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Can Oklahoma State’s run defense stop the Texas rushing attack?

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Will Texas be able to run the ball on Oklahoma State? Here’s what the numbers say.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Texas Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Hey guys, we’ve got a football game this weekend. Against Texas!

So let’s talk about it.

One of the most intriguing and important questions for this game is whether Oklahoma State’s vaunted rushing defense can slow down the Longhorns’ high-powered rushing attack. We talked about it on this week’s Roundtable. You can check out everyone’s thoughts here.

But I wanted to dig into the numbers a bit and see what we’ve learned about each team thus far.

As it sits now, the Cowboys are ranked third in the Big 12 in rushing defense through four games, allowing only 143.25 yards per game on 3.52 yards per carry.

The Texas Longhorns rank second in the Big 12 through three games with 238.33 yards per game on the ground at 4.55 yards per carry.

I know. I know. Small sample size, right?

Texas was enjoying their early bye week while Oklahoma State was coughing up a heart-breaker in Waco, so they’ve only played three games.

I think three games for the Longhorns and four for the Cowboys is enough to at least get an idea about where each team stands.

Let’s take a look at who the Longhorns were able to run the ball against.

  • Notre Dame (1-3)
  • UTEP (1-3)
  • Cal (2-2)

Okay, not extremely impressive. But who has Oklahoma State actually stopped from running the ball?

  • Southeastern Louisiana (1-2) FCS School
  • Central Michigan (3-1)
  • Pittsburgh (2-2)
  • Baylor (4-0)

Okay, so that still doesn’t tell us a lot. Let’s dig a little deeper. Here are Texas’ three opponents and how they have defended the run so far this year.

Notre Dame v Texas Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Here’s what the Fighting Irish have given up on the ground:
  • Texas: 237 yards / 4.02 average
  • Nevada: 99 yards / 3.30 average
  • Michigan State: 260 yards / 5.00 average
  • Duke: 208 yards / 4.95 average

Notre Dame is No. 96 nationally against the run, giving up 201.00 yards per game and allowing 4.39 yards per carry.

Here’s how the Miners of UTEP have fared:
  • New Mexico State: 139 yards / 4.63 average
  • Texas: 171 yards / 3.64 average
  • Army: 426 yards / 5.84 average
  • Southern Miss: 202 yards / 5.18 average

UTEP is ranked 109th nationally allowing 234.5. yards per game and 4.96 per carry.

Here’s who the Cal Bears have played:
  • Hawaii: 248 yards / 6.53 average
  • San Diego State: 334 yards / 7.11 average
  • Texas: 301 yards / 6.02 average
  • Arizona State: 164 yards / 3.28 average

Cal is No. 123 with 263.25 yards per game on 5.66 yards per carry.

So we see that while the Longhorns have rushed for close to 300 yards in their three games, their opponents have been especially weak defending the run. What does that say about Oklahoma State’s chances?

Let’s take a look at who OSU has actually been able to slow down.

Pitt v Oklahoma State Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images
Here’s how FCS-team Southeastern Louisiana was able to run the ball:
  • Oklahoma State: 97 yards / 2.11 average
  • Southern Utah: 136 yards / 4.25 average
  • Northwestern State: 288 yards / 6.26 average

SLU is an FCS team, so yeah, what can we really tell from this game?

How about Central Michigan?
  • Presbyterian: 255 yards / 6.71 average
  • Oklahoma State: 50 yards / 1.92 average
  • UNLV: 147 yards / 4.32 average
  • Virginia: 93 yards / 2.74 average

Central Michigan is ranked 101st in the nation, averaging 136.25 yards per game and 4.13 per carry.

Okay, here’s Pitt’s respected run game:
  • Villanova: 86 yards / 2.53 average
  • Penn State: 341 yards / 6.09 average
  • Oklahoma State: 290 yards / 5.37 average
  • North Carolina: 281 yards / 5.11 average

Pitt ranks 15th in the nation with 249.50 per game and 5.02 per carry.

Here’s how Baylor’s run game has fared:
  • Northwestern State: 275 yards / 6.40 average
  • Southern Methodist: 275 yards / 5.00 average
  • Rice: 296 yards / 5.48 average
  • Oklahoma State: 136 yards / 3.68 average

The Baylor Bears are 19th in the nation with 245.50 yards per game on 5.20 yards per carry.

So Pittsburgh is best team at running the ball of the group but the Cowboys allowed 290 yards and 5.37 yards per carry, both above Pitt’s season average.

The Baylor game would be Oklahoma State’s crowning achievement in rushing defense thus far. They held the Bears to 136 yards on less than four yards per carry.

Texas has a relatively young offensive line, that has yet to play a defensive line as good as Oklahoma State this year.

Texas also has two big, powerful backs in Chris Warren III and D’Onta Foreman that are bigger than any running backs the Cowboys have tried to tackle. Linebacker play will be key, as well.

The Longhorns also supplement their rushing efforts with the “18-Wheeler” package that we broke down for you earlier this week. It may look familiar to OSU fans because of the Cowboys’ two-QB system with JW Walsh last season, but also because Tyrone Swoopes has been on the Longhorns’ roster for like eight years. Okay, that’s what it feels like.

So while it’s early in the season, the sample size would dictate that, at least to this point, the Cowboys have been good at stopping the run.

The Longhorns have put up numbers against less-than-elite rushing defenses, so I would just call them good but unproven.

This Saturday’s matchup will be a test for both teams. Whoever is able to impose their will on the ground will likely come out on top.