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Texas vs. OSU: First look at the Cowboys

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The second of the critical swing games this season is on deck as Mike Gundy brings the Pokes to Austin.

Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

Where: Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium (Austin, Texas)

When: Saturday, September 26, 2:30 p.m. CT on ESPN

Oklahoma State's 2015 record: 3-0

Returning starters: 16 of 22 (tied for 17th nationally)

2015 statistical comparison:

Offensive Statistics Texas OSU
Points per Game 29.7 41.7
Yards per Game 363.3 508.7
Yards per Play 6.3 7.37
Red-Zone Scoring % 100% 92.31%
Defensive Statistics Texas OSU
Opp. Points per Game 37.0 11.7
Opp. Yards per Game 512.3 303.0
Opp. Yards per Play 6.2 4.2
Opp. 3rd-down Conversion % 56.3% 33.3%

Previous meeting: Texas lucked out last season by avoiding the start of the Mason Rudolph era at quarterback for Oklahoma State, instead getting an oportunity to knock around Daxx Garman behind an inexperienced offensive line. The Longhorns dominated time of possession (38:37 to 21:23), locked down the Cowboys' rushing game (23 carries for 34 yards), and used two first-quarter touchdowns to take an early lead.

Quarterback Tyrone Swoopes led the Texas offense with a 24-of-33 performance through the air as the sophomore racked up 305 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Johnathan Gray added 16 carries for 81 yards and one touchdown.

Overall series: Texas leads, 24-5

Key facts:

-- The Longhorns have won 15 out of the last 16 conference openers.

-- The only loss in a Big 12 opener for Texas came in 2007 against Kansas State. Apologies for activating your Ron Prince PTSD.

-- Three of the five wins for Oklahoma State in the series have come in the last five years, including three straight wins in Austin. The visiting team has won every game since 2008.

-- Seventeen of the 22 starters for the Cowboys hail from the state of Texas.

Offense

Led by sophomore Mason Rudolph, who currently ranks No. 12 nationally in passer rating, the Oklahoma State offense is heating up after a tepid 24 points against Central Michigan to start the season, as the Pokes dropped 69 last weekend on UTSA, though the offense received a major boost in the form of seven turnovers forced by the defense. Now 5-1 as a starter, Rudolph is completing 69% of his passes and averaging 10.5 yards per attempt.

Despite Rudolph's success, Gundy still has a package for senior quarterback JW Walsh, Jerrod Heard's predecessor at Denton Guyer. A lack of arm strength sunk his career as the starter, but he's still a strong athlete who can make plays with his legs and is a threat to pass when he's in the game as well -- two of his four completions have gone for touchdowns this season.

With the exception of speedster Tyreek Hill, who was dismissed last December following a domestic assault, Oklahoma State returned all their top receivers from 2014. Senior slot receiver David Glidden is currently leading the way with 12 catches for 283 yards and three touchdowns -- that's an average of 23.6 yards per catch. Rudolph doesn't play favorites though, as there are currently six Cowboys receivers with five or more catches.

The offensive line now features much more experience after entering the 2014 season with only 38 total starts. With Hill and Desmond Roland now departed, highly-rated junior college transfer Chad Carson is now the No. 1 back. Central Arkansas was able to shut him down (15 carries for 42 yards), but Carson was able to take advantage of UTSA for his first 100-yard performance. He also scored two touchdowns against the Roadrunners.

Defense

Only two seniors ranked among the team's top 10 in tackles last year, so this is a much more experienced unit in 2015 than the one the Horns faced last year in Stillwater. The competition hasn't been of the highest level, so the Cowboys only rank No. 65 in defensive S&P+ so far this year, even though the unadjusted numbers are much more impressive. However, it looks like third-year defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer has his group on the upswing once again after he orchestrated an impressive turnaround in 2013 and then saw regression in 2014 when four of his top six tacklers departed.

Senior defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah is the reigning Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year after his breakout junior campaign and he's off to another strong start with 4.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks through three games. Heard will also see his old high school teammate on the other side of the line -- senior Jimmy Bean combines with Ogbah to form one of the conference's best defensive end duos.

Look out for freshman defensive tackle Darrion Daniels on the inside. The former consensus four-star prospect from Dallas Bishop Dunne has stepped quickly into a big role and could present some problems for the interior of the Texas offensive line.

Cibolo Steele product Ryan Simmons is a steady force at linebacker for Oklahoma State. Undersized at 6'0, Simmons is a tough player with good speed considering that he carries 243 pounds. The team's active leader in carer tackles and career tackles for loss, Simmons is now in his third season as a starter.

The secondary gained a lot of experience last year and is led by senior cornerback Kevin Petersen, who made his name in 2014 by holding star West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White to 27 yards on three catches. At safety, another Cibolo Steele product, Jordin Sterns, provides stability at the back end. He's the leading tackler for the Cowboys right now with 28 stops.