Cowboys hope to continue their winning ways with Texas in town
The Oklahoma State Cowboys have enjoyed a decade-long run of mastery of the Texas Longhorns in the last 10 years. The Pokes won seven of 10 meetings in the 2010s, but they dropped last year's matchup, 36-30, in Austin.
Given how the 2020 season has gone for the two programs, OSU appears poised to get revenge for last season's loss. At 4-0, the Cowboys have yet to drop a game and are sitting atop the Big 12 standings. The Longhorns come into the game at 3-2, and head coach Tom Herman can feel his seat starting to heat up.
However, Herman's team may see this game as an opportunity to reinvigorate what is starting to look like a lost season. Here's what to watch when the Longhorns invade Stillwater on Saturday.
Texas at No. 6 Oklahoma State
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 4 p.m. ET
Spread: Oklahoma State -3.5
When Texas Has the Ball
The Texas offense versus the Oklahoma State defense looks like the good-on-good matchup in this game. The Longhorns are putting up 45 points per game, highest in the Big 12. The Cowboys are allowing 12 points per game, also the best mark in the conference.
Oklahoma State will need to start by slowing down the UT running game. Last week, the Pokes surrendered nearly seven yards every time Iowa State ran the ball. The Longhorns are churning out 4.7 yards every rush. In addition to a stable of productive running backs, Sam Ehlinger is one of the best running quarterbacks in the nation, forcing defenses to honor his legs on every down.
One way to neutralize Ehlinger as a running threat is to pressure him to throw the ball sooner than he'd like when he drops back. The UT offensive line can't let OSU pass rushers like Calvin Bundage and Trace Ford live in the backfield.
When Oklahoma State Has the Ball
Sophomore QB Spencer Sanders returned to action a week ago against the Cyclones, and his presence added extra explosiveness to the OSU offense. In addition to throwing for 235 yards and a score, Sanders rushed for 71 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Using him as a running threat along with RB Chuba Hubbard gives the Texas defense another headache when it comes to stopping OSU on the ground.
The other side of the coin with Sanders: He has a penchant for turning the ball over. In 11 games as OSU's primary QB, he has piled up 13 interceptions. That total includes two versus Iowa State last week. Sanders also threw it to Texas twice in last year's meeting.
Texas inside linebackers DeMarvion Overshown and Juwan Mitchell will have their hands full on Saturday balancing responsibilities for defending the OSU throwing game, stopping the run and keeping tabs on Sanders when he drops back.
Projecting how this game plays out depends in large part on guessing at the psyche of the Texas team. The oddsmakers make UT a slight underdog to the Pokes, but the Longhorns have a more talented roster. All that talent won't matter much if morale in the Texas locker room is waning. The good news for Tom Herman is that his team soundly defeated Baylor last week, which is a sign that the Longhorns are still engaged.
Of course, Oklahoma State isn't Baylor. The Cowboys have found their rhythm behind a solid D and an offense with an array of playmakers at the skill positions. Perhaps most importantly, head coach Mike Gundy also has his squad playing with confidence. Oklahoma State currently looks like the class of the Big 12 for a reason.
Look for Texas to play with a sense of urgency on Saturday. The Longhorns are desperate, and beating OSU would keep their faint hopes of appearing in the Big 12 title game alive. That might be just enough for UT to scratch out a badly needed win.
Prediction: Texas 34, Oklahoma State 31
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— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is the founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.