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Red River Rivalry: A young gunslinger duel

Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones has probably been thinking about this game for a year now.

Jones’ introduction to the Red River Rivalry came sooner than expected when Sam Bradford, starting his first game after being injured in the season opening loss to BYU, went down once again after re-aggravating his shoulder injury early in the first quarter. Filling in for the injured Sooners quarterback Jones threw for 250 yards but was intercepted twice as Texas won a low-scoring game, 16-13.

Now he gets a chance to redeem himself in the biggest game on the regular season schedule as #8 Oklahoma meets #20 Texas in the Red River Rivalry Game on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. EST. While Jones will look to continue his impressive play his counterpart from Texas, Garrett Gilbert, will be looking to make a bit of a statement himself.

Texas is coming off a bad loss at home to UCLA, 34-12. In defeat Gilbert put up some respectable numbers (30-for-45 and 264 yards and a touchdown) but the pressure is starting to mount on Gilbert and the rest of the Texas offense. Gilbert ranks 81st in the nation in passing efficiency and the Longhorns running game is not helping out. Oklahoma looks to have more things going their way entering this weekend’s big game with Texas but none of that will matter on Saturday.

One thing we do know is that this is a new era in the Red River Rivalry, among he best rivalries in the Big 12. Here is a quick look at each quarterback.

Landry Jones, Oklahoma

There is no question that of the two, Jones has been the more impressive quarterback this season. So far this season Jones has thrown for nine touchdowns and has been intercepted three times. He has also thrown for 1,221 yards and achieved a pass efficiency of 139.21. after a sluggish start against Utah State in the season opener, a performance Jones received some criticism for in the media, he has responded to complete 69% of his passes and has only been intercepted once in his last three games.

The former New Mexico prep star has led Oklahoma to a 4-0 start and has Oklahoma looking like a team to beat in the Big 12 and thinking BCS championship. For that to happen though Jones will need to knock off Texas.

Jones needs a big conference win under his belt. Last season, with Jones as a starter or playing the majority of the plays, Oklahoma lost to Texas Tech, Nebraska and Texas. In addition Oklahoma also lost to Miami, although Jones was still getting his feet wet as the starter for the team. Jones did come through in the final two games of the season, helping Oklahoma defeat Oklahoma State 27-0 and Stanford in the Sun Bowl, 31-27. Jones threw for 418 yards and three touchdowns in that game to give Sooner fans reasons to think optimistically for the 2010 season.

Garrett Gilbert, Texas

Remember, it’s not as though Gilbert has no big game experience. He nearly took the Longhorns to the BCS championship in relief of McCoy last season against Alabama. But things have been pretty rough for the new Longhorns quarterback this season. He has thrown as many touchdowns (four) as he has interceptions. His team has no semblance of a running game (ranked 76th nationally) and the scoring production is not what college football fans have become familiar with in recent years (averaging 26.0 points per game, 68th nationally).

The next two games will be crucial for Gilbert as losses will severely hurt Texas’ chances of reaching the Big 12 championship game. A loss to Oklahoma would stew for two weeks before the next game, a road trip to Nebraska. The Huskers have a top ten defense and should have an advantage against the young Gilbert.

Going 2-0 in the next two games would be huge for Gilbert, and Texas, but what impact would going 0-2 have? Texas fans hope they don’t have to find out.

About the Author

Kevin McGuire
Contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com. Also a contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Member of Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.
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