DALLAS — Oklahoma dropped its first game of the season Saturday to Texas in the Cotton Bowl, but in an unpredictable, wide-open Big 12 Conference, the Sooners still have plenty to play for with six regular-season games to go.
The Longhorns exposed major problems, though, and if we've learned nothing else about this Oklahoma team to this point, we do know this: The Sooners' success or failure moving forward will depend largely on their deep stable of running backs.
So what does Oklahoma really have in its backfield?
* It has senior Brennan Clay, a reliable, generally productive player who has shown — at times — the ability to carry the load in the OU backfield. But he was oddly absent from the Sooners' game plan Saturday, carrying the ball just five times for 26 yards. He also dropped a sure touchdown pass on Oklahoma's first drive of the game.
* The Sooners have senior Damien Williams, who was OU's best running back a year ago but hasn't produced the same way in 2013. He also might not be dependable enough to be the team's main runner, as evidenced by his one-game suspension earlier this season.
* Fans have begged for senior fullback Trey Millard to get more carries since he was a freshman. Saturday, he carried the ball seven times for 32 yards and a touchdown and caught a 29-yard pass, but he's also an incredibly valuable blocker. He also might've given everyone a glimpse of why he doesn't get many touches. On many of his carries, he seemed to take too long to cut upfield, running east and west rather than north and south.
* Roy Finch can be a dynamic playmaker with the ball in his hands, but is the 5-foot-7 senior capable of handling 15 or more carries per game?
* And then there's the other guy, the one who might end up being the best ball carrier on the entire roster: True freshman Keith Ford.
Ford only carried the ball six times Saturday, but led Oklahoma with 34 rushing yards.
Just about every time he's entered a game this season, Ford has made some kind of noticeable impact. He picked up 14 yards on one mid-third quarter carry when the Sooners were still very much alive in the game.
Excitement has built up around the freshman from Cypress, Texas, since fall camp, when a video of Ford plowing through starting defensive tackle Jordan Phillips in the Oklahoma Drill surfaced. Given how well Phillips has played this season, the impressive collision clearly revealed more positive about Ford than it did negative about Phillips.
Entering Saturday's game, Oklahoma was averaging 246 yards per game on the ground. It managed only 133 net rushing yards against the Longhorns, but that total includes the yards Blake Bell lost on sacks.
Each of the Sooners' four leading rushers Saturday — Ford, Millard, Williams and Clay — averaged at least 4.6 yards per carry.
The Sooners' best offensive drives against Texas came when they relied on the run game, and they've clearly got the horses to have a powerful rushing attack if they choose to use it.