former Kansas coach David Beaty and other former members of the Jayhawks’ staff on how to attack the Sooners in multiple ways.
“I don’t know why that’s news,” Herman said. “As good of coaches as we have, you’re so focused on game planning for your opponent that sometimes you lose focus of what your opponent is game planning for you. It’s always nice to have a fresh set of eyes.”
Herman said they always see themselves as underdogs and they relish in that distinction because that’s the mindset they have when they practice.
This is the first year since 2013, the last season under Mack Brown, that the Longhorns finished the regular season with a winning record. Herman finished last season 7-6 thanks to a win over Missouri in the Texas Bowl.
But he said with a full recruiting class getting meaningful playing time and his type of guys starting to fill the roster, the Longhorns are ahead of schedule.
The fact they’re competing for a Big 12 title on Saturday is a prime example.
“The progress that has been made throughout our program and what’s in our DNA is different and it’s really fun to see some of these players maturing and evolving,” Herman said. “Winning is really hard and winning this game will be hard, but I love where we’re at in terms of development.”