As I said in HD ONLY, there is a heightened sense of anxiety across the board in Longhorn-land for a handful of reasons:
The WAY the defense played in the loss at Cal. ... The two weeks to stew in that because of the bye week. ... Charlie Strong saying he'd be more involved in fixing a defense on pace to give up more points per game (34.7) than any in school history. ... Notre Dame's Brian Kelly firing his DC after the Irish fell to 1-3. ... Cal losing to Arizona State ... and .... last ... but certainly not least ... LSU firing Les Miles.
Now, players and coaches don't pay much attention to that stuff. But fans and rich alums do. So with all that said ...
I expect a lot of different looks on defense with more use of a four-man line full of pass rushers - Malcolm Roach, Breckyn Hager and Charles Omenihu with one of the big-boy DTs (Paul Boyette Jr., Poona Ford and Chris Nelson) in there with 'em.
If there are any other pass rushers available - like No. 41 - now would be the time.
I think we see more zone blitzes, more pressure period, after not bringing the heat at Cal and getting picked apart. Oklahoma State Cowboys and Cal are very similar offensively.
Texas has been pretty basic on defense this season so far.
So there's a lot of new stuff that can be shown that should be able to rattle Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph, who has been fumbling the football this season (he had one in the red zone vs Baylor last week).
If Texas doesn't hit Rudolph - a lot - he'll get comfortable in the pocket and throw to a talented and underrated set of WRs, led by James Washington, who reminds me of former Baylor WR Antwan Goodley (a bigger, thicker, more physical WR who catches everything and plays with fire and determination).
Oklahoma State may have figured out its running game last week with freshman RB Justice Hill, who averaged 6.1 yards per carry against the Bears but also lost two fumbles.
Overall, the Cowboys turned the ball over three times inside the Baylor 20 last week, otherwise the Cowboys win that game.
So, the Longhorns need to get Oklahoma State to keep turning the ball over by finally collecting some turnovers themselves. Texas has only forced one turnover this season (a fumble recovery) with zero interceptions.
On special teams, even though Michael Dickson is having an All-America type year, Oklahoma State's Zach Sinor has pinned opponents inside their own 20 an impressive 12 times without a single touchback while averaging more than 43 yards per punt.
On punt returns, we'll see how well Jacorey Warrick's hamstring has recovered from the Cal game.
I think the Texas defense shows up in revitalized way - finally reflecting Charlie Strong's personality - after having two weeks to hear about how terrible they were at Cal. That had better be the case, or ... Nevermind, let's think positive!
This game won't be easy. It never is at Oklahoma State.
It's unreal to think Texas has an 8-game winning streak at Boone Pickens Stadium with some of the Houdini escapes UT has pulled off there ...
... VY pump-faking and going 80 in a comeback in '05
... Colt McCoy and Jamaal Charles coming back from down 21 in 2007 thanks to a last-second FG by Ryan Bailey
... David Ash to D.J. Grant in 2012 on fourth-and-6 with another long pass to Mike Davis that set up that friendly TD call on the goal-line plunge by Joe Bergeron, who apparently crossed the goal line before losing the ball.
The good news is Strong's only trip to Stillwater was a 21-point beatdown of the Cowboys in 2014.
This game, at times, I think is going to cause Texas fans to lose their minds. So please don't do that at HD from 11 am to 2:30 pm CT tomorrow! I know - I'm asking a lot!
But I think Texas scratches and claws its way to extending its streak in Stillwater to 9 straight wins ... barely ...
Texas 41 ... Oklahoma State 38
I’m not sure if anyone knows what Oklahoma State or Texas truly is in 2016. Both teams have shown flashes in games, but still have major question marks at key positions - primarily on defense.
Oklahoma State has dropped two games, including a last minute heartbreaker to Central Michigan after a clear misstep by the officiating crew. The Cowboys enter Saturday's game coming off a loss to Baylor, so there’s little doubt they will be seeking Longhorn blood in their second Big 12 Conference game.
The Cowboys have run a decently balanced offensive attack through four games. Texas needs to find a way to make Ok. State's offense one-dimensional, and it starts up front in pressuring QB Mason Rudolph.
Rudolph has not handled pressure well this season, and has been sacked 13 times. With the QB's success throwing the ball, the Longhorns need to get to Rudolph early and often to avoid a repeat of what went down at Cal.
As for the Texas offense, I believe the way to win is with a run-heavy attack.
While Oklahoma State has given up a lot of yards in the air, the one game its defense faced a ground game led by a big-bodied back (Pittsburgh's James Conner) similar to D'Onta Foreman and Chris Warren, the unit gave up 290 yards and three scores on the ground.
Running the ball to open up the Longhorns' passing game will give Shane Buechele the chance to pick apart the Cowboys' secondary - which has allowed 992 passing yards and nine TDs in the last three games.
There is reason to believe this game will be a shootout, and the team with the best defense will end up with the W. Both have pretty comparable defenses - which is not the best sign for either team - so Saturday could honestly go either way.
I don't know if it is deserved, but I'm going to give Texas the benefit of the doubt in this game since the Longhorns had two weeks to prepare for it, and with Charlie Strong being more involved in the defense.
Texas 38 Oklahoma State 31
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