We've spent more than our fair share of time on the Big 12 blog this week examining the state of Texas' defense. It's an understandably big storyline—which is, ironically, underselling it a bit—heading into Saturday's game against Ole Miss.
And, if new defensive coordinator Greg Robinson can't shore up this group, things could start to take a turn for the worse heading into Big 12 play.
Interestingly, Texas' best offensive performance came last year against the Rebels in a 66-31 win. But that was with David Ash. On Friday afternoon, the Longhorn Network confirmed via its Twitter account that Ash would be sidelined against the Rebels. Ash had sustained head and shoulder injuries (knees and toes are reportedly fine) against the Cougars.
QB David Ash is out for the Ole Miss game.— Longhorn Network (@LonghornNetwork) September 13, 2013
That means backup Case McCoy will get the start with freshman Tyrone Swoopes serving as the No. 2 QB.
"Tyrone Swoopes practiced really well yesterday and obviously if he's in the game we'll just have to be simpler."
The fact that Swoopes would be asked to do less than McCoy if he were to be placed in a game situation is far from surprising. But simpler doesn't have to mean less effective. BYU had a simple offensive game plan against Texas last Saturday—run the ball. And the Cougars did it for 550 yards against the 'Horns' defense.
Ideally, McCoy will start and play the entire game while Swoopes sits on the sideline and preserves what was expected to be his redshirt season. However, history suggests McCoy will struggle if he has to carry the offense beyond a limited role.
He's 2-5 when attempting 15 passes or more in a game and has eight touchdowns to seven interceptions in that sample.
If McCoy struggles against Ole Miss, what does Brown do? On one hand, playing the Rebels means nothing for the 'Horns' Big 12 title hopes. Whether the game is won or lost, whether it's close or a blowout, it matters not when it comes to getting back to a BCS bowl.
On the other hand, Brown has already made an uncharacteristically swift move this year by demoting Manny Diaz from defensive coordinator two games in. Who's to say Brown won't do everything else necessary to win?
If it's just one or two games, Brown will probably stick with McCoy barring injury. If it's any more than that, the situation becomes less clear. And when Ash does come back, there's always the issue of playing post-head injury. Oftentimes, those players aren't quite the same for the rest of the season.
If the goal is to preserve Swoopes' redshirt, and that would seem to be the preference, then he likely won't play on Saturday.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise. You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenKercheval.