AUSTIN, Texas — Bouncing back will be the theme for Texas this week.
Following a fourth-quarter meltdown defensively in the 51-48 loss to Oklahoma, the Longhorns need to realize there’s still plenty left in the season to play for and that the goal — as it always has been — is to make the Big 12 championship game.
Texas hosts Oklahoma State and will play at 11 a.m. for the third straight week. There are questions and keys for the Longhorns as they return to action on the Forty Acres and here at Horns Illustrated we’ll take a look at them.
1. Will there be any kind of hangover?
Texas had the Oklahoma game won. It led big early and big late, and then the defense couldn’t make a stop and the offense went away from Bijan Robinson. It was a bit of a gut-punch of a loss that could take some time to recover from. But the Longhorns weren’t the favorite and no one had visions of this team making the playoff this year, so it shouldn’t be as bad a loss as it would have been at times during the 00s. An 11 a.m. kickoff against a good team isn’t ideal following that kind of loss, but playing at home with no travel should help Texas.
2. Does the defense slow down Oklahoma State’s run game?
This isn’t one of Mike Gundy’s better offenses with a quarterback that can throw for 350 yards on a weekly basis. The Cowboys are undefeated on the back of their defense (more on that later) and a very solid run game led by Jaylen Warren. It is no secret that Texas has been bad against the run this season, but playing eight guys in the box and forcing Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders into a lot of throws is the ideal scenario. Injuries mean a bigger role for sophomore Alfred Collins on the defensive line. If the Cowboys can run the ball effectively and shorten the game, this will put all the pressure on the Texas offense…
3. Can the Texas offense continue to roll?
Oklahoma State’s defense has been great this year, but outside of the Arkansas game, the Texas offense has been very impressive. This will be the best offense the Cowboys have seen all year, and if Casey Thompson can continue to perform well and Robinson can be his usual self, the Longhorns should be able to score at least 25 points. But there are injuries Texas has to deal with, which leads us to…
4. How does Casey Thompson deal without Jordan Whittington to throw to?
Whittington may not have put up a ton of numbers this season, but you can’t argue he’s a threat and that his presence on the field commands the attention of defenses and allows opportunities for the other Texas receivers. Whittington is now out for the rest of the regular season and defenses won’t have to prepare for him. But Xavier Worthy has looked awesome in conference play, Josh Moore was good against OU and someone like Marcus Washington or Kelvontay Dixon will have to step up. Honestly, this will be intriguing to see.
5. Do the offensive line changes make a difference?
Derek Kerstetter moves back to right tackle, which is honestly his better position, and Tope Imade will play at right guard. Protection breakdowns were what Steve Sarkisian pointed to as reasons for offensive problems in the fourth quarter against OU, but now changes have been made.
6. What’s the bottom line on this game?
Texas is the better team and should win, but this will be close. The Texas defense has to be better. Sure, that’s obvious, but making a few stops with better tackling shouldn’t be out of the question for the talent on this defense against a team that wasn’t very impressive in the non-conference. However, Oklahoma State has beaten Kansas State and Baylor, so the Longhorns need to show up focused. We think that will happen as Steve Sarkisian said Texas has looked good in practice this week.
Horns Illustrated prediction: Texas 27, Oklahoma State 24.