After a strong rebound against Rice following the disappointing loss to No. 4 LSU, the Longhorns will begin Big 12 play this week against Oklahoma State. Recent history suggests Texas should be concerned, given that the team has lost to the Cowboys four years in a row, including a 13-10 loss in overtime the last time they met at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. The road to the Big 12 Championship truly starts on Saturday, and the team will have to buck the recent losing streak in order to start off on the right foot.
Here’s how the first game of Big 12 play could go:
Texas wins if …
… the defense can shut down redshirt sophomore running back Chuba Hubbard.
Hubbard has been electric for the Cowboys so far this season, having rushed for over 200 yards in two out of three games this season. In their last game against Tulsa, he ran for 256 yards and three touchdowns, leading the offense to a dominant win. The Longhorns have performed well against the run so far this season, which has made up for some lapses in the secondary. If Texas wants to win its third game of the season, the defense will have to step up once again and force redshirt freshman quarterback Spencer Sanders to beat the team through the air.
… freshman Roschon Johnson continues to impress.
The Longhorn running back room was an absolute mess when sophomore Keaontay Ingram was the only healthy scholarship running back on the roster. Enter Johnson, who has, for the time being, switched over from quarterback to add depth. In his first three games at the position, Johnson has provided a nice change of pace from Ingram, even scoring a touchdown against Rice on a 25-yard pass from junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger. After another solid game rushing against the Owls, Johnson has become a trusted member of the offense. With junior Daniel Young returning to the fold, the offense should remain balanced and dangerous enough to win if Johnson can continue to produce at his current level.
Texas loses if …
… the injury to Zach Shackelford rattles the offensive line.
A primary goal for last week’s Rice game was to come out on the other side with no new injuries. Unfortunately, the bug bit senior offensive lineman Zach Shackelford in the second quarter as the center suffered a right foot injury. The cornerstone of the offensive line struggled with ankle injuries during preseason camp, but Texas head coach Tom Herman said he was “probable” in his weekly press conference on Monday. Junior lineman Derek Kerstetter moved inside to center with junior lineman Denzel Okafor taking over at tackle.
… the cornerbacks continue to struggle.
The secondary had a less than stellar showing against the only high-powered offense they’ve seen so far in LSU. The duo of starting corners, sophomores Kobe Boyce and Jalen Green, had a rough go of it against the Tigers, and the game-sealing touchdown Texas allowed on third and 17 will forever haunt those at the game and those watching at home. If the corners continue to struggle against the Cowboys and against the powerful offenses the Big 12 boasts, this will be a long season for the Longhorns.