To get a better insight on this Oklahoma State team ahead of Texas’ showdown with the Cowboys this Saturday, we talked with Cowboys Ride for Free site manager Cade Webb.
Topics discussed include Ok. State’s dominant offense and less-talked about defense, and some keys to the game for both teams.
No visiting team has ever won five straight games against Texas in Austin, but Oklahoma State is threatening to do just that this Saturday. Why has this match-up been so favorable to the Cowboys in recent history?
I think the two programs went through massive changes at right around the same time. You could point to the 2007 season as the beginning of this "new era" of Oklahoma State football, and probably the 2010 season for Texas. Oklahoma State has had some darn good teams in the last decade, and to be as respectful as possible, Texas really hasn't been at that level. Oklahoma State, for the last seven or so years, has been the more stable program, and has fielded some really solid football teams.
Further, Mike Gundy has had relative success against Texas in his tenure. Even when Texas won games, it seemed like they were always close matchups.
What do you think the ceiling is for Oklahoma State this year? How is this Cowboys team different than in previous seasons?
If you had asked me before the season started, I would've said probably 11-1, a Big 12 title, and an appearance in the College Football Playoff. Now, having seen the product on the field, I'd say those goals are a little foggier than they once were. Don't get me wrong, they can still achieve those things and it wouldn't be a huge surprise, but I think a lot of Oklahoma State fans would agree that the start to this season has been a tad underwhelming.
Talentwise, this is probably Mike Gundy's best team in his Oklahoma State career. He has dudes all over the place. His offense is absolutely loaded at every position, and the defense is playing well right now. It wouldn't surprise me to see things come together quickly, but it'll take a great performance at Texas to keep those goals alive.
Do you think Oklahoma State can sustain being the nation's No. 1 offense? How can Texas stop the Cowboys?
Absolutely, they can. This Cowboy offense is no fluke. They've got a veteran offensive line, the best wide receiver corps in the nation, a freshman All-American tailback, and a Heisman candidate running the show. Honestly, if they don't finish the season in the top 3 of total offense, I'd be shocked.
And I think you have to look at what TCU did against Oklahoma State. They showed a favorable look to get Rudolph to audible into a run, and then back off into zone coverage at the snap. It's an extremely exotic coverage that I don't think is usable by just anyone, but TCU did it to perfection and it confused Rudolph. If they can get to Rudolph consistently, I think that's the key to slowing them down. I just don't think there's a way to bottle up this offense for four quarters if they're taking care of the ball.
At this point, the casual fan is well aware of Mason Rudolph, but the Oklahoma State defense is less well-known at this point. What are some strengths and weaknesses of the D?
The defense has been solid, but not great, in pretty much all areas. I'd say right now, the defensive line has been the bright spot. They've got a lot of depth, and they love to use it. The linebackers have been pretty solid as well. The secondary had questions going into the season, as they are starting a redshirt freshman and a true sophomore at cornerback, but that looks to be at least a workable situation.
Who is one player on Texas that you are most worried about facing heading into Saturday's game?
I don't know how I could say anybody else but Sam Ehlinger. I mean, he's running the show in Austin right now. He does literally everything for the Texas offense. The running game has struggled, and the passing game looks to be pretty average, but he's been a spark for the Longhorns. He keeps them in games. For me, he's the obvious choice.
For the sake of conversation, I'll also throw in Malik Jefferson. It's well-documented that I've been a big fan of his since he got to UT, and it looks like he's finally coming into his own.
How is this Texas team unique from other opponents Oklahoma State has faced thus far this season? Do you like the match-up?
I'm not sure they're incredibly unique to Oklahoma State. I would say that the defense is something OSU should be cautious of, but having watched Texas, they have a propensity to give up the big play, which is what Oklahoma State thrives on. They've seen a good defense already this season in TCU, a game in which they lost, but turned the ball over four times in the process.
On the offensive side of the ball, Oklahoma State has historically struggled to defend mobile quarterbacks. I don't know if it's a personnel or scheme issue, but they have trouble there. That worries me when considering Ehlinger's skillset. That being said, I do like this matchup for Oklahoma State. I think there's enough weakness on the back end of the Texas defense for the Cowboy receivers to exploit. I also think that the Cowboy defense is athletic, and fast enough, to stretch out Ehlinger and the UT run game.
What needs to go wrong for the Cowboys and right for Texas for the Longhorns to win?
Texas needs Oklahoma State to get reckless with the football. As I mentioned above, TCU forced the Pokes into four turnovers, and that essentially cost them the game. Obviously, that's an easy answer. Another thing that needs to happen for UT is that they establish some sort of deep passing threat. Oklahoma State will be starting two young, albeit talented, cornerbacks on Saturday. If Ehlinger can find a way to connect on a few passes down the field, it could open up a lot for the Texas run game.
What is your prediction for this one?
I know you all won't like this one, but I'm going to take Oklahoma State. They roll in with the top-ranked offense in the country, and they're going up against a defense that ranks 105th in the country in defensive yards per passing attempt. That fits right into what the Pokes want to do on offense.
Defensively, I think OSU is good enough to at least contain the Longhorn offense. Ehlinger will get his, but if this turns into a shootout, I wonder about his ability to keep them in it through the air. I think this will be a close one for three quarters, but Oklahoma State gets a key turnover and seals it for their fifth straight win in Austin. Oklahoma State 38, Texas 27.