When the Texas Longhorns and West Virginia Mountaineers square off this weekend in Austin, most eyes will be on West Virginia's senior quarterback Geno Smith. The electrifying signal-caller has been a doozy for virtually every defense he has faced, and coming off a record-setting performance against Baylor, Smith has cemented himself in the Heisman race.
Texas returns to Austin after a critical win on the road against Oklahoma State. Its offense has taken huge leaps from its humble beginnings dating back to last season, but surprisingly to most, the Horns defense has been having a plethora of issues that are not only correctable but have yet to be corrected.
So enters Smith, a dual-threat quarterback who can sling it with the best and run it like a man cut loose. Obviously containing the superstar is an entire game plan in and of itself, but limiting Smith's production is a huge key toward attaining victory on Saturday.
There is little doubt that Smith will get his, but how much of it will be because of poor fundamentals on defense?
Here is a five-tool plan that will chip away at Smith's abilities to create magic with the ball in his hands.
Most of the plays that stood out in West Virginia's shootout win over Baylor were explosive plays, many throws that went for huge yardage and touchdowns.
Breakdowns in coverage were root causes of many of the scores, so Texas would be doing itself a huge favor defensively to keep tight coverage on the Mountaineers' bevy of talented pass-catchers.
While the secondary worries about the exploits of Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, the front seven will have its own challenge of controlling Geno Smith. His ability to effortlessly extend plays is one of the many reasons why the Mountaineers boast such an explosive offense.
Keep the big gains under wraps, the yards after catch to a minimum and the quick-scoring drives from pushing the game's tempo.
"Quarterback contain" will be a term used frequently in the coming week for the Longhorns, as keeping Geno Smith in a controlled area is crucial to his effectiveness at the position. His mobility is one of his top strengths, and taking that away is likely part of the scheme against him.
But as the strength of the contain breaks, the defense becomes that much more vulnerable.
It will be up to defensive ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor to control most of the box, keeping Smith in a tight zone to force him into accurate throws.
Expect to see a variety of looks from the defensive line to disrupt rhythm early and often.
Geno Smith has shown his capability to hit receivers all over the field.
It all begins with pressure from the defensive line, but mixing up coverage and delivering big plays across the field are the best ways to disrupt West Virginia's offense.
It is no easy task, but the Longhorns have the talent on defense to run with the Mountaineers offense. The Horns have showcased a lack of fundamentals that would take their game to another level, though.
We all saw what Geno Smith can do when given ample time to operate from inside or outside the pocket.
Creating discomfort and forcing Smith into quick decision-making is the best way for Texas to create chances for turnovers, a battle that it will want to win if it stands a chance at winning the game.
Expect to see a number of different blitz packages from all over the line of scrimmage. However, everything will start with a standout game from the defensive line.
Arguably the best way to limit Geno Smith's influence on the game is to put him on the sidelines, and that will come when the Longhorns establish their running game and control the tempo and the clock.
For Texas, good offense means bringing its strong ground attack.
We saw the Horns drive down the field against Oklahoma State late in the game with a power running game, a scheme that Mack Brown has pledged to bring back to Texas. And he may finally have the pieces in play to meet the necessary objectives.
Quick scores and a high-scoring game are the last things Texas will want, so managing the clock well and slowing the tempo to a snail's pace will allow the Horns to settle in at their comfort.
We know what happens when West Virginia gets into shootouts...