Pokes Preview: Oklahoma State vs. No. 12 Texas
Oklahoma State begins its Big 12 title defense Saturday night against No. 12 Texas in a primetime, nationally televised game.
Normally, I provide three questions and three goals. But since everything is bigger
in when facing Texas, I’ve got a bonus question and bonus goal.
How much are game plans tweaked?
This means OSU’s offense if J.W. Walsh, as expected, gets his first collegiate start. By now you know he’s a different style of quarterback than normal starter Wes Lunt. Against Louisiana-Lafayette, likely because the game plan was created for Lunt, there were not many designed run plays for Walsh. Expect that to change against UT, especially with two weeks to prepare. The Cowboys aren’t going to completely change their spread system, but they’ll play to Walsh’s strengths. Still, Walsh will need to make plays with his arm, and he’ll need to have better chemistry with his outside receivers, in particular.
On the other side, how will UT adjust to most likely facing a dual-threat quarterback? Mike Gundy doesn’t expect it to change much of UT’s coverages. But one of the Longhorns’ biggest strengths is their speed and athleticism, and they will not be able to just go after Walsh the way they perhaps could have against Lunt. Because if they miss Walsh, he can take off and make a big play by himself.
The chess game of this contest will almost certainly be different than what we could have anticipated before Lunt’s injury.
Can OSU’s offensive tackles handle Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat?
Yes, Walsh has shown great athleticism and a savvy ability to escape pressure, but he’ll still need help from the offensive line. If OSU’s solid-but-inexperienced tackles Parker Graham and Daniel Koenig can keep Okafor and Jeffcoat in front of them and out of the backfield, that will be huge for OSU’s offense.
Will the defense improve?
The only real measuring stick we have so far for the OSU defense is the Arizona game, and the Cowboys were poor. They will be facing a much different style of offense Saturday–UT wants to pound the ball while Arizona utilizes the short passing game in the read-option spread system–which actually appears to be a better matchup for the Cowboys. Linebackers like Alex Elkins and Caleb Lavey and safeties like Shamiel Gary are much better against the run than in coverage. Either way, this is a game that can help prove all the hype this defense received before the season wasn’t just a bunch of blown smoke.
Of course, this applies to the quarterback question. We think we know the answer there. But does starting center Evan Epstein return? What about Elkins? OSU opted not to issue its weekly injury report on Friday, so there’s more uncertainty going into this game than the previous two contests.
Rush for at least 150 yards
No matter who starts at quarterback, the Cowboys need to run the ball to take pressure of Walsh or Lunt. OSU was able to do that against Texas last year, as Jeremy Smith and Joseph Randle combined for more than 200 yards. Smith had the Red Sea open up for him twice on touchdown runs straight up the middle. But that was with the threat of Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon. Can the Pokes still get the run game going?
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