The Longhorns figured to be better on the offensive line this season after returning four starters from last year and after tapping into the junior college ranks for arguably the country's top JUCO offensive tackle in Donald Hawkins. Hawkins solved a major need at left tackle, moving the semi-inexperienced Josh Cochran to right tackle. That moved Trey Hopkins to his more natural guard spot, where he's teamed well with fellow guard Mason Walters, arguably the Longhorns' top offensive lineman. Dominic Espinosa can be had by strong nose tackles, but he also does a nice job of using his quickness at times. Getting Luke Poehlmann back at tackle, from his spot as a temporary tight end, and the improvement of Thomas Ashcraft at guard gives the Longhorns two guys who have done well as situational players as well. The Longhorns have allowed just five sacks in five games despite ramping up their throwing attempts, while Texas's top three backs average more than five yards per carry. Texas has also been awfully effective running the ball in short situations.
There's not too much question this is the weakest link of the Sooner defense. The days of Tommie Harris, Dusty Dvoracek and the likes on the Sooner defensive line are nowhere to be found currently. OU is presumably solid on the outside with ends Chuka Ndulue and David King, plus backup R.J. Washington. Defensive tackle Casey Walker received a game ball the other night following a solid performance. He worked a great game last year against Texas with a pair of tackles for loss, including a sack, and a forced fumble. So, with fourth starter Jamarkus McFarland, the Sooner defensive line has potential but they just haven't been gap and assignment sound very consistently this year. They also haven't gotten any kind of consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Sooners are tied with a number of other teams at 58th in the country with their two sacks per game, just eight through four outings. A more dominant presence is demanded.
The Longhorns have their weaknesses here, but I'm not sure that the Sooners are equipped to take advantage of it. Oklahoma doesn't have the nose tackle to clog up the middle, and while the Sooners do have talent at defensive end, it might not be enough to take advantage of a solid tackle group. I tend to think that Oklahoma is slightly better on the edges of the defensive line, but that the Longhorns have a bigger advantage in the middle with Walters and Hopkins.
Texas ranks 19th in the FBS in sacks allowed, surrendering just one per game for that total of five so far. OU, as earlier mentioned, ranks 58th in racking them up with just their eight. What more needs to be said? Texas figures to have quite a bit of an edge coming in here up front offensively. If the two tackles Cochran and Hawkins can handle any outside pressure from the likes of King, Ndulue and Washington, there's no reason to even consider giving OU the edge here.