If there is a such a thing as an owner of a college sports program it’s T. Boone Pickens. Originally a Texas A&M basketball player, he transferred to Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State) where he graduated in 1951. He then set up to make all the money in the Americas. He did that, and then returned a sizable portion of it to Oklahoma State. He funded the building of the athletic village there, a huge complex north of campus to house all the athletic teams, as well as renovations to the football and basketball stadiums. So far he’s given over $400 million to the school, of which $265 million went to athletics, which is the largest donation in collegiate athletics history. Can you think of one person associated with another school like Pickens with Oklahoma State? I can’t. And to think, had the Aggies not pulled his basketball scholarship, all that money and all those gifts would be in College Station.
T. Boone will likely be in attendance Saturday night as Texas and Oklahoma State enter the octagon with the post-season on the line. Both teams have five wins and with Texas facing TCU in the season finale and Oklahoma State on the road at Baylor and ou to finish the season, this is likely the best, or only, shot at getting that much-needed sixth win and go bowling. Someone is coming out with a sixth win and someone else is staring a 5-7 season directly in the face. Energy will be high, emotion will be high, intensity will be high and the temperature will be low. Very low. A high of 41 awaits, with a mix of rain and snow, and the temperature will drop into the mid-20’s overnight. A 6:30 kickoff means it will dark and closer to the mid-20’s than 41, and the 12 mile-per-hour wind should make that even more fun.
As Darrell Royal said, weather is the great equalizer. Who will it equalize for? Let’s take a look
TEXAS (5-5/4-3) @ OKLAHOMA STATE (5-4/3-3)
There are things, aside from the weather, that I don’t like about this set up:
– It’s Senior Night, the last time the class of 2011 (and the remnants of 2010) will get to play at home.
– Desmond Roland, the big bruising tailback, missed the K-State game after the death of his mother. He should be back this week.
– Last week they were off, getting extra time to prepare, get healthy and scheme.
On the other hand, there are things I like:
– Texas has lost only once at Oklahoma State (1997) and this Texas team (and this Oklahoma State team) are not nearly as bad (good) as they were that year.
– Oklahoma State is trending down. After starting the year 5-1, they’ve lost the last three by an average score of 41-11. Texas has won two straight.
– Texas leads the Big 12 in sacks (30) and is second in the league in interceptions (13). Oklahoma State leads the Big 12 in sacks allowed (25) and has the second-most interceptions (12).
Lots of variables in this one and on paper it’s very close. In Vegas (Texas -2) it’s very close, too. I see issues for Texas, but I see issues for Oklahoma State as well. Let’s get into the Cowboys and what those issues, and threats, are
This is wounded animal, Oklahoma State. They started the year very hot, nearly almost not losing very badly to Florida state and then reeled off five straight wins. Granted, it was against Kansas, Iowa State, Jiffy Lube and the Northeast Oklahoma 7-11Employee All-Star Team, but five straight nonetheless. Once they hit the meat the schedule, they folded up. In their three-game losing streak, they have allowed 605 yards rushing (201.6 ypg), seven touchdown passes, seven touchdown runs and thrown six interceptions. Granted all three losses were against ranked teams, but that’s alarming. See? Wounded. They are backed into a corner right now, and they are fighting for their post-season lives, which makes them very dangerous. Dangerous enough to win?
Remember when Oklahoma State had an endless supply of quarterbacks? Me, too. Well those days are long gone. The starter, JW Walsh, is out indefinitely recovering from surgery for a leg injury suffered early in the season. In mid-September the prognosis was 6-8 weeks which would have him returning about now, but I haven’t heard anything about him returning. In his place has stepped Daxx Garman. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound junior from Southlake transferred to Oklahoma State from Arizona in 2012 and watched last fall. In his first year as a starter, he has thrown for 1,883 yards and 11 scores. He’s also thrown 11 interceptions and is completing 54.4% of his passes. He is not a runner, at all, averaging -.1 yards per game with one touchdown. The numbers are offset by sack yardage, but even without the sack yardage he’s average 17 yards per game and 2.65 yards per carry. Garman is a pure drop back passer who needs time and a pocket to make a play. He’s not getting that consistently and the result are the stats you see.
When he does have time, his top two receivers are David Glidden and Brandon Sheperd, and they could not be more opposite. The 5-foot-7, 185-pound Glidden leads the team with 419 yards receiving and 31 catches. The junior is quick over the middle and on screens, using his speed and size to dart and get lost. Shepard is much bigger at 6-foot-1, 195 pounds and the junior leads the team in yards per catch with a 17.7 ypc average. He’s the deep threat, catching 23 balls for 408 yards and two scores, while Glidden works underneath. The go-to man near the end zone is freshman James Washington, who has three touchdowns. His backup at that receiver spot, Jhajuan Seals, also has three scores. There have been elite receivers in this program, but right now they don’t have anyone that’s proven. That’s a problem with an inexperienced quarterback.
The most dangerous part of this offense is at the running back position. They have two guys that are dynamite in Tyreek Hill and Desmond Roland. Everyone knew about Roland coming into the season. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound senior was the team’s leading rusher in 2013, rushing for 811 yards and 13 scores after taking over the starting job mid-way through the season. This year he leads the team with 512 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. He missed the K-State after the death of his mother and that surely weighed heavily on his teammates as well. He’s back and he’ll be ready to go Saturday night (welcome back, Desmond. That’s a terrible thing to go through and my condolences to you and your family). The other guy is brand new: 5-foot-10, 185-pound junior college transfer Tyreek Hill. After enrolling in the spring, all Hill did was win the Big 12 Indoor Title for 200 meters in track. He also finished second in the 60-meter and was named an All-American. On the football field he’s second on the team in rushing with 428 yards and a score, averaging 5.3 yards per carry. He’s tied for second on the team in receptions with 23 and 249 yards receiving and a touchdown. He’s the running back version of Marquis Goodwin for them: lightning fast, super quick and a threat to score when he touches the ball, wherever on the field that may be. These two are the chain-movers and playmakers on the offense that take pressure off Garman and the passing game. It’s a must they get moving if the offense is going to be productive.
And that, of course, will be up to the front line. They look a lot like Texas up front with inexperience, especially on the right side. The offense has struggled mightily with the better defenses they have played, and this one Texas brings is as good as K-State, TCU and West Virginia. These guys are going to have to play over their heads against this Texas front seven if they plan to keep Garman upright and open holes for the talented backs.
Oklahoma State had a week off and you can be sure they have found some ways to attack the Texas defense. I expect four wides and no huddle, throwing quick outs and screens to the wide outs and a lot of passes out of the backfield to Hill as he’s matched up with a linebacker or a safety in coverage. All it will take is one missed tackle and he’s gone. They want to get Garman some early confidence and rhythm, and as Texas is thinking pass that’s when they hit Roland off tackle in the vacated middle of the field. Last year Clint Chelf had a monster day in Austin running designed quarterback draws as the defense was concerned with the outside passing game. I could see that again. Garman isn’t going to take one 50 yards for a score, but he can pick 15 yards and first down and get the defense thinking about that run. Hill is the key in my opinion. If they can get him going, it opens up shots downfield for the wideouts as the defense focuses on him. The good thing for them is they can get him going in a variety of ways: running the ball, flare passes, screens, splitting him wide and bringing him in motion on a jets sweep or simply running him outside as a wide out… Lots of options. If Hill (and Roland) get going, the offense is moving the ball. If not, it’s going to be a long night.
This is a solid defense with some dangerous pieces. In some ways they look a lot like Texas, but in other ways not so much. Like the Longhorns, they have been asked to pick it up with an inexperienced quarterback and offensive line on the other side. Like Texas, they get to the quarterback well, averaging 2.78 sacks per game. Unlike Texas, they struggle mightily against the pass, ranking last in the Big 12 in pass defense (282.7 ypg) and have given up 17 touchdown passes, which is tied for ninth most allowed in the league. They have some issues, but they do some things very well.
The strength of this team is up front. Led by senior defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, the d-line gets after people. The 6-foot-4, 270-pound sophomore has next level skills with his ability to get to the passer and defend the run. On the season he has 36 tackles with 5.5 for loss and nine sacks. Yeah, nine. He must be accounted for all times. Inside they have a pair of big bodies in James Castleman and Ofa Hautau, who don’t have crazy numbers but have three sacks and four tfls combined. Opposite Ogbah is Jimmy Bean. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound junior does a nice job with all the attention Ogbah gets, totaling 3.5 sacks, a team-high four qb pressures and two forced fumbles. They are very good applying pressure in the passing game and just as good as protecting the linebackers and allowing them to make plays.
And the linebackers are making plays. Ranking Nos.2, 3 and 4 in tackles on the team, mike backer Ryan Simmons, will Seth Jacobs and sam Josh Furman are the core of this defense. The 6-foot, 235-pound junior Simmons handles most the run duties, totaling 66 tackles with 6.5 for loss and two passes defended. With the help of the defensive tackles, the physical Simmons controls the tackle box. Outside the lbs are cut loose to make plays, and while the 6-foot-2, 220-pound sophomore Jacobs has more tackles (53, 3 tfl, 2 int, 4 pbu) it’s Furman that makes the most plays. The size of a big safety (6-foot-2, 202 pounds) the senior is everywhere with 10.5 tackles for loss (including five sacks), a pick, four qb pressures and a forced fumble. Traditionally your will (weakside) backer is the smaller, more active guy, but not in this case. These guys are very good and very disruptive, moving around and finding places to blitz while Simmons mans the middle. If allowed to roam free, they will make life difficult for Texas.
The problem on this defense is in the back. Against Texas Tech, it seemed every defensive back on the team was injured. Some are back, some are not. They are playing a lot of young and inexperienced guys in the back four, and it shows. The leader is safety Jordan Sterns, who leads the team in tackles with 69. He’s everywhere with three tackles for loss, two passes defended and two forced fumbles. Usually if your defense isn’t playing very well, the leader in tackles is in the secondary because no one in the front seven is making the stops. Sterns is in the secondary. The front is good, but when they don’t get there, passes are completed. It’s a big unit (safety Tre Flowers is 6-foot-3, 190 and the corners are 6-foot-1 and 5-foot-11) but they struggle in coverage.
The plan is to stop the Texas run by stacking the line of scrimmage and making Tyrone Swoopes throw the ball to move the chains. They will blitz their lbs, safeties and corners and try and force bad decisions and bad reads, causing turnovers. They have to feel confident in their pass rush against this very young Texas line… But if they don’t get there, expect trouble. Stopping the run is key, because if Texas is running the ball well, it’s over.
This is the best special teams unit Texas will face. In some respects, but not in others. Let me explain: punter Kip Smith averages 42.8 per punt with 16 downed inside the 20. Points kicker Ben Grogan is a brighter orange Nick Rose, connecting on 18-23 field goals with a long of 47 and all his extra points. Tyreek Hill is a beast on kickoffs, averaging 25.5 yards per with two scores and seven per return on punts. They are the best kick-blocking team Texas will play with four so far, but they have also allowed two punts blocked. See? Excellent in some respects, ho-hum in others.
Hill is a threat every kick, like Mario Alford was, and surely they have seen the breakdowns on the Texas kickoff team. Gundy will roll the dice and run a fake to ignite his sideline and crowd as it worked it so well for Baylor. I expect it them to try it Saturday night. No tricks will be saved.
Just like for OSU, there will be a sense of urgency with No.4 TCU coming to town in two weeks. Texas wants to get that sixth win NOW. And it’s right there for them to get it. Here’s what needs to happen:
I think Texas will come out with the same look as last week: diamond formation (or something close to it) with an up-tempo approach… However, I think the big difference this week is Texas will come to pass first, taking advantage of the film OSU has watched of their last two games and Joe Wickline’s experience with the OSU personnel. I expect OSU to stack the line with eight, bring heat and try and shut down the run before it starts, which means any play-action early should give the wide outs a solid look downfield in single coverage, and if you leave John Harris in single coverage, there will be blood. I think Texas takes advantage of that early on and tries to catch them off guard as they are looking run first. I think. I say that because, so far, this coaching staff has been conservative to start games, not wanting to put the defense in a terrible spot. They might try the same approach as they did last week and run the ball with a lead blocker and, as Ebby Calvin said in Bull Durham “Announce my presence with authority.” It’s going to be cold and wet and the team that can get the ground game going first and best is going to have the advantage, but I think with a week off OSU will be expecting that. I’d try to throw out of that heavy look and get them on their heels, but that’s me.
Tyrone Swoopes was in a boot this week as a precaution and will be good to go, but if his ankle is dinged it will affect him running the ball, evidenced by his no-running last week and no running plays called for him. Texas needs his feet, or the threat of his feet, to keep the defense honest. I expect you’ll see more of that this week, unless he’s dinged up still. Yet another reason to pass first.
They are bringing pressure from everywhere. The offensive line needs to pass off the rushers and give Swoopes some time. And Swoopes needs to play better this week than the last two. There will be opportunities to hit some balls, and Swoopes needs to strike while he can. That means a good throw (and it needs to be caught). Pick it back up, kid. Trust yourself and your teammates to do their job.
I see an offense that struggles a bit early, but some big plays in the passing game open up running lanes for Gray and Brown as the game wears on.
Easy to diagnose this week: stop the run, get a spy on Hill and GET AFTER Garman. They will give up sacks and Garman will give up the ball. Texas needs to make them remember both of those things. Bring pressure on the rather stationary Daxx Garman and stack the line of scrimmage to slow down Roland and bottle up Hill. I really like the matchup of the Texas secondary against the OSU wide outs. I think that’s a huge Texas advantage; however, they have to be aware of Hill at all times. One missed tackle and he’s gone. They have to get him on the ground. I imagine Mykkele Thompson will be his shadow, and Texas needs that same Thompson from last week to show up this week. There are some playmakers on this offense, but I see the Texas defense licking their chops in anticipation.
See above about Hill. It’s going to be cold and wet so field goals will be difficult and punts will be short. I want to see more punts inside the one, like last week, AND FOR GOODNESS SAKE DO NOT KICK THE BALL SHORT TO HILL. Come on, man. Just… Please.
I like Texas in this game, but a few things must happen. First of all, Texas must weather the storm to start the game. Get it? Weather! The crowd will be intense and with two weeks to game plan, they are going to have some early success. They know this is the best (maybe only) opportunity to get to a bowl game. They are going to shoot all their bullets in the attempt to get there. Expect them to be clicking to start the game… But you are who you are, and they are going to give up some big plays, big sacks and turn the ball over. Texas cannot panic when they hit on some things early, just stick to the plan, stick to assignments and eventually that emotion and script will run out, and then what? Will they have enough in the tank if Texas hits them for a deep touchdown pass off a play-action? Or if Daxx Garman throws a pick six? Or a sack leads to turnover inside their own 20? I don’t know if they do. Secondly, Texas must protect the football. If the Horns hold onto the ball and don’t give anything free to OSU, I think the offense will be able to make some plays after a few adjustments, and I don’t have confidence that Oklahoma State can hold onto the ball as well as Texas can, so I think they will offer up some gifts. Lastly, Tyrone Swoopes must play better. He was better against West Virginia than Tech, but this on the road again. Trust yourself, man, because you are better than Daxx Garman and the matchup (Texas O vs. OSU D/Texas D vs. OSU O) will give you far more opportunities than Texas will give Garman. Hit a few deep balls and everything loosens up. Go get it, Ty.
It’s going to be dicey to start, but eventually I think the Texas running game (with some timely shots downfield via the pass) will control the clock and the unrelenting pressure Texas will put on the Oklahoma State offense will force some big breaks and turn the game.
No.6 is right here. Let’s grab it.
This Week in the Big 12
No.7 BAYLOR (8-1/5-1) BYE
No.13 KANSAS STATE (7-2/5-1) BYE
WEST VIRGINIA (6-4/4-3) BYE
IOWA STATE (2-7/0-6) BYE
oklahoma (6-3/3-3) @ TEXAS TECH (3-6/1-5) 2:30 pm ABC
November 15th is the 319th day of the year. There are 46 days left in the year. On this day in 1990, Bulgaria ended communism, the space shuttle Atlantis launched AND producers confirmed that Milli Vanilli didn’t sing on their album. Texas was in the top 10 that week, too, fresh off the loudest game in DKR history and the only time the students stormed the field.
No.4 TCU ( 8-1/5-1) @ KANSAS (3-6/1-5) 2 pm Fox Sports 1