BF.C: Who are the players the Beaver fans should watch for most on offense and defense for Texas?
Kevin Flaherty: For the most part, Texas has been able to run the ball well this season. But the Longhorns have struggled when they haven't been able to pass the ball. Some of that falls on David Ash, who ranks in the nation's top 20 in passing efficiency, but who has either been outstanding (most of the year) or struggling (Oklahoma, Kansas TCU).
Also keep an eye on wide receiver Mike Davis. For a long portion of the season, he was among the Big 12's best deep threats, and he turned multiple games with his ability to make big plays on the deep ball. On the offensive line, Sedrick Flowers figures to get his first career start with Texas's best offensive lineman, Trey Hopkins, out with injury.
Defensively, watch the linebackers. Texas was pretty salty against the pass, and especially in passing situations. But so many of Texas's defensive woes this year came from a young group of linebackers struggling to find their ways.
Steve Edmond has plenty of talent at the middle linebacker spot, but watch out for true freshman Peter Jinkens. Jinkens closed the season out exceptionally well and appears to be a star in the making. Fellow true freshman Malcom Brown is another emerging talent at defensive tackle.
BF.C: When the Texas defense is at its most effective, what does it look like in terms of scheme, amount of blitzing, etc?
Flaherty: Texas's defense is at its best when the Longhorns are slanting, as opposed to stunting. The Longhorns have talent up-and-down the line, and when they get those guys moving forward in a relatively simple and aggressive way, it makes life easier on the second level.
But when Texas twists and stunts — a big part of Manny Diaz's defense — the role of the players on the second level gets more complicated and it hasn't been unusual for those players to get out of place.
The Longhorns aren't perfect on the back end, but they're talented and athletic enough to slow down and stop passing attacks. Most of Texas's problems have come from stopping the run, and most of those have come from over-complication and missed assignments.
And at times, because of poor positioning, Texas has missed tackles.
BF.C: When the Texas offense is at its most effective, what does it look like?
Flaherty: Simply put, when David Ash is on. In eight games this season, Ash completed 74.0 percent of his passes for 2,178 yards and 17 touchdowns to one interception. That's the good side. In the other three, he completed 47 percent of his passes for 280 yards, zero touchdowns and six picks.
In the former games, Texas never scored fewer than 31 points. In the latter games, Texas never scored more than 21.
Ideally, Texas wants to run the ball down your throat, then beat you over the top with play-action. The Longhorns have also been effective when they can get their speed on the edge: wide receiver Marquise Goodwin is the fastest player in college football this year, while running back D.J. Monroe is among the five fastest players in the Big 12.
Additionally, Daje Johnson is an excellent space player with speed. Expect those guys to see the ball some on jet sweeps and plays like that to try and test the outside edges of the defense.
BF.C: Above all else, what is the main key to victory for Texas?
Flaherty: Stopping the run. If the Longhorns can stop the Oregon State running attack, they should have a strong chance to pull out the win. The Beavers are a physical defense that is capable of severely slowing down the Texas offense, so the defense is going to have to pull its weight.
Expect Texas to go with a bigger front, at times playing three defensive tackles in the front four, to try and achieve that purpose.
BF.C: What's the mood around the Texas fanbase after an 8-4 regular season?
Flaherty: There's a lot of frustration. I think a lot of people saw this as a 10-win season, especially after Texas won eight last year with a ton of key injuries and youth. And it easily could have been, had the Longhorns pulled out close games against West Virginia and TCU.
That's why the Alamo Bowl is so important.
Texas is set to return a number of key players next year, and will get back injured players like Jackson Jeffcoat and Jordan Hicks on defense. The pieces are there to make a serious run, and it would be huge for Texas to grab that ninth win and enter the offseason with that kind of positive momentum.
ALAMO BOWL Q&A: The inside scoop on Texas
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