October 31, 2009
7:00 p.m. Central
ABC or ESPN2
It’s Halloween. All Longhorn fans remember what happened on this weekend last year in Lubbock. Once again, the Longhorns face a tough test as they head to Stillwater to take on the #14 Oklahoma State Cowboys, who despite a rash of injuries and suspensions, have made a stake as one of the teams to beat in the Big 12’s South division.
This weekend will surely determine both team’s chances for their run at the national championship. If the ‘Horns can escape with a victory, very few teams have the chance to derail Mack Brown’s squad the rest of the season. If Oklahoma State can pull off their first victory in 12 attempts, they control their destiny atop of the South division and give themselves a legitimate shot at a BCS berth for the first time in the school’s history.
Let’s check out the details below.
Eyes Of TX’s Prediction
Texas 45, Oklahoma State 28
#14 Oklahoma State Cowboys (6-1)
It’s been a long season already for Mike Gundy and his ‘Pokes. In a year when Gundy was expected to contend with the best of the Big 12 South division’s elite – namely Texas and oklahoma – the team has endured injuries to star RB Kendall Hunter and the recent year-long suspension of future pro WR Dez Bryant for his dealings with former NFL star Deion Sanders. Despite that, the Cowboys have earned their 6-1 record, with the only blemish a home loss in week two to a strong #18 Houston Cougars team whose aerial assault left the Okie State in shambles. Texas, take note.
The Cowboys are led by none other than QB Zac Robinson, who has commanded the team through the discourse. The 6’3” 218-pound senior leads the team as a dual-threat, and has accounted for 1,547 yards, 12 TDs and only three INTs through the air, completing 65 percent of his passes. This season, he hasn’t had to carry the load of the running game, as Hunter (until his injury) and back-up RB Keith Toston have led the Cowboys to the third-best rushing attack in the Big 12, at more than 180 yards per game. On the season, Toston has accounted for 606 yards rushing and six TDs, and is also a threat receiving with 199 yards on only 19 receptions. After sitting for most of the season, Hunter is expected to return this week, which brings a triple threat in the running game, as third-string RB Beau Johnson has also accounted for 249 yards and four TDs on the season when spelling Toston. There is no doubt that this will be the best rushing attack the ‘Horns will face all year.
If the rushing attack is up to the task, the team’s woes at wide receiver won’t seem as much of a deficit as expected. Despite the loss of Bryant, his replacement Hubert Anyiam has stepped in nicely with 306 yards and two TDs on only 25 catches. On the other side, teammate Dameron Fooks has also scored three TDs this season. The biggest obstacle for the wide outs is their lack of experience, and not having played against a secondary as good as the one Texas’ Will Muschamp and Duane Akina have assembled. Oklahoma State will have to get the ground game going to set up play action to get Texas’ secondary to hesitate and open up some space for the ‘Pokes wide receivers downfield. The offensive line is plenty capable of gouging holes in the defensive front, as evidenced by their rushing success this season, but they also give Robinson time to throw in the pocket, giving up only three sacks on the season. The four seniors up front will have their stiffest test of the year, as the ‘Horns will surely bring pressure to stuff the running game and cause Robinson to make mistakes throwing the ball downfield.
While more than capable on the offensive side of the ball, Oklahoma State struggles defensively despite the addition of new defensive coordinator Bill Young. Their run defense, and total defense, output is solid – 99 yards per game and 352 yards per game / 20 points per game, respectively – but their pass defense ranks near the bottom of the Big 12. The Cowboys give up nearly 253 yards per game through the air, and you can bet Texas QB Colt McCoy and WR Jordan Shipley are salivating at those horrendous numbers. The defensive line is slightly undersized, but they do their job in creating space for the linebackers to handle clean-up duty. Given the opportunity, all three linebackers – Donald Booker, Patrick Lavine and Andre Sexton – can create havoc for opposing offenses. The three-man corp leads the team in tackles, and all are capable of a strong pass rush and legit coverage skills – between them, leading the team in INTs on the year. The secondary – no matter who Gundy puts on the field – is in for trouble this week against Texas’ potent aerial assault.
Without Bryant, the ‘Pokes special teams lacks a serious threat, although Perrish Cox is capable of a big play in the return game. Where they really hurt, however, is in kick coverage, giving up 23 yards per kick-off, and 11 yards per return. But, this is the ‘Horns, and Mack Brown has the special teams geared to something truly spectacular this season. Watch for some big plays in the kicking game this week – Oklahoma State on fakes, and Texas with returns.
#3 Texas Longhorns (7-0)
The game plan is simple. Control the clock offensively by making first downs, maintaining ball security will be key, and putting points up early – something Texas has been unable to do against Oklahoma State in recent years. The ‘Horns need to take the home crowd out of the game early, and that means eliminating mistakes and doing the simple things to keep the offense on the field. There should be huge opportunities in the passing game this week, but McCoy needs to keep his eyes downfield, making his reads, and watching for the linebackers to sneak in to coverage and pick off those ill-advised throws. Where necessary, pull the ball down and run with it – just like last week at Missouri. McCoy doesn’t have to rule the game with his legs, but he needs to use opportune moments to burn the linebackers and secondary for not respecting what he’s capable of.
On defense, stop the run. STOP. THE. RUN. Control the line of scrimmage, and force Robinson to throw the ball to his inexperienced wide receivers who are being covered by some of the best defensive backs in the country. The linebackers, in addition to plugging the holes on the line, will need to keep an eye on screens to Hunter, Toston and Johnson so they don’t get free on the outside. Play smart, shed your blocks, and stay aggressive. The Texas defense now calls themselves “The Goon Squad,” and another week has come to prove it.
Both teams are going to score points in this game – both offenses are too good not to – but, the ‘Horns need to come out and score early. There is no room for giving up an early deficit because Oklahoma State will only continue to pile on what’s working on the offensive side of the ball. If Texas can hold on to the ball, suck up time on the clock, and keep Robinson and his trio of backs on the sideline, this game will be yet another stepping stone to the national championship game in January.