Key Matchups: vs. Oklahoma State

Dalton Phillips

Advantage: Oklahoma State 

Freshman Sam Ehlinger solidified himself as a dual-threat option at Saturday’s Red River Showdown. His ability to run the ball — rushing for a team-high 102 yards in the loss — has somewhat compensated for Texas’ struggles at running back. But Ehlinger is still unpolished. His decision making and hesitance to throw the deep ball leave Oklahoma with a clear advantage in the pocket. 

Heisman candidate Mason Rudolph meanwhile has a cannon for an arm. The senior is throwing a staggering average of 395 yards per game this season and has led the Cowboys to the best offense in college football. If Texas’ secondaries struggled with Oklahoma’s own Heisman candidate quarterback Baker Mayfield, Rudolph and his bevy of talented receivers could also prove to be overwhelming. 

Running Back
Advantage: Oklahoma State 

Texas’ two running backs picked up 13 combined yards last Saturday. The coaching staff seems content to allow Ehlinger the bulk of the carries, while reserving junior Chris Warren III for red zone tries and third-and-short opportunities. Oklahoma State will likely look to exploit this noticeable gap in the Longhorn offense. 

Meanwhile, Oklahoma State has zero weaknesses. Aided by a steady offensive line, sophomore running back Justice Hill churns out a conference-leading 105.5 yards per game for the Cowboys. The difference is consistency. Texas mixes flashes of brilliance with stretches of mediocrity, while Oklahoma State puts up 31 points and 499 yards, even in losses. 

Wide Receiver
Advantage: Oklahoma State

Ehlinger struggles with accuracy on deep passes, and the Texas offense is limited because of it. Warren led the Longhorns in receiving yards against the Sooners last Saturday, as sophomore Collin Johnson — the team’s biggest receiving threat — caught two passes for 26 yards. 

Oklahoma State has playmakers at nearly every position. Senior wideout James Washington dazzles fans with explosive catches, leading the country with 147 receiving yards per game. His teammate, senior Marcell Ateman, has quietly put together 568 yards and four touchdowns on just 29 receptions. This roster has the pieces to burn a team deep on every single possession, and Rudolph has the arm to get it there. 

Advantage: Texas

Texas’ pass defense is outside the top 100 nationally. Oklahoma’s Mayfield lit up the team for 302 yards on just 17 completions, and the Longhorn coaching staff has addressed the need to simplify coverages. With that being said, the same defense also ranks No. 23 in defending the run, and leads the conference in interceptions with nine. The line’s ability to pressure Rudolph early may allow Texas to capitalize on turnovers from hurried throws. Given the disparity of the two offenses, the defense will need another USC performance to have a chance of an upset at home. 

Oklahoma State has a very middle-of-the-pack defense. Unfortunately for burnt orange fans, that is usually plenty when the Cowboy offense is pumping out 400 yards on a nightly basis. Despite being below average against the rush, Oklahoma State’s defense is strong against pass-heavy offenses and ought to give Ehlinger and company enough trouble to allow Rudolph to run away with it.