Cowboys look to brand Longhorns with offensive assault
Oh this should be fun. I mean, if you like offensive fireworks, booming cannons and a break-neck pace to your college football, this could be your game.
This week’s Oklahoma State-Texas game should be a high-octane, high-scoring affair in Austin. The Longhorns go from the frying pan to the fire after losing to the then No. 1-ranked offense in the country last week (Oklahoma), they’ll now face another No. 1-ranked offense in the Cowboys, who average a staggering 49 points and 610 yards per game.
The Longhorns’ offense got a big shot in the arm from the play of precocious freshman Sam Ehlinger, who passed for 278 yards and ran for 110 yards in the loss to OU. And that came a week after throwing for 380 and running for 107 in a win against Kansas State.
The defenses are the weakness here. In spades. The Longhorns’ defense, 65th nationally (381 ypg), is a big question mark. Sure, Texas improved as the game went along last week vs. OU, holding the Sooners to nine points and a relatively low 176 yards in the second half of the 29-24 loss. But the Horns’ defense has been a sieve at times this year and give up an average of 5.8 yards per play. OSU’s defense isn’t much better, ranking 53rd nationally and relenting 373 yards per game.
In other words, this is the kind of game that’ll make the hair on the defensive coordinators turn gray... or turn loose.
Oklahoma State at Texas
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 21 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC
Spread: Oklahoma State -7
Three Things to Watch
1. No slow starts
Texas head coach Tom Herman had stated this week that his team has done a good job in getting off to good starts defensively in all their games, except for one – Oklahoma. Last week the Sooners raced out to a 20-0 lead and had 342 yards in the first half alone. The Longhorn defense looked confused. UT was able to come back and actually take the lead before falling 29-24, but the message is clear. A slow start like that against Oklahoma State could be even more deadly to their chances since the Cowboys are a quick-strike offense that relies on piling up the points.
2. The running game
If the Pokes have any chance in this game, they will have to be able to tote the rock on the ground. Against Pittsburgh and TCU they barely got past the century mark, proving they don’t have the physicality to impose their will and control the clock when they want to against quality opponents. Justice Hill has come on of late, putting together three straight 100-yard games since that loss to TCU. Texas has the 23rd-ranked run defense and will pose a big challenge to the Pokes’ ability to ground and pound. On the Texas side, SOMEbody other than Ehlinger has to become a factor. The running backs accounted for 26 rushing yards vs. Oklahoma.
3. Longhorns’ pass defense
Texas has a knack of letting opposing wide receivers roam free in their secondary as if they’re out there picking bluebonnets. The Longhorns are ranked No. 109 in pass defense and will take on the likes of James Washington, Marcell Ateman and Jalen McCleskey in that vaunted Cowboy aerial attack. Texas’ defensive backs will need to amp up their coverage skills or else Rudolph and his cohorts are going to zing them for 50-plus points, no problem. It also wouldn’t hurt if the Texas D-line can get enough pressure on Rudolph just by rushing four defenders. If they blitz too much, the Horns will pay.
The Longhorns are 3-3 and in danger of dropping below .500 again this season. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State still has designs on a Big 12 title, sitting at 2-1 in conference play. The Cowboys skipped to a school-record 747 yards of offense in the 59-16 woodshedding of Baylor and definitely have the skill players to run roughshod on just about anybody. Their lowest-scoring game this season was 31 points in the loss to TCU, who has a really good defense.
The Horns are still in a growing pains-type of stage. They have a lot to be happy about after nearly pulling off the win vs. Oklahoma, but this is Texas where moral victories do not exist. Their ego is still a little bruised and the Longhorn fans are looking at the schedule trying to figure out where the six wins are going to come from for a bowl bid.
The two defenses are pretty even, but the Pokes have the offense to zoom to the stratosphere behind an experienced senior QB that will lead them through a game like this.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 45, Texas 40
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.