Kansas State fired the first shot in the Big 12 title race last weekend, and the focus shifts to Oklahoma State and Texas this Saturday. As the Wildcats’ victory over Oklahoma showed last week, the race to win the Big 12 title is wide open. The Cowboys are the defending Big 12 champs, but winning the conference crown won’t be easy with a freshman quarterback. Texas is a team on the rise, but just like Oklahoma State, its title hopes rest on an unproven quarterback.
This will be the first Big 12 contest for both teams and even though it’s still the first month of the season, there’s plenty on the line in this matchup. The Cowboys lost to Arizona in non-conference play, while Texas is 3-0 with wins over Ole Miss, Wyoming and New Mexico.
Storylines to Watch in Texas vs. Oklahoma State
Who will start at quarterback for Oklahoma State?
True freshman Wes Lunt started all three of Oklahoma State’s games this season but suffered a knee injury in the win over Louisiana-Lafayette. The Cowboys did not release an injury report on Friday, so there’s not much clarity in his status. If Lunt can’t play, redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh will get the nod under center. Walsh threw for 347 yards on 21 completions against the Ragin’ Cajuns and added 73 yards and one score on the ground. Lunt is a better pocket passer, while Walsh is more capable of making plays with his legs. By not releasing an injury report, the Cowboys will keep everyone guessing until pregame warmups.
Is Texas' defense ready to dominate?
The Longhorns expected to have one of college football’s best defenses coming into 2012, but they are off to a slow start through the first three games of the season. Texas ranks 34th nationally in yards allowed and 28th in points allowed per game. The numbers aren’t terrible, but this unit is capable of playing at a higher level. The Longhorns suffered a huge blow on Friday night, as linebacker Jordan Hicks was ruled out of Saturday’s game with a hip injury. Considering the non-conference competition wasn’t all that tough, Texas’ coordinator Manny Diaz likely saved a few tricks for Big 12 play. Expect an aggressive gameplan from the Longhorns, while the defensive end combination of Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor will test Oklahoma State’s offensive line.
Can David Ash continue his strong start?
Quarterback play was Texas’ biggest unknown coming into 2012. However, the coaching staff has to feel pretty good about their situation going into Week 5. David Ash has thrown for 703 yards and seven touchdowns through the first three games, while adding 58 yards and one score on the ground. With the depth at running back and talent on defense, Texas doesn’t need Ash to be Colt McCoy. However, he needs to make a few big plays and most importantly, take care of the ball. Oklahoma State’s defense is allowing 27.7 points per game and gave up 320 passing yards to Arizona’s Matt Scott. With those numbers in mind, Ash will have opportunities to make plays through the air, and he may need to hit a few passes to help open up rushing lanes.
It’s only the first Big 12 game for both teams, but this is a key contest in the conference title picture. This matchup is a good barometer of where both teams stand on a national level and provide a little clarity to a Big 12 title race that should be very competitive. Oklahoma State is still an unknown, largely due to the uncertain quarterback situation. With a win in Stillwater, Texas can stamp its place as a top-10 team and a national title contender.
Expect the Longhorns to turn up the intensity on defense, as they will key on stopping Oklahoma State running back Joseph Randle. Stopping Randle is no easy task, but Texas wants Walsh or Lunt to prove they can win this game through the air. The Longhorns' offense won’t hit many big plays, but quarterback David Ash will do just enough to win.
Prediction: Texas 31-24
Related College Football Content
ACC Week 5 Preview and Predictions
Big East Week 5 Preview and Predictions
Big 12 Week 5 Preview and Predictions
Big Ten Week 5 Preview and Predictions
Pac-12 Week 5 Preview and Predictions
SEC Week 5 Preview and Predictions
Top 20 Coaches on the Hot Seat After Week 4