October 22, 2008

Scouting the Horns: Is this the year for OSU?

Oklahoma State is in control of its own destiny.

That's important if the Cowboys are to make a serious push for their first Big 12 title. And if OSU wants to keep both of those going past this weekend, it will have to figure out a way to finally beat Texas. The past few years have seen some crazy results for the Pokes against the Longhorns. Remember 2004? Or 2005? Or 2007? It hasn't been pretty for OSU, as the Pokes have had their chances against UT lately. In fact, since their last win against the Horns in 1997 (42-16), the Cowboys have not only suffered those "snatch losing away from the jaws of winning" games listed above, but there have been three other games decided by three points or less (1998, 2001, 2002).

So, in all, OSU has been a threat to the Horns in six games the last decade. No program wants to settle for moral victories, but given the state of State's program parts of the last 10 years, it's important to remember how OSU has fared when it hasn't had as many bullets in the chamber.

But this season, it's looking like a fair fight going in. The Cowboys come into this game as a top 10 program, undefeated and looking to make a huge statement. Yes, beating Missouri on the road two weeks ago was big. But beating Texas on the road? It'd be a moment that would make the GAP Band proud.

But it won't be easy. The Horns are for real, and after beating perpetual thorn-in-side Oklahoma, they're looking for their second national championship in three seasons.

2007 record: 10-3 (5-3 Big 12)
Game time: 2:30 p.m. (ABC)
Current record: 7-0 (3-0)
Last week: 56-31 win over Missouri
Current ranking: No. 1
Fact of the week: UT-Austin has an enrollment of 50,000 and an annual operating budget of $1.7 billion.

… the Longhorn offense:
Just like OSU's its one of the top units in the nation. Ranking 10th in overall offense (484 yards per game), the Horns can move the ball. They're 13th in passing offense (290 ypg) and 28th in rushing offense (193 ypg). Their highest offensive ranking comes in the scoring offense category, where they are currently second with 48 points per game. This unit is led by Colt McCoy, who has definitely gotten over the sophomore slump he suffered through in 2007. Last year, he had 22 touchdowns but 18 interceptions. This season, he has 19 scores and only three picks. He also has 1,894 passing yards on the year and an 81-percent completion percentage. And not to carry on about No. 11 here or anything, but he's also the team's leading rusher with 371 yards and six touchdowns. With a talent like McCoy, it's easy to see why UT is doing so well with the ball. Of course, it helps having a solid supporting cast. Quan Cosby (612 yards, three touchdowns), Jordan Shipley (569, 9) and Chris Ogbonnaya (339, 3) are primary targets for McCoy. Ogbonnaya is also starting to emerge as a legit running threat for the Horns, who haven't had much going on from the running back position the first part of the season. After not having more than 16 yards rushing in the first four games, Ogbonnaya has turned in games of 71 yards (at Colorado), 127 (Oklahoma) and 65 (Missouri) the last three weeks.
… the Longhorn defense: It's strong against the run and weak against the pass. Nationally, UT ranks second in rush defense (48 ypg) and fourth in sacks (3.4 a game). Brian Orakpo is eighth nationally and first in the Big 12 with 7.5 sacks on the season. The Horns are 25th in scoring defense (175. ppg). Against the pass, UT is atrocious, coming in 111th nationally (275 ypg). In five games this season, the Horns have allowed 250 yards passing or more, including a high of 387 against Oklahoma in Dallas. The unit has five interceptions on the season.
… the coach: Everyone in the Big 12 knows about Mack Brown. He has a reputation for being a true class act and definitely seems to be. His on-field resume lagged early-on because he wasn't able to win the big games, but he finally started to turn that around with a national championship. And now they're in position to do it again and are at the top of the BCS rankings. Everyone focuses on his failures in Dallas, but the fact is that he's made Texas football important again. The Longhorns' great history was tarnished in the 1980s and 90s with some woeful years under David McWilliams and John Mackovic. If he can win another title this season, he'll cement his legacy as the best coach Texas has ever had… not named Darryl Royal.

The Cowboys have every reason to be confident going into this one. They're two weeks removed from a big road win over then-No. 2 Mizzou. They're No. 6 in the BCS. They're undefeated. In short, they're in uncharted waters. Yes, the win over the Tigers was big. But this? This has the potential to be HUGE. OSU going into the belly of the beast and picking up a win over No. 1 Texas in Austin would truly signal the arrival of the Cowboys as a national program. As said above, OSU has hung with the Horns in recent years. The 2004 game was a lost opportunity. The 2005 game was a case of the team playing over its head, but they still were in position to win. As for 2007? That's still too painful for many in orange to think about so we'll just move on. The point is this: OSU can win this game. They know they can stand toe-to-toe with the Longhorns and win. But until it actually happens, it's tough to actually predict it. So the call here is a 42-38 victory for the Horns that comes down to the wire and again breaks Orange Country's collective heart.

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