3 storylines to watch against Oklahoma State

28 Oct By
Saturday's game at Oklahoma State will be something of a homecoming for first-year Texas offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich, who spent six seasons as assistant coach in Stillwater (photo courtesy of texassports.com).

The Texas football team heads into a critical road contest Saturday against No. 6 Oklahoma State. For the Horns, it will be a chance to continue in the momentum built up following the victory over Baylor this past weekend. For the Cowboys, it will be a chance to keep their College Football Playoff hopes alive. At this point, Oklahoma State is the only team from the Big 12 that still has a viable path to the four-team playoff in January.

Yurcich's reunion
Before Mike Yurcich arrived in Austin to rejuvenate the UT offense or led Ohio State's offense in the College Football Playoff last season, Yurcich spent six seasons at Oklahoma State, where he turned around the Cowboy offense. Over his tenure, his offenses at OSU combined to rank fifth nationally in passing yards per game (315.9), sixth in scoring (38.0) and seventh in total yards per game (478.6). Since taking over as Texas' offensive coordinator this season, the Longhorns' offense has experienced similar results. Texas leads the Big 12 in scoring (225 points) and points per game (45), and is second in passing yards per game (307.2). If there is one key Texas needs to win Saturday's game, it is a perfect offensive gameplan from Yurcich.

“I’m not looking forward to facing him,” Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy said at his weekly press conference. “I know what kind of offensive coach he is. But it is what it is. It’s not the first time we’ve faced guys that have worked for me over the last 10 years.”

Oklahoma State's three-headed monster
This is clearly a game that could develop into one of those classic Big 12 shootouts. With Yurcich on one sideline and Oklahoma State's three-headed offensive monster — the trio of Cowboys' quarterback Spencer Sanders, running back Chuba Hubbard, and wide receiver Tylan Wallace — on the other, expect a high-scoring contest. Through four games this season, Hubbard is third in the conference in rushing yards (478) and Wallace leads the Big 12 in receiving yards (401). Sanders is returning from injury this week, which will mark just his second appearance of the season.

Team Shop

The Texas defense has looked weak throughout the season, with the unit currently ranked eighth in the league in points given up per game (32.2). Oklahoma State has the ability to expose any weaknesses, and on top of that, Texas JACK Joseph Ossai will be returning from injury. Herman noted in his weekly presser Monday that he "would be surprised" if Ossai does not play Saturday, but to what extent Ossai will see the field remains to be seen.

The Longhorn offense can only do so much. Facing such a tough offensive attack, it will be up to defensive coordinator Chris Ash and the defense to find a way to stop, or at least slow down, the Cowboys.

Texas tight ends to play a critical role
Between the efforts of Cade Brewer and Jared Wiley, Texas is covered at tight end. Wiley is fourth on the team in receiving yards with 147, and first in yards per catch, with an average of 24.5. Brewer, who has been used more as a blocker, has six catches for 65 yards. Regardless of who Oklahoma State puts on either one of them, look for both to be targets, especially in the red zone, for quarterback Sam Ehlinger.

With Texas using three different running backs, the Horns have plenty of depth in the backfield, and it will take a solid offensive line, along with powerful blocking from both Brewer and Wiley, to give Texas the advantage in the run game.

Riley Zayas is a high school sophomore and freelance journalist from Round Rock, Texas. He began his journalism career as a Sports Illustrated Kids reporter and has since become a regular contributor to Horns Illustrated, covering Texas Longhorn sports. His work also includes Fellowship of Christian Athletes publications, his personal blog 360 Sports, College Baseball Nation and Sports Spectrum, a national christian sports website. Twitter: @ZayasRiley