1, What is the Longhorns attitude entering this game? Do they believe it’s a must-win game to gain bowl eligibility with only one regular season game remaining (against No. 5 TCU on Thanksgiving)?
No question about it, the Longhorns view this as a must-win game. They believe they can beat TCU but everyone understands their chances of gaining bowl eligibility really do hinge on this game. Texas is saying all of the right things publicly about OSU and the respect it has for the Cowboys. Stillwater is as tough a place to play in the Big 12 as there is and UT is understanding of that. While Texas won't say much about everything going on with Joe Wickline and how it could be impacting this game, there's no question that the Longhorns want to win this one for their offensive coordinator.
2, Is Tyrone Swoopes developing like the Longhorn coaches expected and how important is his play Saturday night?
Coming off of the Iowa State game a few weeks back mostly everyone around the program, and even the general feel of the fan base, was that Swoopes was about to break out. Wickline implemented more running options for him, which he was using rather well. He was making the right reads and actually completing deep balls, which had been a problem of his all season.
But he has leveled out since that thrilling victory over the Cyclones. He's missing reads. He's holding onto the ball too long when under pressure, he's not staying in the pocket long enough to let plays develop, and when he does leave the pocket under pressure he doesn't always keep his eyes down field. Texas QB coach Shawn Watson came out on Tuesday and said that the QB position was going to open up this off-season, as it will with every offensive position. Swoopes needs to gain some type of confidence moving forward, especially if Texas wants any shot at knocking off TCU on Thanksgiving.
3, If it’s cold and possibly wet Saturday night could you see the Lonnhorns just putting the game in the hands of Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray?
No doubt about it. The two areas on this team that have improved as much as any have been the offensive line and the running game, and certainly they go hand-in-hand. Wickline has really done a nice job with this patch-work group of linemen. They are starting to believe in each other a lot more and, because of that, Gray and Brown are running with a lot more confidence and effectiveness. Gray rushed for over 100 yards and three TDs last week and two weeks ago Brown rushed for over 100 yards and two scores. Up until two weeks ago Texas hadn't had a 100-yard rusher all season.
4, Who is the one defensive player that the Cowboys must contain Saturday night to win?
If I had to say one player I'd probably go with Malcom Brown, Texas' defensive tackle. He's having an All-American type season and will likely be a drafted in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft, at least that's where he's projected. He's a one-man wrecking ball that simply can't be blocked with one guy. I'd imagine, as everyone has, that OSU will roll two guys toward him on most plays, which will free up others around him (Hassan Ridgeway and Cedric Reed) to make an impact. Reed is coming off his best game of the season against WVU in which he had three sacks, four tackles-for-loss and a safety. If I didn't pick Brown I'd go with linebacker Jordan Hicks, who leads the team in tackles and is also having an All-American type season.
5, What does this game mean to Joe Wickline?
He'll never let you know because he's just that type of guy. And we'd never find out because he doesn't ever talk to the media. But you get the sense from talking to people around the program that Wickline is trying to downplay his side of things and understands the importance this game holds as to whether or not Texas will become bowl eligible. All that said, there is no way that this game doesn't mean something a little extra to him given everything that's going on with him and his former employer.