If No. 12 Texas is to compete for the 2012 Big 12 Championship, Stillwater, Okla., is where it starts against an unranked, but dangerous, 2-1 Oklahoma State football team.
Oklahoma State is an upgrade versus the other teams Texas has played and the undefeated Longhorns are traveling for the second straight game. Not that Stillwater is a particularly scary place for Texas considering Oklahoma State hasn't beaten Texas there since 1997.
Frankly, Texas should be happy to get the Cowboys in Stillwater since over the last two years, Oklahoma State has owned Texas in Austin.
We're being charitable when we call the Cowboys an Oklahoma team because 66 players calling themselves Oklahoma State Cowboys hail from Texas high schools. These guys playing against one another also know each other. They've played together since middle school, and they share more than that: Both teams open conference play this weekend, both teams had last week off, both teams are starting young guys on offense and both teams really hate the other Oklahoma.
We're being charitable when we call the Cowboys an Oklahoma team because 66 players calling themselves Oklahoma State Cowboys hail from Texas high schools.
Oklahoma State's stats are gaudy
The Cowboys average 62 points per game, over 300 yards rushing and 378 yards passing. They've scored 25 touchdowns already. But those stats mean nothing; they are a lie and OSU should be embarrassed by them.
This is the team that played Savannah State to start the season. Savannah State is a second division football team, an FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) school, not a first division FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) school. Oklahoma State had no business playing Savannah State: They beat them 84-0. The stats shouldn't even count.
Texas lines up well against OSU. The Cowboys are starting a freshman quarterback, even if we still aren't sure which one. Starting quarterback Wes Lunt, a freshman, was injured in the last game; he was replaced by another freshmen, J.W. Walsh. (OSU's star quarterback last season, Brandon Weeden plays for the Cleveland Browns now. His favorite receiver Justin Blackmon also plays in the NFL, leaving the Cowboys with very little experience on offense.)
Oklahoma State can score points (especially when they play bad teams), but they have not seen a defense like Texas yet. The closest they've come was against Arizona, a game Oklahoma State lost.
With that lack of experience on offense, and given the Longhorns' current offensive confidence, this game could get away from Okie State if they're not careful.
Texas is ready to roll
After an impressive offensive performance against Ole Miss, David Ash managed to get himself named to the Maxwell Award watch list. I don't know who at the Maxwell Awards has been watching, but hell, I'm sure Ash's folks are thrilled, and I'm betting Ash is feeling good about it and I hope he wants to prove he's worthy. He needs to.
"It's really important for David to be consistent," explained Texas Head coach Mack Brown. "That's all we need — manage the game. We've got good players. Get the ball where it needs to be."
Oklahoma State will stuff the line of scrimmage in order to stop Joe Bergeron (who looks like he will be able to play after injuring a shoulder) and Malcolm Brown. That means Ash gets to throw the ball a little — let's hope he continues throwing it to the right color jerseys as he's been money in avoiding turnovers.
The Longhorn defense has something to prove. They've been exposed by offensive teams not nearly as good as Oklahoma State, and they need to make serious corrections.
"Our defense was not very happy leaving Oxford," said Brown. "We've got to do a better job of getting off the field on the third downs, but we also have to do a better job on the big plays. We've taken all of those out, looked at all the big plays we should have done differently."
Oklahoma State plays great at home and the Longhorns have a lot to prove. You won't hear this often this season, but Texas brings more experience to the game, particularly on a defense that's been embarrassed and wants to prove what it can do against a freshmen quarterback.
What to watch for:
- Can Texas deal with success? The Horns of 2010 and 2011 were an inconsisent bunch, big wins followed by a big loss. Can this team build on success? It's a question Mack Brown is asking, "One of the question marks with this year's team, they've made progress each week: Can they continue to build on that progress and get better even with people bragging on them? Around here it's usually really high or really low, you don't get anything in the middle."
- Defense. Will the Texas defense slow down the high-powered OSU offense and avoid the big plays that have plagued them in the first three games?
- Dominate the line of scrimmage. If Texas can run the ball on offense with success, and if the defense can continue harrassing the quarterback, Texas will win big.
Texas needs to continue building confidence. "That's why I'm so excited about this weekend, to see if that's for real," Brown said. "Can we line up and be physical each week? Will David [Ash] progress? Will we make some big plays and make some tackles, do a better job tackling?"
They have to. Next week the Longhorns take on West Virginia, a team picked to win the Big 12, and a team that will come to Austin ready to prove it belongs in the big leagues.
Texas Longhorns at Oklahoma State Cowboys
Time: 6:50 p.m. at Boone Pickens Stadium, Stillwater, Okla.
Honored: Savannah State celebrates homecoming this weekend, we should root for them!