* Texas' offensive line played a major role in totaling 101 knockdowns of Ole Miss defenders, showing off a more aggressive and physical approach. The unit has been bolstered by the addition of junior-college transfer Donald Hawkins, who stepped in at left tackle, allowing sophomore Josh Cochran to shift to right tackle.
* The ruggedness of the offensive front fuels the running game, which features a trio of talented backs: Joe Bergeron, Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray. Bergeron, a load at 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds, is questionable for Saturday due to a shoulder injury. Still, Brown averages 6.4 yards per carry and nicked the Cowboys for 135 yards and two touchdowns last year. Gray, a highly touted true freshman compared to Adrian Peterson out of high school, is being brought along slowly, but could see his role enhanced if Bergeron is unavailable.
* Even UT's wideouts, all but invisible as playmakers the past two years, have shown up strong through three games. Mike Davis, Jaxon Shipley and Marquise Goodwin have all provided production and big plays in the passing game.
* Defense remains a Longhorns calling card, with NFL-style ends in Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat and more pro potential in the secondary with Vaccaro and corners Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom.
If the defense has a soft spot, it's at linebacker, especially with veteran Jordan Hicks iffy to play with a hip injury.
“Their defense is always good,” said Cowboys offensive guard Lane Taylor. “They always have athletes. Their offense is clicking better than last year. They definitely look better.”
Ultimately, the Longhorns' power to prove themselves comes back to the offense.
Although involved in a lengthy battle for the quarterback spot with Case McCoy, Ash always was pegged as the man for the job by Big 12 assistants familiar with him from the recruiting trails.
A three-year starter who set 13 school records at Belton High School in central Texas, Ash was the No. 11-ranked prep quarterback by ESPNU. While success didn't come instantly for Ash, it seems to be coming now, with Saturday looming as a key checkpoint for him and the Longhorns.
“I'm not gonna say anything about the defenses they faced,” said OSU cornerback Justin Gilbert, “but I think we can give them a better fight than the teams that they've been playing. I think this will be the game where we really see what they're made of.”