It is almost here, the game that many have pointed to as the "bell-weather" for OSU's season.
The thing on most fans' minds was how young Lunt would handle UT's defense, likely the best in the Big 12.
Then the "6th Play" happened, and suddenly it's young Walsh that will face the Longhorn D. However, that may not be the area of greatest concern.
The Texas offense has plenty. Given the Cowboys' defensive struggles this year (and no, I'm not putting much faith in the "stuffing" of ULL), seeing this from Marquise Goodwin should give us pause:
Marquise Goodwin 69 Yard Run (via OfficialLonghorns)
While I have been an outspoken critic of Texas QB David Ash, much was in fun. In reality, and I've said this before, the coaches have figured out how to fit his abilities into the offense without exposing themselves to mistakes and turnovers. Ash has performed admirably and has stayed within the system. One of key items in making this possible is the plethora of talent at the other skill positions.
Running Backs...Malcom Brown & Joe Bergeron
Between the two, they average 25 carries, 148 yards, and 2 TD's per game. That may not sound so scary, but when you notice that 7 different players have rushes of 10+ yards; 4 players with rushes of 30+ yards (Ash is one); and UT is averaging 5.9 yards per carry, and suddenly the ground game begins to look a little more impressive. Add to that Marquise Goodwin's "dash," and you see that UT is not just about pounding you up the middle. The Longhorns' effective use of the WR "speed" or "jet" sweep, shovel pass (jet sweep from the shotgun formation), and screens accomplishes their main goal of getting the ball to their skill players in space. UT is averaging 259 yards rushing per game. That's 111 yards of rushing per game coming from players other than Brown and Bergeron.
The success of the rushing game and VERY short passing game resulted in what we saw against Ole Miss...lots of single coverage and horrible mismatches in favor of the Texas receivers on deep balls. The Longhorns completed three passes of 40+ yards where the ball was more than slightly underthrown, but because of Ash's improved decisiveness in making the throws, the receivers were able to react and make a play in single coverage (on 2 of those plays the DB fell down...). Granted, the Ole Miss defense was horrible, and while this won't work often against Brown or Gilbert, just know that those guys are going to be singled up quite a bit. That's exposure.
Wide Receivers...Mike Davis & Jaxon Shipley
These two account for well over a third of the average total receiving yards per game (101 of 256), but, like the running game, UT is also well diversified when it comes to passing it around. Nine players caught passes against Ole Miss. For the season, 7 players have catches of 20+ yards, and 3 have catches of 45+ yards (all TD's). Goodwin averages less than 2 catches per game, but also averages 25 yards per catch. Yards after the catch will be a big concern.
Just a note...Goodwin has both the longest rushing TD (69) and longest receiving TD (55) for the UT this season. Second longest rushing TD? David Ash (49).
I've pounded on Ash's lack of prowess in throwing the ball more than 20 yards downfield, but honestly, UT really doesn't need to. With such an effective running game, mixing in the short passes, the occasional shot deep into single coverage is fine. The sophomore QB has flourished this year, sporting the #5 QB rating (190.5) in Div 1 before the bye week. He is completing 76% of his passes for almost 13 yards per completion...234 yards per game...and 7 TD's with NO interceptions. That last number is astounding and troubling at the same time, when you consider our defense has not started up the TO machine as of yet. This Saturday would be a good time to do that, don't you think?
Placekicking appears to be the one real weakness, with Nick Jordan only connecting on 3 of 7 FG attempts (3/4 inside 40yds), as well as 16 of 17 PAT's.
OSU fans should become well acquainted with YAC (yards after catch), as lots of it will be very bad for OSU. UT will put LOTS of pressure on the edges, thus opening holes up the middle. Bill Young will need to be very careful with the defensive aggressiveness so as not to overly expose the unit to big plays. Good tackling will be a MUST. As I said in our last podcast, think Stanford, with a LOT more speed. The Longhorns average almost 33 minutes of possession per game, and will likely do the same against the Cowboys. Given how quickly our offense operates, that would seem to guarantee that the defense will be on the field quite a bit, which can be deadly against a team with the speed of Texas. The Longhorns are averaging 10 possessions per game...Oklahoma State is averaging 15. Chances are the UT number is going up. As far as scoring, the Longhorns average almost 5 points per possession. The Cowboys average just over 4.
The bottom line...OSU's defense will be challenged to get off the field and will get physically pounded.
The silver lining here is that Texas has yet to face anyone even remotely close to the caliber of team they will find in Stillwater. Wyoming just lost to Cal Poly AT HOME. Ole Miss was 2-10 (0-9 SEC) last year but would seem to be a little improved this season. New Mexico was 1-11 last year and looks to also be slightly improved for 2012. That would seem to indicate that the offensive numbers for the Longhorns might be exaggerated due to the weak opposition.