Texas wins if…
Special teams plays like it did against Rice. Special teams has not been a strong suit for Texas in recent years, but there was a notable difference in the 42-28 win. Senior wide receiver Daje Johnson returned a punt 85 yards for a touchdown. Texas was actually able to move the ball on kickoffs and punts, which is far from ordinary. If Johnson is able to make big returns again this weekend against Cal, Texas will be hard to stop. Even if the Longhorns are unable to score big, special teams could save the game.
The defense can force turnovers. Aside from special teams, turnovers won the game for Texas. Rice had five turnovers compared to Texas’ one. One fumble led to freshman linebacker Malik Jefferson scooping up the ball and running it in for six. These are the plays Texas needs, especially if the offense is unable to be explosive. However, Texas must capitalize on these turnovers — Jefferson’s fumble recovery was the only turnover that resulted in any points against Rice.
Jerrod Heard is the quarterback. Saturday’s game made a statement — this is Texas’ quarterback. Was Heard amazing? No. Did he get the job done? Yes. He got the win, which is all that matters. Heard was 4-7 with 120 yards and two touchdowns. What is concerning is that there were only seven pass attempts — Texas needs to get going offensively. Of those 120 yards, 69 yards came on one play. Once again, senior running back Johnathan Gray only had nine carries for 17 yards. Heard’s offense seems to be the answer for Texas.
Texas loses if…
The stat line stays the same. On paper, Texas should have lost to Rice. The Owls had 462 total yards compared to Texas’ 277. Rice had 30 first downs compared to Texas’ 11. Rice had the ball for 44 minutes and Texas only had it for 16 minutes. How did Texas come away with this win? The only answer in the stats is the turnovers. Texas must do better numbers-wise. It is shocking that Texas had 42 points with so few total yards and first downs. Against Cal, this type of play might not fly and could lead to a Texas loss.
The rankings stand. Cal is killing Texas in the numbers. Cal is ranked No. 7 in points per game; Texas is ranked No. 96. Cal is No. 13 in yards per game; Texas is No. 126. Cal is No. 4 in pass yards per game; Texas is No. 118. These numbers speak for themselves. If Texas is unable to change where they lack, Cal will show its high rankings.