The BON staff got together to discuss where Texas is at the mid-point of the season, how they can improve this week, keys to a win over OSU, and more.
There was a lot of good, then a lot of bad in the Red River Showdown, which marked the midpoint of the season. What’s your overall feeling on how this season has played out thus far and expectations for the rest of Sark’s first season?
Cody Daniel — My prediction was 9-3 with Texas at 4-2 at this point, though I had a loss to TCU instead of Arkansas. I didn’t put too much stock into that loss in hindsight because Arky’s much better than I anticipated, but the way in which Texas collapsed vs. OU was concerning. So, I’ll reserve expectations for after the OSU game — to me, that will define what kind of team Texas is this year and can be down the stretch.
Daniel Seahorn — Things are about where I expected them to be so far. I had the bar for the team this year at 9-3 and as things sit they’re still able to hit that mark. Both losses so far have been disappointing for very different reasons, but there are reasons to be optimistic in year one under Steve Sarkisian. I didn’t have this team being a playoff contender and was pretty concerned about the some of the challenges Sark was going to face on the offensive side of the ball, but he has shown he can overcome those issues and get his side of the ball going. The defensive side of the ball has certainly been a bit alarming, and Pete Kwiatkowski will have to earn his money over the course of the season if this team doesn’t want to be in a shootout each week.
Gerald Goodridge — There is a high degree of disappointment when you lose games in the way Texas has this year, but preseason I legitimately had Texas at 4-2 with a non-conference loss and a loss to the Oklahoma Sooners. In my mind, this is a team offensively that is trending way ahead of schedule, especially given the issues we know there are that keep it from being optimized. On the flip side, it seems like the Pete Kwiatkowski scheme needs to take a fresh approach to how it can slow down opponents on the ground or the defense will lose a game for Texas.
Curry Shoff — If you told me 4-2 at this point in the season back in August, I think I’d have been a little disappointed. The way we’ve lost both games — one a blowout and the other an embarrassing collapse — makes it all the worse. That being said, I see the forest through the trees. Sark is the right guy to get this program going and guys like Casey Thompson, Xavier Worthy and Bijan Robinson are keeping me optimistic for the rest of Big 12 play.
Texas needs a bounce-back win to keep controlling its own destiny in the Big 12 title hunt. With that, how he RRS ended, as well as the fact that there will be elite recruits on hand like Arch Manning and Evan Stewart, is this the biggest game of the season?
Cody — As I just wrote on the site, I think it is. There’s the need to bounce back and not let one loss snowball into two, and all that comes with that. That, along with Texas being in an ideal position to make a statement win in front of the kind of elite prospects who could potentially change the program, makes it especially important that Sark’s team comes out and looks the part.
Seahorn — This game is huge for the reasons already stated and the staff has gone all in on making this the big recruiting weekend of the season. This game gives the team the chance to right the ship on the field and it would give the staff a chance to really generate some more momentum on the trail heading towards the early signing period.
Gerald — At the risk of sounding like an old coach, the next game is always the most important one. But on a serious note, this game can go a long way to securing both the narrative about Texas turning the corner both nationally and for the recruits on-hand. I think Texas has an opportunity to make a statement with this win and it obviously keeps their goal to compete for a conference championship in front of them
Curry — Yes. Texas has to win out in the Big 12 and make the conference championship for this season to not be a disappointment (to me).
As recently detailed on the site, Texas’ rush defense has been among the worst in program history. Is this fixable, or is this just what we’ll see out of Pete Kwiatkowski’s group this year?
Cody — I’m not holding my breath on seeing things fixed too considerably, and certainly not this week with OSU likely to emphasize running the ball right at the Texas defense. I’d love to be wrong, but I think we’re looking at a long-term fix that might not see a major improvement until next season when PK can possibly get some of his own recruits in.
Seahorn — I think some of the things I’ve seen at the fundamental level are certainly fixable. It’s unfortunate we are having to discuss how poor the tackling and run fits have been on the defensive side of the ball, but those were things on full display in the Cotton Bowl and it’s something the defensive staff should be working hard on if they want any kind of shot to right the ship. I’m not expecting this defense to be elite by any means, but I was certainly expecting them to look at least league average and look well coached and so far PK’s group has come under that bar. I’ll be watching to see what kind of attitude the defense shows up to the ball park with on Saturday because it will be an early indicator of what kind of day we can expect.
Gerald — Fixable and will be fixed are two different things. I think all of the things are fixable but does Texas has the personnel right now to fix it? On Saturday, you saw several plays where Keondre Coburn was able to beat the center like a drum, but the rest of the defense was unable to hold behind him. Whether it was the other linemen getting beaten at the point of attack or the linebackers getting caught up in the mess and not fighting through the traffic, those are all infinitely fixable. I am also curious whether or not Kwiatkowski is willing to abandon his two-high look and bring someone extra into the box in run support.
Curry — Is Chris Ash having a good time in Jacksonville? Oklahoma State runs the ball often — second behind only Texas in total attempts this season having played one less game. If someone on OSU goes for more than 300 yards it might be time to start talking contingency plans.
Despite being unbeaten and ranked just outside of the top 10, Okie State has plenty of flaws. Where does Texas have the most opportunity to exploit the Pokes on Saturday?
Cody — I’m not too confident in Texas slowing OSU’s strong rushing attach, but I think PK will try to overwhelm Spencer Sanders and force him to make some costly mistakes. On the other end, I know OSU’s defense has been pretty incredible but they also haven’t faced an offense nearly as dynamic as what they’ll see against Texas, which ranks 5th in efficiency and scoring, so I’d expect Sark to have some fun on Saturday.
Seahorn — I think we can expect the Texas offense to apply a different level of pressure that the Oklahoma State defense hasn’t experienced just yet, and I think Spencer Sanders is loose enough with the football that the defense will be able to turn him over once or twice. There will be opportunities to be had and the Longhorns just need to be ready.
Gerald — Mike Gundy said on Monday that he didn’t want to get into a shootout against Texas. If Texas is able to connect on deep plays like they were against Oklahoma and test the back of their defense, they could put OSU right into that shootout situation that Gundy wants to avoid.
Curry — Oklahoma State has been pretty solid to start off the season — second in the conference in total defense. That being said, they haven’t faced an offense like Texas yet. If Casey Thompson can play as well as he did on Saturday, including finding touch on his deep ball and not turning it over, I think pairing him with Bijan will be too much for the Pokes. It could be another shootout.
Texas wins if ...
Cody — PK’s defense can play more soundly, specifically against the run and not get beat for explosive plays. If not, they’re gonna spend a lot of time on the field and will wear down again in the second half.
Seahorn — If the defense can force Sanders into some turnovers and be good enough against the run to make him have to make tough throws and decisions in the pocket. They will have to inflict negative plays and put the game on his arm.
Gerald — They’re able to capitalize on the turnover-prone Sanders and put Oklahoma State in a position to play catch up.
Curry — The Texas defense can stop the run and not give up big plays.
Prediction time: Does Texas bounce back and notch its biggest win of the season over No. 12 Oklahoma State?
Cody — Despite having relatively little faith in the Texas defense throughout the course of an entire game, the Texas offense wins a high-scoring contest, 41-34.
Seahorn — I think the team and the staff knows what is at stake here when it comes to the rest of the season and what it could mean for the program in recruiting. I’m predicting a Texas win, but it will certainly get the blood pressure elevated. 38-31 Longhorns
Gerald — I am nervous about this game, but that's just a decade of conditioning kicking in. I think the advantage of the Texas offense is better than the disadvantage of the Texas defense. I think Texas wins 35-31
Curry — Texas wins. Because another loss like last week might take me out.