The meat of the Texas Longhorns' schedule begins Saturday when Oklahoma State heads to Austin. The Longhorns and the Cowboys are in the Big 12 title race, which means Saturday's game could have lasting effects on the remainder of the season.
Texas has lost the last two home games to Oklahoma State, but the Longhorns lead the overall series 23-4 over the Cowboys. A win Saturday will give the Longhorns their seventh-straight Big 12 win and keep the title hopes alive.
But it won't be easy.
When: Saturday, November 16, 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, Texas
Austin radio: KVET 98.1/1300
SiriusXM satellite radio: XM 117; Sirius 202; Internet 969; Spanish 970
Spread: Oklahoma State (-3), per VegasInsider.com
Last meeting: September 29, 2012, Stillwater, Oklahoma
Last outcome: Texas 41, Oklahoma State 36
Run the read-option
To say the Texas defense has improved under defensive coordinator Greg Robinson is an understatement. The Longhorns' defense looks like an entirely different unit. Since the start of Big 12 play, the Texas defense has held its opponents to 3.2 yards per rush and 21 points per game. But the Longhorns have not faced a true read-option attack, which gave the defense issues at BYU and against Ole Miss.
Oklahoma State quarterbacks Clint Chelf and J.W. Walsh have shown the ability to be a threat in the run and the passing game. Walsh is known for his read-option talents, which would help the Cowboys' chances.
Run the ball
The Texas depth chart took a major hit when Johnathan Gray tore his Achilles tendon against West Virginia. But the Longhorns have more than enough depth to help make up for Gray's absence. Junior running back Malcolm Brown has helped carry a lot of the load this season, averaging four yards per carry, and has scored eight touchdowns. Brown's companion will be junior running back Joe Bergeron, who has averaged 5.5 yards per carry and three scores this season.
But it would not be surprising if Texas adds redshirt freshman Jalen Overstreet to the mix. The once-quarterback made the move to running back during fall camp, but has not had the opportunity to display his skills. Without Gray in the mix, do not be surprised to see No. 3 pop up Saturday.
Cornerback Justin Gilbert
You must be wondering why a defensive player is listed as a player to watch when a key to victory is on offense. But Justin Gilbert could be Kryptonite for Texas' special teams.
One of the most overlooked struggles the Longhorns have is special teams defense. The Longhorns rank No. 115 nationally in kick-return defense, allowing their opponents to average 25.76 yards.
Gilbert had a 100-yard kick return for a touchdown against Kansas last weekend, and set a new Big 12 career record with six kickoff returns for touchdowns. Keep an eye on No. 4 when the Longhorns kick the ball.
Linebacker Steve Edmond
Steve Edmond struggled last season when he was forced to take over the Longhorns' linebacking corps after Jordan Hicks was sidelined with injury. But Edmond has grown into a playmaker for Texas this season.
Edmond accounted for 12 tackles, one pass breakup, a tackle for loss and an interception in the Longhorns' 47-40 OT win over West Virginia last weekend. Edmond has matured in Greg Robinson's defense and is beginning to show signs of the talent he possessed prior to stepping onto the 40 acres.
Texas head coach Mack Brown on Oklahoma State quarterback Clint Chelf
Clint (Chelf) showed his ability to run at Texas Tech. We hadn't seen that much. We knew J.W. (Walsh) was the runner-passer and we thought Chelf was the passer. That run he made at Texas Tech will get your attention. He sprinted up the middle and nobody was even close. He looked really fast, so this will be the most balanced offense we have seen.
Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy on Texas (Via OKState.com)
Texas is as good as anybody in this league and arguably the best team in this league up front on both sides of the ball. They cause a lot of issues in their ability to rush the passer. They have a good running game. They're blocking and getting downhill and running the ball effectively.
Texas quarterback Case McCoy on Oklahoma State's defense
Their defense is good and that's an understatement. It has been that way these last couple of weeks. They're an older group. (Justin) Gilbert is an incredible player and an incredible special teams player. We understand what we're facing. The bottom line is, we can't come out and play like we did in the first half last week.
Oklahoma State cornerback Kevin Peterson on facing Texas' offense (Via OKState.com)
It will be fun because I know that they will be some of the best athletes that we have faced all year. With the run game they have, they may be the best run game we've faced all year as well. With seeing how our defense has played so far, it's going to be fun to be able to play an offense of their caliber.
This game could easily be a coin-flip, which makes it tough to predict. The injury bug has hit Texas, so this game will test the depth.
Texas has played its best games this season as an underdog. The Longhorns will be an underdog to No. 12 Oklahoma State and it is unlikely that anyone will be picking the upset.
If this game was in Stillwater, Oklahoma State would be the obvious choice. But considering the roll the Longhorns are on, it's hard to pick against them. So let's not do that.
Prediction: Texas wins by a field goal to make its record 7-0 in Big 12 play.
Texas 31, Oklahoma State 28
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
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