Two orange teams, each fresh of a bye week, are about to square off right before Halloween. Although OSU fans might not favor their struggling team’s chances against a top-10 team, the odds may be better than you think: not only is Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger recovering from a shoulder, Per ESPN’s Football Power Index, the Cowboys somehow have a 77% chance of upsetting AT LEAST ONE of Texas, Oklahoma, or West Virginia. Coach Gundy opted for a group Halloween costume and is making his whole team dress up like Barry Sanders. Will the Cowboys have tricks or treats in store for Texas?
And with that, let’s get this preview started.
Where: Boone Pickens Stadium – Stillwater, Oklahoma
When: Saturday, October 27, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. CST
Get to Know the Texas Longhorns (6-1, 4-0):
Talk about a glo-up. After getting thumped by Maryland for the second consecutive season opener, the Bad Orange faithful’s patience with second-year coach Tom Herman began to wain, particularly after reports surface that he racked up a sizable strip club bill in 2014 with domestic abuser Zach Smith while the two were at Ohio State. Since then, the Longhorns have rattled off six consecutive wins, including No. 22 USC, No. 17 TCU and No. 7 Oklahoma. Although injuries to Keontay Ingram have caused their running game to occasionally sputter, Ehlinger has continued to improve and Texas now controls their destiny in the Big 12. Winning out would likely earn them a rematch with Kyler Murray and the Oklahoma Sooners for a chance to make the college football playoffs for the first time in its current format.
What to Watch For: Oklahoma State (4-3, 1-3):
While Texas has been riding high this season, this series has gone the Cowboys way in recent years, winning a 13-10 slugfest in Stillwater in 2017, 49-31 blowout in Austin in 2016, and a 30-27 comeback in Austin in 2015. In each of those games, Oklahoma State had the better quarterback in Mason Rudolph. Rudolph had one of his best games in an OSU uniform in 2017 when he marched to Austin and wiped Joe Jamail Field with the Longhorns, finishing 19 of 28 for 392 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, throwing in a rushing touchdown for good measure. But Mason doesn’t live here anymore.
Can Taylor Cornelius shake off some poor recent performances against a mediocre Texas defense? Despite their impressive records, the Longhorns rank only 49th in NCAA FBS total defense - not even top 3 in their own state – allowing 5.31 yards per play. Although the Texas pass rush isn’t always formidable, defensive end Charles Omenihu had two sacks last week against Baylor and looked like he was about to decapitate Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer on a number of other plays. Keep an eye out for him, Corndog!
On the other side of the ball, Texas isn’t any great shakes on offense either, ranking 65th in the FBS. A wounded Sam Ehlinger behind an unspectacular offensive line should provide ample opportunities for Jordan Brailford, the Big 12’s leader with sacks this season. Can Brailford get to and disrupt his timing with the Texas receivers? The Cowboys’ best opportunity is to blitz early and blitz often.
Despite their pedestrian offensive and defensive statistics, it must be said that this year’s Texas team exceeds the sum of its parts. Herman has the Longhorns playing with confidence and his team doesn’t shy away from the big moments. The Longhorns have only one ranked opponent, a vulnerable West Virginia, left. If they win out, Herman can make it reign in the Big 12 (sorry).
Player to Watch: Collin Johnson
It’s hard to separate Collin Johnson from the spectacularly-named Lil’Jordan Humphrey. The two junior wideouts are nearly identical in receptions (Johnson: 41, Humphrey: 42), yardage (Johnson: 563, Humphrey: 576), and touchdowns (Johnson: 5 Humphrey 4) while identical in yards per reception (13.7). I’m giving the edge to Johnson based on his standout performances both last week against Baylor (11 catches for 132 yards and one touchdown) and in Texas’ September 22 win against TCU (7 catches for 124 yards and one touchdown). Early draft projections have Johnson as a late-to-mid first round pick in next year’s NFL draft for good reason. He’s a big-game player with elite tools. Here’s a video of his highlights against Baylor. Watch him cook this defensive back about 20 seconds in and then juke him senseless for good measure.
Score Prediction: Texas 48, Oklahoma State 24