Heading into the meat of the Texas Longhorns' Big 12 schedule, Greg Robinson will first have to figure out how to slow down Oklahoma State's surging offense.
He need look no further than his defense, which has been dominant during his short tenure.
The Cowboys have been lights-out over their past three games, outscoring their opponents by a 152-67 margin. Their recent success can be attributed to a resurgent ground game and the play of senior quarterback Clint Chelf.
During that three-game span, the Cowboys have been dominant on the ground. They have accrued 342, 281 and 202 yards, respectively, behind junior tailback Desmond Roland. That success has taken the pressure off Chelf, who has been sacked just once in those games.
Keeping Chelf, and J.W. Walsh before him, clean has been a trademark of the Pokes all season. They have allowed only eight sacks through nine games, best in the Big 12.
The dominance on the ground, however, has been a recent development. Mike Gundy's team could not get anything going in his team's 31-20 loss to West Virginia, averaging just 2.8 yards per carry. And they gained just 85 yards in their narrow escape against Kansas State.
Robinson will look to reverse both trends in Austin on Saturday, and he has just the personnel to do it.
Coming off their six-sack performance against West Virginia, the 'Horns are second in the conference with 26 on the year. The effort has been led by the relentless tandem of Cedric Reed and Jackson Jeffcoat, the best duo in the conference with 14 of those quarterback takedowns.
Cedric Reed is seriously playing like an All-American right now. Wonder if people nationally are taking enough notice.— Wescott Eberts (@SBN_Wescott) November 10, 2013
But it's not just Reed and Jeffcoat racking up sacks, as 10 different Texas defenders have gotten to the quarterback this season. Cornerback Quandre Diggs is third on the team with 2.5, which is a statement to the different ways Robinson is dialing up pressure.
Look for Robinson to bring the heat on Chelf, who has thrown the ball to the other team four times in the past four games. The aforementioned Reed also leads the conference in forced fumbles while Jeffcoat leads in recoveries, which could play a factor as well.
Additionally, the 'Horns have held all but one Big 12 team under four yards per carry, which means the Longhorns should get plenty of chances to tee off on Chelf.
Yes, improved play on the back end has helped the defensive line win the battle up front. Linebacker Steve Edmond and safety Adrian Phillips are playing the best football of their careers.
Still it all starts with the defensive line. Any one of the eight linemen that Robinson has utilized is capable of winning a one-on-one matchup, preventing the offense from loading up against Reed and Jeffcoat.
Even losing senior leader Chris Whaley for much of the West Virginia game, and the rest of the season, could not slow down this group. Junior Desmond Jackson stepped in and had a career-high two sacks, including one for a forced fumble.
Desmond Jackson says his 2.5 sack performance is dedicated to his teammate and fellow DT Chris Whaley, who left with a knee injury.— Texas Sports (@TXHornsSports) November 10, 2013
Robinson will continue to rely on this group's ability to make plays in the backfield. Its ability to harass Chelf into mistakes and slow down the Pokes' run game will give Texas the best chance to stay undefeated in the wide open Big 12.