Most folks would agree that Texas has one of the best defenses in the Big 12. I've said on several occasions (without seeing them play) that I thought they had the best defense in the Big 12.
While I won't depart much from that statement after seeing them play and watching some highlights from their other games, I will say there is much room for optimism for Oklahoma State's chances on offense.
Much like their offense in 2011, the Longhorns' defense experienced a new coach and system. Manny Diaz came onboard when the staff was overhauled after 2010 after a successful stint as DC at Middle Tennessee State and one good year at Mississippi State, and brought with him an aggressive style of play. Some would call it occasionally crazy.
And, much like the offense in 2011, the defense struggled at times. While athletic and fast, they were often caught out of position and surrendered big plays such as this...
Jeremy Smith 74-yard TD Run (via pistolsguy)
Many who speak about the Longhorns say that both sides of the ball have improved since last season. Experience would say that makes sense. Players are maturing and grasping what is being asked of them.
But if I'm a Texas fan, I would be VERY concerned about what their defense is about to face.
Who has this defense faced this season? A team that just lost to Cal-Poly; a team that went 1-11 last season; and a team that went 2-10 last season. Ole Miss (the 2-10 team) put 24 points and 400 yards of offense on the board with 3 turnovers (scored 31, but 1 TD came on KR).
To put that in perspective, Oklahoma State scored 38 points on the road with over 600 yards of total offense while giving the ball away FOUR times, along with a school record in penalties and penalty yards, against a team that is definitely better than Ole Miss. I've said this so many times...this offense can lay an egg and still put 30+ on the scoreboard. That puts pressure on the opposing offense to keep up or keep the ball away.
While UT's defense is playing the turnover game well, averaging 2 takeaways per contest, if I'm a Texas fan I would be much more concerned about that units propensity for giving up big plays.
I decided to take a look at the first 3 games through the first 3 quarters.
Wyoming is more dependent on the pass:
- completed 7 passes of 10 yards or longer;
- three of those for 25 or more yards;
- long of 82 (TD);
- They only had one rush longer than 10 yards (18).
New Mexico was just the opposite, depending heavily on the run:
- had 7 rushes of 10+ yards;
- only 1 rush longer than 16 yards (29);
- New Mexico logged only 1 pass of 10+ yards (10).
Now let’s look at the game at Ole Miss. I will concede that the Rebs are definitely improved on the offensive side of the ball, but are NOTHING like what UT will witness in Stillwater:
- Ole Miss recorded 7 rushes of 10+ yards;
- Four of those were 15+ yards;
- One of those was a 48 yard TD;
If you add in the passing game:
- Ole Miss recorded 5 passes of 10+ yards;
- Three of those were 30+ yards;
- One of those was a 75 yard TD;
That’s 12 plays of 10+ yards, and 4 of those went for 30+, with two TD’s.
Manny Diaz is known for playing aggressive defense, and the hallmark of aggressive defense is….hold, hold, hold, BANG. Big play. Look no further than the game against Oklahoma State last season.
For a little fun, why don’t we compare some defensive stats? We will throw out Savannah State, UT gets to count all three of their games. This is not a problem, as the opponents are comparable, and because through three quarters of play in two games, OSU’s defense was on the field a total of 121 plays. The Longhorns’ D was on the field for 119 plays through three periods in THREE games;
- UT has given up 28 plays of 10+ yards; OSU…26
- UT has given up 15 plays of 15+ yards; OSU…10
- UT has given up 8 plays of 25+ yards; OSU…2
- UT has given up 4 plays of 40+ yards (3 TD’s); OSU…1 (no TD’s)
Notice a trend?
Based on the first 3 quarters of the game, OSU’s defense has only given up 1 TD play over 10 yards, and that was a 15 yard pass by Arizona. Almost 2/3rds of the plays logged by the defense were against an opponent (Az), which is a better product than anything Texas has faced so far. Almost 2/3rds of the defensive plays for the Longhorns came against Wyoming and New Mexico.
- I am not counting the 73 yard passing TD by ULL against OSU. The DB tore his Achilles on the WR’s first cut, leaving him wide open;
Drives…again, through first 3 quarters only (no special teams):
- both units have faced a similar number of drives (UT 24, OSU 23);
- drives of 4 plays or less…UT 12, OSU 11;
- drives of 8 plays or longer…UT 4, OSU 5;
- average plays per drive…UT 4.96, OSU 5.26
The point I am trying to make is this…UT’s defense is NOT this big scary 800lb gorilla that is about to walk in the room and sit on us. OSU’s offense should have some success. How much is yet to be seen, but I don’t think it unreasonable to expect at least 35 points out of the Cowboys, sans a mistake filled venture like Arizona. If OSU plays poised, mistake free football (no TO’s, critical drops, or drive killing penalties), they will be a tall order for the Longhorn defense to handle, and stamina will be an issue. The Cowboys possess MANY weapons on offense, including the two most physical receivers UT will face this season (T. Moore/Jackson). Josh Stewart is is hard to handle in space, and don’t forget a backfield that rivals the Longhorns’ tandem (see Jeremy Smith above). Randle is also as dangerous a receiver as any on the field. The UT offense will need to sustain drives and keep OSU off the field, much like Stanford did (and we all know how that turned out).
While Texas has what appears to be a great run game (200+ yards against OSU last season), the Cowboy defense is decent against the run, only allowing 4 rushes of 10+ yards in the first 3 quarters against Az & ULL, and a long of 18. Granted, neither of those squads have the athletes the Longhorns possess.
In the end, for me, this game is a total crap shoot, almost impossible to really tell how good or overrated either team might be. My gut doesn’t like how I’m feeling about this, and it’s really all about OSU’s defense. The Cowboys beat UT twice in a row at their place. You can bet the Longhorns will be looking to return the favor, and keep in mind that OSU has only 4 wins all-time vs UT (2 of those in the past two seasons), and has defeated Texas only once in Stillwater. Ever.
As with so many games, this will be about big plays and turnovers. If either team controls both, they will win by 2 TD's or more. A split, and we'll have a one possession game that comes down to who has the ball last.
Like I stated, I don't like how I'm feeling about this game, so I'll stick with my podcast prediction of a Texas win, and attach a score of 41-38.
I hope my gut is way off.