Despite being only three games into the 2015 season, there's a convincing case to be made that the Texas Longhorns are facing a must-win situation when the No. 24 ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys march into DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon.
After coming up a mere extra point shy of a potential overtime opportunity to complete a 21-point fourth quarter comeback over Jared Goff's California Golden Bears last weekend, the Horns are now 1-2 and entering a three week stretch with just as many ranked opponents -- No. 24 Oklahoma State, No. 3 TCU, and No. 15 Oklahoma.
If Texas can't get on the right track against the Pokes, it may very well be starring down the barrel of a 1-5 start, suggesting a second-straight losing season to begin the Charlie Strong era is imminent.
But there's good news: the Longhorns finally have a starting quarterback talented, poised and electric enough to bring hope and excitement back to the 40 Acres in the form of redshirt freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard. Key offensive playmakers, such as Daje "The Dealer" Johnson -- who hauled in five receptions for 145 yards last week, Armanti Foreman and John Burt are beginning to erupt, while the team as a whole seems to finally understand how to have fun and believe in each other; reminiscent of Texas football five or six years ago.
As a result, the entire nation is beginning to rave about the future star Texas has on their hands in Heard after leading the Texas offense to 650 total yards of offense and breaking Vince Young's single-game offensive record with 527 total yards against Cal.
It's unlikely that Heard will be able to replicate his previous performance in such a historical fashion, but with the numerous positives signs the Longhorns have displayed over the past two weeks, they may be ready to take that next step are start winning some meaningful games; beginning with Oklahoma State.
As I noted last week, numbers can be deceiving, and that remains the case for Oklahoma State. Behind the arm of sophomore quarterback Mason Rudolph and junior running back Chris Carson, the Pokes are putting up 508.7 total offensive yards per game, en route to a 3-0 start. But those three wins have come at the hands of Central Michigan (24-13), Central Arkansas (32-8), and UTSA (69-14) -- the three have a combined record of 1-7.
It's safe to say the Cowboys haven't seen the stiffest of competition thus far.
Now pitted against a battle-tested Texas team that's already seen the likes a then No. 11 Notre Dame squad led by now-injured Heisman candidate Malik Zaire, the Rice Owls, which won a bowl game last season, and a potent Cal offense led by arguably the best quarterback in the nation in Jared Goff, Oklahoma State may be in for an upset in Austin.
The question for Texas is no longer the offense, which is averaging 43 points per game over the last two weeks, but rather, a defensive unit struggling to tackle and keep opponents under 500 yards of total offense each week.
Based on what these two offenses have displayed recently, it's quite likely we're in for a shootout today. But until Oklahoma State proves they can best teams worth mentioning, I'll ride with an increasingly confident and dangerous Longhorns team.
Prediction: Texas 38, Oklahoma State 27
How to Watch, listen and stream
TV: ESPN, Saturday, Sept. 26, 3:30 p.m. ET (available on WatchESPN until conclusion of LSU-Syracuse)
Radio: Longhorn IMG Radio Network, KTXX FM 104.9 (Austin), among other participating Longhorn Network affiliates
Online Streaming: WatchESPN, TexasSports.com (audio)
Weather: High of 94 degrees / Low of 69 degrees / Precipitation 0%
Odds: Oklahoma State (-3.5)