We haven't discussed Oklahoma State at all this week, so we're going to forego Morning Coffee and just talk about tomorrow's game. Truth be told, this is a defining game for this team. Texas to this point has faced seven average or below average teams and emerged winners; they've taken on two above average teams and lost. What about this week?
Oklahoma State's an above average team. They're not a great team, but they were good enough to beat Kansas State last weekend. They average 5.5 yards per carry on the ground, their quarterback is steadily improving, and they've got a beast of a wide receiver in Adarius Bowman who will have five inches on our cornerbacks.
Translation: It's Show Me time for Duane Akina and his defense.
Getting back to the big picture, though - the 'Horns have crawled back up the human polls to prime position for BCS Bowl contention should they win out. Whether they deserve as a high a ranking as they have right now is largely irrelevant; the fact remains that if they close out with wins over the Pokes, Red Raiders, and Aggies, they'll have finished at 10-2 with three straight solid wins.
And Texas fans, desperate for a reason to rally behind this team, might finally be happy. I know I would be.
On to this week's questions:
1. With Sergio Kindle out with a stinger injury, what's going to happen at linebacker?
History frighteningly suggests we'll be seeing heavy doses of Robert Killebrew. (Damnit; before I could finish typing that Dontrell Savage scored a touchdown.) I think Chip Brown's suggestion is more appealing: emergency showing for Drew Kelson at OLB. He's being used sparingly at safety as is, we know he can play the position, and he's got the type of playmaking speed that's critical to keeping OSU's running game in check.
2. Will we get Good Colt or Bad Colt this week?
I remarked casually in the Baylor game thread that McCoy has devolved into a football version of Connor Atchley: at times a clutch playmaker, at other times problematically ineffective. (Agree with the commenters below that it's not a perfect analogy; Colt is far more important to the football offense than Atchley is to the hoops team. Nonetheless, Colt has had long stretches of ineffectiveness this season, much like Atchley suffers from. -ed.) Unfortunately, the bigger problem right now is that Good Colt's emergence looks dependant on having a deep threat to open up everything else, and Texas' only legitimate deep threat is out for the year with a wrist injury. Solution? Two things: first, Davis needs to use John Chiles in an unpredictable way and second, Davis needs to wear Jermichael Finley out this weekend.
Regarding Chiles, I'm certain the fourth quarter explosion against Nebraska means we'll see more Chiles and more zone read. I'm terribly nervous though that we'll use him tentatively and predictably. The zone read is not a magic play that inherently succeeds upon being called. I hope Davis uses Chiles as a weapon - not a toy.
As for Finley, Oklahoma State hasn't covered anyone all season long - the middle of their defense is softer than a Killebrew-baked souffle. If ever there was a week to use Finley generously (is there ever not such a week?), this is surely it.
3. Jamaal's encore?
Decisiveness is a critical part of a rusher's success in general, and has been a particular hinderance to Jamaal Charles in particular. Peanut gallery comments about "dancing" and "horizontal running" have as much to do with Charles' decisiveness as they do the running schemes themselves.
It is true that Texas' zone blocking scheme does a poor job of creating big holes the running back can patiently wait to develop. The case for using Vondrell McGee centers precisely around the need for a decisive tailback who goes after yards, rather than waiting for them. There's no questioning Charles' talent, though, and if he runs like he did in the fourth quarter last Saturday, he'll continue to be effective.
As always, play calling will be important. Teams are going to run blitz Texas up until the 'Horns find a way to make them pay. Again, generous portions of John Chiles, Jermichael Finley, and the well-timed tailback screen pass should help.
I noted at the end of last week that this Texas team is impossible to gauge. I've seen several people comment that they wouldn't be surprised by either a 20 point win or 20 point loss. I agree.
My sense of Greg Davis is that he follows up his worst called games with some of his better plans (Oklahoma's plan followed the truly pitiful Kansas State plan). I'll go out on a limb and predict a solid showing from Texas Saturday. At least offensively. I do worry about our linebackers, as always, and I'd feel much better about things if Kindle were playing.
The fact that the game is on the road is something to consider, but Texas has been a strong team away from Austin under Mack Brown. I'll call it close, I'll call it for Texas: .