TV: Fox Radio: Longhorn Sports Network Radio (affiliates)
Vegas Line: Texas -2.5
3: David Ash ranks third in the
nation in passing efficiency (190.5).
7: Texas ranks seventh in the FBS in scoring (49.3 points per game). The rushing
offense ranks No. 13 in the nation (258.7
ypg) and the passing game is the fourthmost efficient in the FBS (183.97 rating)..
8: Oklahoma State has won eight straight home games for its
longest Stillwater streak since 1984-85. OSU's current home winning streak is tied for the sixth longest in the country and is
the second longest in the Big 12 Conference.
"Around here, it's a younger team, so we'll talk to them. I think the environment here is we get too high, too fast, we get too low, too fast. I think they pretty much understand what they've got ahead of them. That's the good thing. We bring them back down to earth when we watch video. They all see video. They know who is playing good, who is not."
- Kenny Vaccaro
Before the 2012 season started, most thought that the weaknesses of Texas would be on the offensive side of the ball, particularly the passing game. Through three games, however, the offense has been effective at moving the ball down the field and getting into the end zone both on the ground and through the air.
Instead, it's been the defense that has caused more concern. It hasn't been bad, exactly. But it has been sloppy, and cleaning that up was a focus of the bye week.
"We are giving up too many big plays. It happened some to us early in the season last year," coach Mack Brown said. "We still have some tackling concerns. I think the front is playing really well. But we've missed tackles at linebacker and in the secondary. We can't continue to do that with this league, the way that people score. We just have to keep working on it."
That came to a head in the Ole Miss game, when Brown went over to his defense and, er, encouraged them to step up their level of play.
"I was really disappointed when we had, like Wyoming, two or three opportunities to get the game over, put guys in earlier. Twenty-eight points now is not a lot in college football, the way people are playing," Brown said. "I thought that really kept some guys out of the game. We've told them, 'It's your responsibility to get your buddies in the game. It's not ours. You're taking snaps away from guys that are your buddies. Buddies, don't gripe at us, gripe at your teammates.'"
Turnovers have helped make up for some of that. The Longhorns have only turned the ball over once this season, a fumble in the opener, and have 42 points off of opponents' turnovers. But Brown isn't counting on that continuing.
"When you get better competition, the numbers usually don't stay as good," the coach said.
Oklahoma State would qualify as better competition. Though the Longhorns dominated the series for years, the Cowboys enter the week in the Top 25 with two victories in a row over Texas. And like the Longhorns, they've had a bye week to correct mistakes heading into this weekend.
• Quarterback David Ash has gotten off to a great start this season, but one issue that has come up has been his tendency to underthrow deep balls, requiring the receiver to hold up or come back to catch them. That hasn't hurt the team yet, however, and Mack Brown doesn't seem to be worried.
"If you underthrow it, you've got a great chance to get it. And usually the wide receivers come back and get it," Brown said. "We've been encouraging him to let the guys catch it and been challenging the receivers to catch it. Overthrown balls are punts: you don't have a chance to catch them. When the receiver is turning and running back, and the defensive back is running with his back to you, you'll see the underthrown ball caught most of the times by the receivers-very seldom by the defensive backs."
• The Longhorns are a young team, and they're getting younger every week as Mack Brown keeps leaning on his freshmen. Fourteen of the 26 true frosh on the roster have already played and more may see action in the coming weeks, given Brown's concern about having enough available depth to make it through the Big 12 schedule.
• Because of the bye week, Texas had some extra time to focus on a game plan for Oklahoma State. However, Brown didn't emphasize that in practice during the extra sessions, choosing to focus on correcting weaknesses found in previous games rather than looking ahead too early, and he said as he entered the bye week that the preparation wouldn't change much.
"We told the kids, we will actually look at cleaning us up and we're going to look at what we need to do to improve. We're not going to mention Oklahoma State to the kids until Sunday because we feel like in our past, if you're not careful, you can start playing games too early. If you start on them now, you talk about them all week, it's kind of old news when they get back for next week. We're going to wait," he said.
Scouting The Oklahoma State Offense: Without injured QB Wes Lunt, the Cowboys could be a tougher to defend. QB J.W. Walsh offers a more diverse set of skills as someone who can bolt the pocket at any time and gain yards with his feet. Walsh is not as skilled a passer, though, which negates some of the effectiveness the Cowboys gain on the short, precise routes they run out of their hurry-up attack. The Texas defense will present a much more difficult task. RB Joseph Randle needs to get some yardage out of the run game to open up throwing lanes. The Cowboys have scored at least 30 points in 21 consecutive games.
Scouting The Oklahoma State Defense: The return of coordinator Bill Young against Louisiana-Lafayette saw the Cowboys respond with a first-half shutout defensively. The unit still is best in the back end, where experienced linebackers and defensive backs reduce any confusion in coverage. The Cowboys have yet, however, to capitalize on the takeaways that saved them so often last season when they led the nation by forcing 44 turnovers. Rest assured, with Young cleared medically and back at practice, he is concentrating heavily on strip and pick drills.
-- Sports Xchange
THREE COWBOYS TO WATCH
QB J.W. Walsh-Brought on in relief duty against Louisiana-Lafayette, Walsh responded with a superb game as he led the Cowboys to a school-record 742 yards in total offense. Walsh threw for 347 yards and rushed for 73, accounting for five touchdowns.
WR Josh Stewart-After catching 19 passes all of last season, Stewart stepped into a featured role and has responded with 19 receptions through three games. A high school teammate of Walsh, Stewart set career bests with nine catches for 104 yards against Louisiana-Lafayette.
OT Daniel Koenig-One of three new starters in the OSU offensive line, Koenig and the rest of the linemen must be ready to battle a tough Texas defensive front. The Cowboys have yet to allow a sack and are averaging 6.95 yards per rush, which ranks second nationally.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Continue the trend - Texas ranks sixth nationally with a +6 turnover margin through just three games. In a contest that figures to be close, whoever protects the football could very well wind up on top at the end of the night.
2. Get 'em on the ground - It's been talked about all season, but the Texas defense needs to do a much better job of tackling. If Ole Miss and Wyoming were able to break off big plays, it's scary to think what OSU can do if Texas doesn't improve in this area.
3. Grind - Texas may not turn in the types of big offensive plays that it did against Ole Miss, but the ground game should be able to have some success. Texas needs its backs to make yards after contact and move the chains for some long, clock-eating drives.
OKLAHOMA STATE VS. TEXAS MATCHUP BREAKDOWN
OKLAHOMA STATE PASS OFFENSE VS. TEXAS PASS DEFENSE
Senior Tracy Moore doesn't lead the team in receptions, but he's the guy OSU is counting on to be a strength in the passing game regardless of who is throwing the ball. With J.W. Walsh expected to take all the snaps, the offense will be a bit more limited compared to what can be called with Wes Lunt, due to Lunt's arm strength. OSU does not have the dominant WR that it has had n the past.
The Texas secondary will have a chance to make plays this week. This group needs to tackle better and eliminate some of the big plays it has given up in the first three games.
OKLAHOMA STATE RUN OFFENSE VS. TEXAS RUN DEFENSE
Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith give Oklahoma State a terrific one-two punch at teh tailback spot. The two have combined for more than 500 yards so far this season. If there's one weakness that can be exploited, it's that Randle has had some fumbling problems dating back to last year. Smith is more of a one cut guy and a more physical runner, while Randle is great in space and is a threat as a receiver.
Texas' run defense takes a hit with the absence of the team's only experienced linebacker, Jordan Hicks. Steve Edmond and Demarco Cobbs will have to turn in their best efforts of their young careers, and the Horns will need someone like Tevin Jackson or Kendall Thompson to step up their game as well.
OKLAHOMA STATE OFFENSIVE LINE VS. TEXAS DEFENSIVE LINE
It seems like OSU has experienced talent on the OL every year, and 2012 is no different. Guard Lane Taylor is a four-year starter. The other guard, Jonathan Rush, is in his sixth year in the program. Parker Graham played pretty much all year last year and has really anchored down the left side of the line this year. As a whole, the group is a bit better at pass protection that it is run blocking.
The Texas defensive line has been a team strength, but the competition steps up a few notches this week. The Longhorns really need Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat to apply consistent pressure to take some pressure on the linebackers. Keep an eye on the DT rotations ... there have been late-week rumblings that there may be some bumps and bruises with those guys.
OKLAHOMA STATE RUN DEFENSE VS. TEXAS RUN OFFENSE
The Ok-State run defense is a little bit untested this year through three non-conference games. Arizona ran the ball well, but it did it with a different style than the downhill run game that Texas will show. Caleb Lavey, Shaun Lewis and Alex Elkins have shown well in the run game for the most part.
Texas ran the ball at will against Ole Miss and really just seemed to break the will of the Rebel defenders. It won't be as easy on Saturday night, but the Longhorns' rotation of backs should once again be able to batter its way for decent yardage.
OKLAHOMA STATE PASS DEFENSE VS. TEXAS PASS OFFENSE
An argument can be made that cornerbacks Brodrick Brown and Justin Gilbert are right up there with any corner tandem in college football. People in Stillwater feel this group is every bit as good, if not better than Texas' starters. The safety spots are a strength and a weakness. Daytawion Lowe started all year last year and is good against both the run and pass. The strong safety spot that Markelle Martin vacated has been a weakness.
David Ash is one of the best quarterbacks in the country statistically, but there is still some thought that he needs to play well in conference games before people will be full believers. He'll be tested in a tough environment on Saturday night. Look for Texas to try to get Jaxon Shipley involved early.
OKLAHOMA STATE DEFENSIVE LINE VS. TEXAS OFFENSIVE LINE
Oklahoma State has some size and talent along the D-line. Nigel Nocholas, a two-year returning starter at DT has has moved to DE, his natural position. The line has good size across the board and the coaches feel good about Calvin Barnett and James Castleman inside. Barnett's a high motor guy and commands a lot of double teams.
David Ash, the RBs and the WRs got most of the headlines for Texas against Ole Miss, but the offensive linemen may have been the stars of that game. This group will get its first real test this week.
OKLAHOMA STATE SPECIAL TEAMS VS. TEXAS SPECIAL TEAMS
Quinn Sharp is one of the nation's best as both a kicker and a punter. On kick-offs, he puts it through the back of the end zone pretty much at will. David Glidden has solidified what was thought to be a shaky punt return situation.
Texas had been terrific on kick coverage but you can't ignore the 100-yard return given up against Ole Miss. There's still no official word on Anthony Fera's availability, but we continue to hear rumblings that he won't be ready.