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Scouting The Enemy: How To Attack OU

Lots of interesting discussion about the Texas offense lately, and as we prep for the biggest game of the season - EVERY season - Oklahoma, let's take a look at what we're up against.

Back in the August preview of the Sooners, I wrote:

I keep hearing about how great the Sooner defense is going to be, but they're not exactly loaded - not like they were during their run of Big 12 dominance.

Four games into the actual season, and my doubts about their dominance have proved on the mark. For the season, the Sooners have given up 130 yards per game rushing, and that includes the statistical padding they received by holding Middle Tennessee Tech State Light to 22 yards rushing on 28 attempts. When you take that game out of the equation, the Sooners have allowed 166 yards rushing per game, good for about 90th in the country.

The pass defense has been middle of the pack, as well, thanks to an absolute torching at the hands of the Oregon Ducks. All told, the Sooner defense just isn't at the level that we saw during their stretch of dominance at the beginning of this decade. They can be run upon. They can be passed upon.

Most importantly for Texas' purposes, the Sooner defense appears particularly vulnerable to throws over the top of the defense, something Greg Davis has not installed into the Horns' attack to this point. Whether McCoy is incapable of it, or whether Davis is simply protecting the young thrower to this point, we don't know. What's important is figuring out what it'll take for Texas to win.

There are two ways you can think about this, so let's walk through both.

The first option, and the one it looks like we're headed toward, is a pretty conservative, underneath game that doesn't use the vertical passing attack much. When Texas has the talent edge (like, for example, they had against Iowa State), that's more than enough. When they don't (like, for example, against Ohio State), it's not enough. The problem with the exceedingly safe game plan is that there isn't much margin for error. If the team catches a few bad breaks - a turnover on the 2 yard line, for example, you're in trouble. If the team falls behind, you're in trouble.

The alternative, of course, is to open things up early and often. You do risk problems if Colt's not up to the task, but you definitely do your running game a big favor by keeping the safeties honest. And, of course, you put one of Texas' biggest strengths - it's wide receiving group - in a position to do what they're best at: make big plays down the field.

We'll need some sort of balance in this game, as a soft attack underneath plays into the strengths of the Sooner defense and forgives their weaknesses. Texas probably has enough of a talent edge on both lines to win this game in a grinder, but the margin for error is just so much smaller when you essentially play not to lose. A critical interception, fumble, or missed assignment on defense can lead to big problems and (yes, let's call it what it would be) an upset.