This statement should come as no surprise as the Oklahoma State Cowboys will be the better team in Stillwater on Saturday. Possessing legitimate College Football Playoff hopes, there are a few challenges standing in the way. First up is the Texas Longhorns on Halloween afternoon. As a clear cut favorite here are three things the O-State defense must do well on the field to avoid an upset.
Get Into The Backfield
Over the course of the year, the Cowboys have racked up 15 sacks through four games. At a clip of 3.75 per game, the program paces the rest of the conference in the statistical category. Of the group, Calvin Bundage owns 3.5 of those to lead the charge from the linebacker position. However, Trace Ford is a force to be reckoned with on the defensive line. Claiming three sacks of his own, the duo has the ability to put the opposing offense in an unfavorable position.
On the other side of the equation, the Texas offensive line has been far from stellar. Anchored by Samuel Cosmi — a Preseason All-Big 12 Selection — this group has surrendered ten sacks. It’s a number that sits at number seven when compared to the rest the conference. With the experience of Sam Ehlinger on full display, the defenses must limit the abilities of the quarterback.
It all starts with causing disruption at the line of scrimmage and collapsing the pocket. Then containing the dual-threat signal caller and bringing Ehlinger down in the backfield becomes the focus.
Winning First & Second Down
Facing the Texas Tech Red Raiders to open conference play, UT fell short on numerous third-down attempts. Attempting to convert on 16 different occasions, the offense converted only five of those. Connecting on only 31.25% of those, Burnt Orange Nation watched the opposition built a 14-point lead.
Likewise, during the Red River Rivalry, the Longhorns failed to win on first and second down which put the program into obvious passing situations. Converting on 6-of-17 attempts, Keaontay Ingram and the offense struggled to a 35.29% conversion percentage. The result was also a 14-point deficit late in the game.
It seems as though there is a recipe for success against this Longhorn offense — winning on first and second down defensively. With the experience and talent on the roster, expect the Cowboys to do just that each time out.
This typically goes without saying that a defense must create turnovers. While it may be a hard pill to swallow, Spencer Sanders has yet to limit the number of times he’s coughed the ball up as a second year starter. Granted the sample size is small. But, as the starting quarterback, the sophomore has thrown two interceptions to a single touchdown.
Simply put, this places the pressure on the defensive side of the ball to produce. The Longhorns are not the best team in the conference at valuing the ball. Ehlinger has thrown five interceptions this season in five games and the team has also lost three fumbles. Sure, it’s not a stellar mark but the other side of the ball has always evened the score for Texas.
This is one stat line to watch throughout the duration of the contest on Saturday as it could easily decide the outcome.