The Texas Longhorns are set to host the 10th ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys this Saturday. Texas currently leads the overall series 24-7, but the Pokes have won the last two. This game is huge for both sides. Oklahoma State is looking to get to the Big 12 title, with a possible playoff berth still on the table. Texas desperately needs this win if they want to reach bowl eligibility, because the Longhorn’s Big 12 schedule is unforgiving.
Oklahoma State enters this game coming off of a blowout win over the Baylor Bears. At 5-1, Oklahoma State seems to have found their groove again after a poor performance in their loss to TCU. The Cowboys currently boast the number one offense in the country led by star quarterback, Mason Rudolph.
Averaging a ridiculous 611 yards per game, this Oklahoma State can move the ball and get yards in chunks.
After an emotional loss to arch rival Oklahoma, Texas enters this matchup and 3-3. Texas has competed in every game this year, but has failed to secure the victory in half of them. True freshman Sam Ehlinger has emerged as the starter under center for the Longhorns. Ehlinger is a very elusive and athletic quarterback, but he still makes his fair share of freshman mistakes. Tom Herman needs a win here to show concrete signs of improvement by knocking off a playoff caliber team.
DATE & TIME: SAT, OCT. 21 at 11:00 AM CT
LOCATION: Darrel K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium (Austin, TX)
FORECAST: MID 80’S, 40% Chance of Rain
LINE: Oklahoma State -7
OKLAHOMA STATE (5-1, 2-1)
The Oklahoma State Cowboys started the season as a potential playoff dark horse. They certainly looked the part early on as they breezed through their out-of-conference slate. To kick off conference play however, the Cowboys got ambushed by a very underrated TCU team. The hype surrounding Oklahoma State suddenly went quiet as the Cowboys dropped to 3-1.
Oklahoma State had no time to dwell on the loss as they were set to travel to Lubbock to take on a very improved Texas Tech team. The Cowboys were tested yet again, but were ultimately able to pull out the victory to advance to 4-1.
Last week the Pokes turned in their best performance since Pitt as the Cowboys handled the Baylor Bears 59-16. Oklahoma State now sits at 5-1 and have quietly found their way back into the top ten. With the current parity of the Big 12, if Oklahoma State were to run the table it would be difficult to leave them out of the playoff.
Oklahoma State prides themselves on being an offensive juggernaut. Headlined by Mason Rudolph, James Washington, and Justice Hill, this offense can flat-out score. The Cowboys also possess the best receiving core in the Big 12 and arguably the nation. Wide receiver Marcell Ateman is finally having his breakout season. The senior has already put up 568 receiving yards and four touchdowns halfway through the season. Ateman and James Washington provide one of the best receiving combos in the country.
Perhaps the reason these Cowboy receivers have had so much success can be attributed to the quarterback. Mason Rudolph is a Heisman candidate who is well on his way to shattering most of the quarterback records at Oklahoma State. The senior has thrown for 2,368 yards and 19 touchdowns in six games this season, adding only four interceptions in the process.
The Cowboy defense has been solid throughout the season, giving up a shade above 24 points per game. This defensive unit is led by Tre Flowers, who is one of the best safeties in the Big 12. Ramon Richards and Chad Whitener help round out this defensive attack.
TEXAS (3-3, 2-1)
First year head coach Tom Herman has quickly realized winning at Texas is no easy task. The Longhorns have shown solid signs of improvement this year, but don’t have the wins to show for it.
Texas started the season 1-2 after a terrible loss to Maryland and a gut wrenching loss to USC. The Longhorns then rallied and went onto win their first two games in Big 12 play, defeating Iowa State and Kansas State. Quarterback controversy has plagued the Longhorns all season long, but last week Texas found their quarterback.
Sam Ehlinger shined in the Red River Showdown against arch rival Oklahoma. He displayed immense heart, throwing for 278 yards and rushing for 110 yards also adding two touchdowns. The freshman quarterback gave it his all, but the Longhorns still fell short.
Texas now sits at 3-3 and the Longhorns’ bowl chances are beginning to look distant with a daunting remaining schedule.
Texas has been unable to establish a running game throughout the season. Starting running back—Kyle Porter—lacks the explosiveness necessary to thrive in the Big 12. Chris Warren III has been disappointing this year as he has failed to seize the starting job. Perhaps this poor running game is a product of the injury ridden offensive line, but the Longhorns need to be able to run the ball to compete for titles in the Big 12.
The Texas defense has been inconsistent and we don’t really know which Longhorn defense we will see. Malik Jefferson and DeShon Elliot are the heart and soul of the defense. Texas’ defense struggled mightily last week in stopping the prolific Sooner offense led by Baker Mayfield. The task won’t get much easier this week as the highest scoring offense in the nation comes to town.
KEYS TO THE GAME (OSU)
GENERATE EXPLOSIVE PLAYS – The Texas defense had trouble stopping the big play against the Sooners, which ultimately cost them. This Oklahoma State offense is built to generate big plays. James Washington has a knack for getting past the secondary and Mason Rudolph can throw receivers open. Specifically, the Cowboy offense should challenge Texas DB Kris Boyd who seems to be the weak link of the Longhorn secondary. If Oklahoma State is able to make a few big plays, it will be hard for the struggling Longhorn offense to answer.
CONTAIN EHLINGER – Sam Ehlinger’s best attribute as of now is his elusiveness in the pocket. The Cowboys cannot afford to have Ehlinger roll out of the pocket freely because he will make you pay. Coach Herman addressed the scramble drill heavily this week so expect the Longhorn receivers to thrive this week when Ehlinger gets on the move. If the Cowboys can keep Ehlinger in the pocket, the freshman will struggle to get in a rhythm.
PROTECT RUDOLPH – Last week the Longhorn defense got to Baker Mayfield, injuring his shoulder in the process. In Oklahoma State’s loss to TCU, the Horned Frog defense rattled Mason Rudolph and forced him into a few turnovers. The Cowboys cannot afford Rudolph to get beat up and rattled if they expect to get a win in Austin this Saturday.
KEYS TO THE GAME (TEXAS)
START FAST – The last two weeks the Longhorns have started slow and played the majority of the game from behind. If you start slow against the Cowboys, they will route you, just ask Pitt. Being an early kick, Texas needs to get points on their first drive to get the crowd involved and set the tone for the rest of the game.
WIN THE TURNOVER BATTLE – The Longhorn defense has been able to force a lot of turnovers throughout the year. Going against an offensive juggernaut like Oklahoma State, the Longhorns will need to capitalize on the few mistakes they will make. If Texas is able to generate two or three turnover, they will have a shot to pull off the upset. Look for Elliot, who already has five interceptions on the year, to make some plays.
FINISH – Texas has been close to turning the corner for a while now. The Longhorns lost to USC by three and OU by five. Texas needs to close out these games, especially when playing at home. Longhorn faithful are tired of seeing moral victories in big games.
Oklahoma State is currently favored by seven points in this matchup, which seems very accurate. I expect this game to come down to the wire like all of Texas’ games thus far. Oklahoma State will lead most of the game, but Texas will come back to tie the game in the fourth quarter. Then, Mason Rudolph will mount a game winning drive to sink the Longhorns late.
Oklahoma State 38 Texas 34.