Texas (1-2) suffered a heartbreaking loss to the California Golden Bears last Saturday, as the extra point was missed after scoring what seemed to be the game-tying touchdown. Missing that kick cost Texas an opportunity to come back in a game where they were down by 21. Texas lost the opportunity to beat another quality opponent and to push their record to 2-1 going into conference play. Texas lost a very important quality win opportunity on Saturday.
And that may be all that is needed for this team to turn their season around and be great.
The Longhorns will take on another talented, but not unbeatable team this weekend in the Oklahoma State Cowboys (3-0). The Cowboys are ready for a fight, since the Longhorns came into Stillwater and shocked them with a 28-7 dominate performance last year. The Cowboys are circling the wagons, and they are absolutely hunting for Longhorns, and to send a very clear message to the rest of the Big 12 that they have indeed arrived. Texas seems to have found themselves during the course of their battle against the Cal Bears. Quarterback Jerrod Heard played extremely well against the Bears' defense in the fourth quarter and found a nice rhythm that could serve him well going forward. The Longhorns will have their hands full against a much stronger defense than they have faced all season. It will be challenging for this group to rise to the occasion and reproduce the productivity that they were able to achieve in the second half of Saturday's game, but they must in order to get their second win.
College Football Podcast: Week 4 Preview with Jill Savage
Oklahoma State at Texas
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Oklahoma State -3
Three Things To Watch
1. Jerrod Heard Continues to Grow
Texas Quarterback Jerrod Heard seemingly had an epiphany on Saturday. After ending the 3rd quarter down by 21 points and not being able to mount much offense, Heard suddenly realized the difference between running because nothing is there and running because something is there. Heard took full advantage of the opportunities he was given in that 4th quarter, and almost led the Longhorns back in impressive fashion, scoring two rushing TDs. Now, Heard will face an even tougher defense, and he will have to build on his Saturday performance, using the same patience and vision he displayed in their 4th quarter comeback. If he can continue to grow from Saturday's performance, Texas could once again be in position to win.
2. The Texas Defense Must Stop Somebody
While everyone has focused their attention on offensive play-calling and athletic director changes at Texas, The Longhorn defense has quietly given up an average of 36.6 points over three games. They will continue to make their way hard if they cannot stop anybody, and so far they have proven they can't stop anybody. Texas has yielded a total yards average of 512 yards per week, and you simply can't win games giving up so much ground. Texas has to figure out a way to slow down the Cowboys offense and get off the field. One of the biggest problems for this Saturday will be quarterback Mason Rudolph, who has gotten better each week, and shown incredible efficiency and consistency, going 62-of-90, for 947 yards and five touchdowns. If the Longhorns can't get constant pressure on the Cowboys and try and shake Rudolph a little, then they will find themselves once again playing from behind and trying to overcome a scoring deficit and a ticking clock.
3. The Cowboys are Stingy!
The Cowboys' magic number is 11.7, which is the number of points that Oklahoma State currently gives up per game. Now to be fair, they have built their current defensive reputation on the strength of Central Michigan, Central Arkansas, and the UTSA. The Cowboys are giving up a total yards average of 303 yards, but those yards don't seem to be producing points for their opponents. The Longhorns will be faced with the challenge of maximizing every moment they have the ball, because they may not get many chances.
The Texas offense seemed to discover a nice groove in the 4th quarter Saturday. If they can build on that, then they have a chance. The real problem, however, is not the Texas offense, but the Texas defense. If Texas cannot keep Mason Randolph off balance, then this will be another tough day. The key to the game is the Texas defense and if they can get key stops.
It will be an enormous challenge, but I think this is the game where Charlie Strong makes his program statement. A win against a Top 25-ranked opponent is just what the doctor ordered, and I believe this is the week Texas defines its season. The Texas defense will play just well enough to pull out the victory they were not able to pull out last week. And this time, the home crowd will push them to a win.
Prediction: Texas 31, Oklahoma State 28
— Written by Lloyd H. Spence, Jr., who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Spence also has written for the Dallas Morning News, Yahoo!'s Rivals.com, and ESPN Louisville. He can be heard on the radio of "Talkin NOIZ" and "The Football Show of Collin County." Follow him on Twitter @TalkinNOIZ.