Top-ranked Texas has dismissed, in consecutive weeks, the Big 12 Conference’s pre-season favorites to win their respective divisions. Now, the Horns face the league’s most balanced offense when No. 7/8 Oklahoma State comes calling Saturday.
The undefeated Cowboys boast the Big 12’s leading rusher and the league’s leading receiver. It shapes up as a wild west shootout between two of college football’s top five scoring offenses.
“The thing that concerns you the most is their balance,” Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said. “We’ve got to try to create a one-dimensional situation for them.”
Does this mean Texas will try to head ‘em off at the pass?
Nobody expects OSU to abandon the run in Saturday’s showdown. It shapes up as an in-the-trenches slobber knocker with dual-threat Cowboy QB Zac Robinson picking his spots. But it’s shaping up as precisely the kind of match-up DT Roy Miller has been waiting for all year.
“I’ve been in games where teams run one or two series and then they give up,” Miller said. “I’m looking forward to it. I like to get down in the trenches and play the game the way it’s supposed to be played. It’s a scrum. It’s like back-in-the-day when all they had was two plays: a sweep and in inside run. It’s old-school. I like a balanced team because it gives me the opportunity to make plays instead of pass-rushing the whole time. That gives me the opportunity to do what a defensive tackle is supposed to do: pass rush and run support.”
Okie State also brings to town the nation’s No. 5 rushing offense (283.1 ypg) and its highest national ranking in 23 years. Some Texas fans may breathe easier knowing that the Horns’ porous pass defense (NCAA No. 111, 275.0 ypg) is facing the only team that runs the ball (359 attempts) twice as much as it throws (141).
Not so fast, my friend. WR Dez Bryant leads the Big 12 (No. 2 nationally) with 115.6 receiving ypg. All told, the Cowboys are averaging 218.3 yards through the air
“We’ve got a very difficult match-up outside with Bryant,” Muschamp said. “He can hurt you with his vertical speed. He has great ball skills. They’ve had 19 touchdown drives of five plays, or less. They’re getting chunks of yardage down the field, and it’s because people try to out-number them in the box. You get into a predicament, defensively, in putting an extra man in the box to defend some of the gun-runs and some of the two-back runs as opposed to getting middle-of-the-field coverage to a guy like Dez Bryant.”
The Horns are currently ranked No. 2 against the run (48.1 ypg). And here’s a stat you don’t see every day: Texas has scored exactly one point for every rushing yard it has surrendered this year (337). But some question the legitimacy of the stat given the fact Texas has faced prolific passing attacks all season.
“I think Oklahoma came into our game with the idea that they were going to run the ball,” Muschamp said, “but they got away from it during the game. I don’t know that we’ve faced a true running team. Arkansas was, to a certain degree, but the score got out of hand. We certainly haven’t faced a running team as efficient as Oklahoma State.”
Oklahoma State may be the season’s best litmus test determining the effectiveness of Texas’ rush defense. Cowboy RB Kendall Hunter leads the Big 12, and is fifth nationally, with 136.4 rushing ypg.
“If I don’t play the run, I’m outta there,” DE Brian Orakpo said. “Muschamp will take me out. He doesn’t care. If you can’t play the run, you’re not going to be in the game.”