Cowboys come to Austin looking for their fifth straight win over the Longhorns
In the last four years, the Oklahoma State Cowboys have mastered the art of toying with the emotions of the Texas Longhorns. OSU currently owns a four-game winning streak against the Horns, and aside from an 18-point blowout in 2016, each of the victories has come by no more than a field goal. That includes a thriller last year in which the Pokes held off a furious UT rally in the second half to pull out a 38-35 victory.
By installing UT as a near-touchdown favorite in Saturday's game, oddsmakers are pointing to OSU's streak coming to an end in 2019. The Longhorns gained national respect in week two by playing the LSU Tigers down to the wire in a hard-fought loss, and they bullied the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs and Rice Owls in their other non-conference outings. The Pokes have done plenty of bullying of their own so far, with three wins by an average of nearly 26 points per game.
Here's what to watch as Texas tries to end OSU’s recent dominance in this series.
Oklahoma State at Texas
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 21 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Texas -6.5
When Oklahoma State Has the Ball
The names change in Stillwater, but the offensive potency does not. Redshirt freshman Spencer Sanders picked up where Taylor Cornelius left off as OSU's starting quarterback. Likewise, running back Chuba Hubbard is calming fears about the loss of Justice Hill to the NFL.
Unfortunately for the Longhorns, the same can't be said for their defense. After taking a step back on that side of the ball last season, the hope around Austin was that fresh blood in the form of eight new starters would do the D well. Losing a 45-38 shootout to LSU showed that UT still has a ways to go. Sanders and star receiver Tylan Wallace probably can't wait to take their shots at a unit that has surrendered more than 300 yards through the air in two of three contests this season.
When Texas Has the Ball
Junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger is operating at an even higher level this season after a sterling sophomore campaign. He is completing 73 percent of his passes with 11 touchdowns through three games, and he has yet to throw an interception. His bull-like running may be Texas' best threat on the ground. For OSU, making Ehlinger uncomfortable has to be job one.
The Oklahoma State defense has yet to offer much evidence suggesting they can make that happen. Second-year defensive coordinator Jim Knowles has modified some of his blitz-happy schemes to combat the spread offenses of the Big 12, but lackluster competition in the first three weeks of the year means we have yet to see if they really work. In fact, turning the pressure up may give the Pokes their best shot at keeping Ehlinger contained.
Get your track shoes ready. These two teams combined for 73 points last season, and there's no reason to believe they will slow down this year.
Texas does own a significant advantage in this matchup behind center. Spencer Sanders has all the talent needed for the Cowboys to win this game. He has yet to see an environment like the one he will encounter at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, though. Sam Ehlinger will have both the home crowd and a wealth of experience in big games on his side. Which one sounds more likely to suffer a case of jitters on Saturday?
That doesn't mean Texas will run away and hide from its longtime nemesis. OSU has enough firepower to stress UT's iffy defense by throwing the ball to set up Chuba Hubbard on the ground. Look for OSU head coach Mike Gundy to ramp up the tempo to get in more possessions and more shots at the end zone.
The Horns won't struggle to score, either. They're also less likely to commit the kinds of mistakes that can swing the balance of a shootout, such as boneheaded penalties and careless ball security. One or two of those mistakes will probably kill the Cowboys' hopes of an upset.
Prediction: Texas 41, Oklahoma State 35
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.