Texas RB Cedric Benson ranks second nationally in rushing (162.1 ypg) while Cowboy RB Vernand Morency is fifth (155.8). As such, these are the top two rushing offenses in the Big 12. Both teams rank last in league standings in passing offense. Both teams have experienced O-lines that returned four starters.
"This will be the real test, strength against strength," head coach Mack Brown said. "Thats what the game is all about."
Oklahoma State is averaging 35.1 ppg while Texas is not far off the pace at 34.5 ppg. More impressively, the Cowboys posted 35 points against Oklahoma last Saturday which just about matches Texas' three-year total (37) against the Sooners. The Cowboys were able to nearly spring the upset behind QB Donovan Woods' career-best 207 yards passing. That's why there are those who believe the two running games will neutralize each other while the outcome may hinge on which QB is most productive with his arm.
"Both teams are doing a good job stopping the run," Brown said. "So, it's just going to be a hard-nose, physical football game."
Texas, however, is doing a better job of stopping the run this season than OSU. The Cowboys have been an average defense, pretty much like Texas was last season when the Horns gave up 152.5 rushing ypg (NCAA No. 58). These days, an improving Texas D is surrendering 114.4 ypg (No. 28) on the ground but knows it still has something to prove since Adrian Peterson shredded it for 225 yards last month.
I really don't think Saturday's game will come down to which QB makes the biggest passing plays. If the Texas D could more-or-less contain a Heisman winner like Jason White, it will be able to corral a freshman like Donovan Woods. He's obviously gifted, and his passing game has improved in the way you wish VY's had progressed. Still, I think this one will come down to which team plays the best run defense.
Texas defenders have a swagger that I have not seen in three years. They are absolutely giddy about their game plan. They have a maniacal Co-Defensive Coordinator in Greg Robinson who hates that he can't still strap on a helmet and take the field with his troops.
"The impressive thing about our defense is that we're just giving up 13.7 points per game," Brown said. "That's the same number we finished with when we were Number One in the country in defense a few years ago. That's the most important stat we've got."
Morency will surpass the century-mark against Texas' bend-but-don't-break defense. But so will Benson, and the Horns are undefeated when Ced rushes for 100+. That's a pretty important stat, as well.
Texas' run defense is better. The Horns are at home. And OSU has to be deflated after falling to its/UT's arch rival last Saturday. Texas 34, Oklahoma State 20.
Pearle -- [Editor's note: Michael is a bit under the weather and unable to submit an in-depth pick, but from his sick bed he proclaimed, "Texas 28, Oklahoma State 21."]
Ross -- For the last two weeks, I've underestimated the Horns. I picked Tech to beat Texas two weeks ago and I picked Colorado, offensively at least, to give the Horns a run for their money. But running against the Texas defense simply wasn't on the agenda. The Red Raiders went for negative ground yards against Greg Robinson's gang and then the Buffs beat a path for a total of three whole yards rushing as Texas dominated defensively.
So, in hindsight, I was obviously overly pessimistic in those last two picks given the on-the-field results. But I don't want to react to the successes of the last two weeks in knee-jerk fashion, flipping to the other side of the equation and being overly optimistic in my analysis, because I still have legitimate concerns about this Texas team. One of those remains, as it has all year, Vince Young's ability to provide a consistent passing threat if needed (and we can now add to that, after two INTs each in two of the last three games, the potential for game-changing turnovers). The other main concern is, yes, the defensive's ability to stop a solid rushing attack. Oklahoma and to a lesser extent Missouri ran for way too many yards against the Horns, and the Cowboys are better in the ground game than the Tigers and close to the equal of the Sooners. Having said that, there is certainly reason for optimism in both those areas. Young was outstanding in Lubbock, and when the coaches put him in a position to succeed, he was very good in Boulder as well (read: after the first quarter, when the offense returned to its ground game strength). And the defense has played six of its best quarters of football over the last two games. Although still a work in progress, Robinson's D is indeed improving as the year goes along. All that leads me to cautious optimism heading into Saturday's game.
OSU's offense, built around a conservative passing game from QB Donovan Woods and the running of Vernand Morency, is scary. It hung 35 points on Oklahoma, a full 35 points more than the Texas offense managed against the Sooners. Of course, both the Tech and Colorado offenses had huge games before facing the Horns, and Robinson's unit rose to the challenge. As I said above, I'm cautiously optimistic it will do the same again this week, and that the Texas offense will continue its power running, ball control ways. Texas 35, Oklahoma State 17.