Now that the Texas Longhorns have made a statement to the SEC after their 66-31 whipping of Ole Miss, it's time to take a look at their more serious challengers.
Keep in mind, Ole Miss has a fairly decent offense; the Rebels are averaging 488 total yards per game. But Mississippi is not West Virginia, Oklahoma State or Oklahoma.
How good is the Texas defense? How well will it stand up against the monster gauntlet it faces over the next three weeks?
At Oklahoma State. Hosting West Virginia. At Dallas for Oklahoma. Boom, boom, boom.
Oklahoma State always has had a great offense, but the Cowboys could only muster up 38 points in Tucson, Ariz., in their 59-38 loss to Arizona. The Wildcats have a good defense, but they also allowed Oregon to hang 49 points on them last week.
Oklahoma State's starting quarterback, Wes Lunt, went down with a reported knee injury in last week's blowout over Louisiana, and his status is listed as doubtful. Lunt's replacement, J.W. Walsh, performed well, throwing for 496 yards, six touchdowns and one interception. But that was against Louisiana.
The Longhorns back seven are going to have to pressure whichever quarterback makes the start for the Cowboys. Linebacker Jordan Hicks, the team's leading tackler, is questionable for the game, and that's a concern; while the linebacker unit has a lot of depth, it lacks a lot of experience.
Fortunately, the secondary is stacked with talent and experience.
Texas has a very good pass defense that's nationally ranked at No. 25. Its rushing defense, however, looks unremarkable. Oklahoma State's prolific offense is fairly balanced, averaging 308 rushing yards and 378 passing yards per game. We will see both pass and run from the Cowboys.
The Longhorns' anchors (Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor) are studs, and if they can pressure the quarterback like they did against Ole Miss, I'm confident the Longhorns can win the war in the trenches.
If Lunt or Walsh is given too much time to throw, this could be a long day for the Longhorns.
West Virginia has a scary offense, but right now it looks fairly one-dimensional. It's an air show that stars Geno Smith. Receiver Tavon Austin, who is averaging 115 receiving yards per game, is his biggest target.
A passing attack can be fairly lethal, but it too has its drawbacks. "When you throw the ball, three things can happen—and two of them are bad," was often credited to former Ohio State head coach Woody Hayes, and I tend to agree with him.
Live by the pass, die by the pass.
West Virginia hasn't shown much of a rushing attack (averaging 159 yards per game), and with Geno Smith in serious Heisman contention, I doubt we'll see anything but pass, pass, pass. Texas should be able to contain the Cowboys offense unless a significant injury occurs in the back seven.
Oklahoma was held to just 19 points last week against a very stout Kansas State defense. While the Sooners did score 69 points against an FCS team (Alabama A&M), they only managed to score 24 points against UTEP.
I hate to cite the transitive theory here, but in this case something can be inferred from Oklahoma's performance against UTEP. All of UTEP's opponents scored more points on the Miners than the Sooners did, including Mississippi, New Mexico State and Wisconsin.
The Sooners' loss to Kansas State was not a fluke— the Sooners offense just didn't look very consistent sputtering and stalling in very untypical Sooner fashion. The Sooners have three weeks to get their offense back on track.
Can they do it? Yes, but it starts at quarterback play, and four-year starter Landry Jones hasn't set the world on fire. It's not entirely his fault—key turnovers by both Jones and Blake Bell killed momentum for the Sooners.
The Longhorns currently have a 6.0 in turnover margin (net number of turnovers gained/lost), which is pretty impressive after only three games. The Sooners are a -1.33.
That's a game-changing stat.
As it stands right now, Texas has the edge over Oklahoma on defense.