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Horns early underdogs for road game against Cowboys

And the weather looks like it will be a bit inclement.

Brett Deering

The big win over the West Virginia Mountaineers didn't convince Las Vegas that the Texas Longhorns are ready to go on the road and beat the Oklahoma State Cowboys on Saturday.

For the game in Stillwater, betting opened on Sunday with Oklahoma State as the slightest of favorites:

Of course, that's also partly a calculation of what will get the betting going, so it wouldn't be surprising to see some action for the Horns push that line towards Texas in the coming days.

Something that will come under consideration for anyone interested in the over/under on total points and any Texas fans preparing to head to Stillwater for the weekend is the weather. Those heading to the game will need to pack a winter jacket and a poncho because it's not expected to be pleasant in that part of Oklahoma on Saturday evening for the 6:30 kick on FOX.

stilly weather


So, yeah.

In the past, the Longhorns haven't always played well in cold weather games, including the last regular season contest of 2013, when Texas fell on the road to Baylor, 30-10. At kickoff of that game, the temperature was 24 degrees.

How cold was it that day, Cedric Reed?

Fortunately, it won't be that cold, but if there is precipitation, it could feel that cold and favor the team more capable of running the football, which will also be the case even if it's just cold, as the football becomes more difficult to throw and to catch in such weather conditions.

Here's how things match up on the ground:

Team Rush defense S&P rank Rush offense S&P rank
Texas No. 47 No. 47
OSU No. 31 No. 88

"The running game has come a long way," play caller Shawn Watson said after the West Virginia game. "We've worked hard at it. I loved what those guys are doing up front. We've taken a philosophy of bringing the ball downhill to the tailbacks because that's who they are, and it just really plays into what helps us make football and helps Ty."

Individually, the players are performing better than they did in Manhattan and head coach Charlie Strong also believes that they are starting to develop some chemistry as well, a crucial ingredient for any offensive line.

"They did look pretty good, and it's what Coach Wickline is doing, but also the players," he said. "Like I say every week, we're squeezing every ounce we have out because you look at Taylor [Doyle], he played well, Sedrick Flowers played well, and you look at NCAA [Camrhon Hughes], he continues to get better. [Kent] Perk[ins] continues to get better, and then [Marcus] Hutch[ins] is doing a great job."

With that group of guys, it's almost like they're forming a bond ... Now they're realizing just how focused and how tight they have to be for everyone to really trust and believe in them, and that's what happened with the running game. Now the running backs are trusting them and believing that they're going to get people out of the way just to give them a seam."

With the exception of struggles against Kansas State in gaining only 90 yards on the ground, the running game has been working well since Baylor, with 190 or more rushing yards in four of the last six games.

The Mountaineers currently sit at No. 24 nationally in rush S&P and the Longhorns were able to dominate that front in the decisive first half -- the offensive line is starting to gel, the lead blockers are executing at a high level, and the Texas running backs are finally finding a rhythm after a frustrating start to the season.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma State has struggled this season after the departure of offensive line coach Joe Wickline to Austin and only 38 returning starts along the offensive line entering 2014 -- in five of nine games, the Pokes have averaged 3.31 or fewer yards per carry.

The rush defense for Oklahoma State has fared much better overall as the rankings would indicate, but the last three games have featured the worst performances of the season, as TCU racked up 261 yards on 6.53 yards per carry, West Virginia gained 210 yards on 4.77 yards per carry, and Kansas State scored three touchdowns on 4.06 yards per carry.

In fact, seven of the 13 rushing touchdowns allowed this season by the Cowboys have come in the last three games.

So the Texas rush offense is trending upwards as the Oklahoma State rush defense is trending downwards.

And count Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy as someone with a healthy appreciation for the strength of the Texas defensive line:

Keep in mind that Oklahoma State opened up against Florida State and has also played TCU and Kansas State already.

The rushing attack for the Pokes has sputtered this season in being held to less than 3.1 yards per carry by Kansas and Iowa State, while the Texas run defense has had some difficult moments as the coaches have schemed to avoid big plays in the passing game.

Give Texas the edge on both sides of the ball then, even if the S&P numbers tell a slightly different tale overall.

Strong was asked on Monday about the message to his team about the weather.

"What I tell them is that weather is on both sides of the ball, and we're going to have to move people out of the way and we're going to have to run the football," he said. "When we can balance it with run and pass, then we're pretty good on offense."

After the unexpected win at home over West Virginia, Texas is on the brink of bowl eligibility with two games remaining and the game in Stillwater representing the best chance to get to six wins.

Complacency could be a potential pitfall for the team if it doesn't stay hungry.

"We can't get complacent," Strong said. "The thing about it, you're going to hear a lot about this win, don't even worry about it, just brush it off. We've still got to stay the course. We still haven't finished our work. We still have work to get done. We need to continue to work, and I said that one of the worst things that can happen is all of a sudden we start thinking that we're better than what we are. Then you get complacent, you don't feel like we need to get better."

But, watching that tape yesterday was really good. We were able to show what we could have done a lot better and what we should have done. So I think they get the message. But when the leadership of the team takes over, then they'll really get the message."