Though it’s only been two weeks, it seems like light years since the then-No. 11-ranked Texas Longhorns were the talk of college football.
Texas football was back, or so we thought. Who knows yet? It’s difficult to discern between hype, hope, and here we go again at this point.
A humbling 50-43 road loss to the California Golden Bears and a bye week later, we’re due for a bit more clarity as to who the 2016 Longhorns really are as they hit the road for the second time in as many games to face an Oklahoma State team eerily similar to Cal—at least offensively.
What better test for two weeks worth of promises that Texas’ mistakes will be fixed than against the best defense the ‘Horns will have seen thus far and an offense comparable to the one that poured on 50 points and 507 yards in Berkeley?
To follow up a Cal team that ranks No. 1 in the nation in pass attempts (222), Texas’ secondary will again be facing a tall task, as Oklahoma State ranks No. 6 nationally with 171 air attempts. Mason Rudolph likes to throw the ball, a lot, evident in the junior quarterback tossing the pigskin 44 times against Central Michigan and 46 times a piece against Pittsburgh and Baylor. It helps that he’s had star receiver James Washington on the other end of 25 of his tosses, three of which have gone for touchdowns.
After what Texas displayed against Cal, the Cowboys are likely to continue this air raid trend, which is something Rudolph said he’s eager to do, per okstate.com.
"They're a great defense," Rudolph said. "They run well in space, and they're very physical, so I think it will be a great test for our guys. I think we're up to the challenge, and I can't wait to get out there and lead this offense up and down the field."
But quite unlike Cal, Oklahoma State isn’t solely reliant upon Rudolph. The legs of Rennie Childs and Justice Hill headline a rushing attack that’s only averaging 126.8 yards per game, but has added 11 scores.
Depth will be essential across the board for Texas, as Oklahoma State’s 86.3 snaps per game – a slight increase from Texas’ 85.7 snaps – will demand some of the ‘Horns’ young talent to step in and contribute at key moments against a potent offense.
It’s worth noting, though, that Oklahoma State’s offensive yardage productivity has been a step behind the opposition in defeat. Central Michigan and Baylor – the Pokes’ two losses – have outgained Mike Gundy’s team 941 yards to 830. The two that didn’t: FCS product Southeastern Louisiana (1-2) and Pittsburgh (2-2), who racked up 290 rushing yards in a 45-38 loss.
While the numbers indicate Texas could stockpile yards and points in Stillwater, other statistics provide proof of how disruptive a talented Cowboys’ front seven can be. Through four games, Oklahoma State’s defense has recorded 35 tackles for loss, ranking ninth nationally. And though it’s not the most feared pass rush, the Cowboys have gotten to opposing quarterbacks nine times this season, while the rush defense is allowing only 3.5 yards per carry.
On the flip side of that, Oklahoma State’s offensive line has allowed a Big 12-worst 14 sacks this season, which could end badly against a Texas defense that leads the conference in sacks.
Between an Oklahoma State offense that will likely put some points up and a defense that could set up shop in the backfield, The ‘Horns are slated for their third tough test of the season.
Can Texas can pass the test and escape Stillwater with a ninth consecutive win and three wins before October for the first time since 2012?
· Saturday will be the 31st meeting the conference foes. Texas holds a 24-6 series edge.
· Texas holds the series’ longest winning streak with 12 connective victories between 1998 and 2009.
· The road team has won the last seven meetings.
· Texas has won eight consecutive games in Stillwater dating back to 1997.
· The Longhorns’ largest margin of victory came in 1996 with a 71-14 win.
· Oklahoma State’s largest victory was 42-16 in 1997.
· The Cowboys have won four of the last six meetings.
What to know about the Pokes
· The Cowboys are 2-2 to start the season; 0-1 in Big 12 play.
· Oklahoma State is 28-7 in its last 35 home games.
· The Cowboys are outscoring opponents 59-17 in the first quarter this season (four games).
· Oklahoma State has attempted at least 40 passes in six of its last seven games.
Cowboys to keep an eye on
· James Washington – One of the nation’s most explosive receivers and a threat virtually everywhere on the field, Washington’s 488 receiving yards are tied for fifth in the nation. His 91-yard touchdown reception against Pitt is also the second longest in the NCAA entering week five.
· Mason Rudolph – The Cowboys’ gunslinger has passed for 1,296 yards this season, which ranks 11th nationally, and has spread the wealth around nicely, as 10 receivers have hauled in at least three receptions.
· Rennie Childs – Ranks eighth in the NCAA in rushing touchdowns (6) after only 32 carries.
· A win would place Texas above the .500 mark in conference play under Charlie Strong (10-9).
· As a head coach, Charlie Strong has led teams to a 16-8 (.667) record when coming off a bye week.
Texas' offense has improved by 15.0 points per game, along with significant upticks in rushing yards, passing yards, first downs and plays per game.