Texas holds a 17-2 series edge and the Cowboys have yet to beat a Mack Brown coached Longhorn team. Although a couple have been close -- the games in 1998 and 2002 were decided on the final drive -- the outcome of this one could be of UL-Lafayette proportions. Injuries, off-the-field problems, inexperience, a newly installed offense, a change in the coaching regime combine to make OSU the Big 12's cellar dweller and in danger of posting Ls in every league game. In fact, the last time I felt this confident about Texas going on the road and rolling an opponent was when the Burnt Orange went to Lawrence, Kansas last November.
Well, there ya go. The Cowboys are down to a third-team, frightfully inexperienced QB but so were the Jayhawks. If Vince Young doesn't scramble for those 22 yards on 4th-and-18 before connecting with FL Tony Jeffery with 11 seconds left, it would have been back to the HoliCotton Bowl for the Burnt Orange. The vast differential in seasoned personnel should mean Saturday's mismatch is over by halftime, just like last year's game against the Cowboys was nearly by halftime.
The point: those back-to-back ball games have done more to keep the current group of Horns on the straight-and-narrow through some of these outings that many projected as trapdoor games during the preseason.
"They understand in the Oklahoma State game last year we got down 35-7, we were supposed to win and we were at home," Brown said. "They understand at Kansas we had to overcome a 4th-and-18 and win with 11 seconds left. They do know that, with people talking about Pasadena, there are trap games out here. You better play every week."
As I mentioned in the OSU preview, the Cowboys either rank last or next-to-less in 11 statistical categories. The Horns, meanwhile, lead the Big 12 in every major defensive category. In fact, the first-team D should not give up a TD all evening. Will QB Bobby Reid see snaps behind center this Saturday? In the immortal words of Bill Murray, "It just doesn't matter! It just doesn't matter!" Texas 55, Oklahoma State 10.
Pearle -- Oklahoma State backers must have sensed this season might not be one to remember when the Cowboys came screaming out of the gate in their opener with a 15-10 triumph at home over Montana State. After wins against Arkansas State and Florida Atlantic, they have gone 0-4 against their Big 12 opponents, being outscored 171-64 in the process. Against A&M in College Station two weeks ago, the Cowboys gave up 62 points and 694 total yards to an Aggie offense that had been virtually shut down by Colorado the week before.
All of this is a little hard to believe given that OSU in recent years had played in the Cotton and Alamo Bowls and had knocked off OU twice back when OU was a fixture in the national championship race. But those days are gone. Right now the Cowboys, with a new head coach, new offensive and defensive coordinators, a journeyman quarterback learning to play the game, 11 freshmen or redshirt-freshmen on the two-deep, and no Tatum Bell or Vernand Morency at running back, are having to start over. This is a rebuild job that right now even Home Depot wouldn't want to help with.
Which is all to say, Saturday night in Stillwater should be a massacre.
With Vince Young at quarterback, Texas has put up 55 and 56 points in the last two games against the Cowboys, with those point-fests coming against an established Poke team coached by Les Miles. There is absolutely no reason Texas shouldn't produce another massive explosion of points this Saturday.
The one thing I fear about this game is that the Horns, getting caught up in the BCS hype and believing that they must hang 100 on Oklahoma State to impress the computers/pollsters, comes out and tries to force things, causing them to make mistakes that lead to turnovers and easy OSU points.
If the Horns take it play by play, focus, and keep the penalties and turnovers to a minimum, this game should be ridiculously out of hand by halftime. If they get distracted and press early, they might make enough mistakes to keep OSU in it and give the Pokes hope that if they hang around until the fourth quarter, they could spring the upset.
Unfortunately for OSU, this is a Texas team with maturity, great coaching, tremendous team leaders and chemistry, and everything to play for. Texas will be focused on the task at hand, and the Cowboys will have to dream about an upset some other weekend, maybe when they host Texas Tech on November 12. The Horns, riding an adrenaline pump courtesy of the rowdy Boone Pickens crowd, will take care of business in a BCS-friendly cakewalk. Call it Texas 63, Oklahoma State 13.
Ross -- I was asked earlier this week whether Mack Brown would "run up the score up" vs. Oklahoma State, the thinking on the questioner's part being that the bigger the margin of victory for the Horns vs. the Cowboys (and the Bears, and the Jayhawks and the Aggies), the better chance that the BCS standings will remain kind to Texas. My reply: it's hard to find an example of a game where a Mack Brown team (unlike, say, a Mike Leach team) has "run up the score" on an out-matched opponent. And I wouldn't expect that will happen this weekend in Stillwater versus a clearly out-matched Okie State squad.
Having said that, this Texas team is capable of scoring a prodigious amount of points in short order, particularly with a Longhorn defense that often gets the ball back into the offense's hands in, oh, approximately three plays and a punt.
So pity poor Al Pena. The Cowboys' formerly third-string QB might could have expected a defensive letdown from the Horns given the big win over Tech last week, all the BCS talk in Austin, and the quality (or lack thereof) of the OSU offensive unit he leads. But Gene Chizik simply will not let that happen. His charges will be focused on harassing Pena, looking to force him into multiple mistakes (as lesser defenses have done the last two weeks), to pitch a shutout for the first time this season and to get those defensive stats back in line after surrendering a whoppin' 17 points (and almost 500 yards total offense) to the Red Raiders last weekend. And, oh yeah, there's that little reminder of last year's game in Austin where the Pokes popped the Horns square in the jaw with 35 points before the half. That means Pena, or whoever lines up under center for the Cowboys, heck, whoever lines up anywhere in the orange and black, will be a marked man.
A bigger threat than the OSU offense to busting a potential Texas shutout might be the Cowboys' kickoff returners, who will have ample opportunity to showcase their skills. Oklahoma State's defense owns a second-in-the-league ranking in passing yards surrendered but pays for that with a porous run defense, which Texas will exploit. Selvin Young, Jamaal Charles and, perhaps with his biggest rushing game of the season, Vince Young could all approach 100 yards rushing in this one if given enough opportunities before Henry Melton, Chris Ogbonnaya and Matt Nordgren take over, probably late in the third. Lots of Greg Johnson kickoffs in this one.
So, will Mack Brown "run up the score" to impress the voters? Nah, but the Texas players will have no choice. The Longhorns are playing too good to be significantly slowed by the Cowboys. Texas 56, Oklahoma State 6.