Each week we take a look at three of the burning questions that face Texas as it prepares for the next opponent. This week, the No. 12 Longhorns travel to Stillwater, Okla., to face an Oklahoma State team whose recent record against Texas is 2-0:
1. Is the Texas offense for real?
Maybe. OK, yes, with a little bit of doubt sprinkled in. The running game is solid. And that running game should be able to carry this offense a long way. The offensive line looks more aggressive and physical. The running backs are running through tacklers. And the jet sweeps are putting teams on their heels.
But Texas has not yet faced the speed it will face in the Big 12. It should, however, be able to counteract that with its own speed. As for the passing game ... well, it is much better, there is no doubt.
Texas will find out if it is good enough this week against Oklahoma State. The Cowboys have two solid corners in Justin Gilbert and Brodrick Brown. They have more speed and can close the window pretty quickly on any throw. So Texas will go back to being more conservative with its throws and lean more on the run game as well as the screen game in the early going against OSU.
2. Is Carrington Byndom in a slump?
The cornerback’s play has not been as stellar as it was last season. He has been more tentative off the line of scrimmage and is giving players a lot of cushion on the edges. Plus there was the missed tackle in Week 1 that led to an 82-yard touchdown. But Byndom was at his best against the top competition last season. He limited Justin Blackmon to 74 receiving yards and nearly had a miraculous pick but was just out of bounds.
Byndom will get throw at more this week because teams are refusing to throw to Quandre Diggs' side of the field. So the junior will have a chance to break out of whatever slump he has been in.
3. Can the defense hold Oklahoma State to less than 30 points?
It’s possible, but it appears this game could be a shootout. Without Jordan Hicks at linebacker there are going to be some mistakes made in assignments. He gets everyone lined up and ready to go. So look for there to be a few busts that lead to big runs or touchdowns.
Safety Kenny Vaccaro will have to take on more of a leadership role this week and try and be more vocal. Not only that he needs to talk to the other safeties about their angles when it comes to tackling. To date, Texas has been taking poor angles and getting burned because of it. If Vaccaro plays closer to the line in nickel, as expected, Adrian Phillips will have to help out Mykkele Thompson or Josh Turner. In the past that has been a bad mix.
The other thing to watch is whether the defense comes out fast. The unit was solid on the road in the first three series against Ole Miss, allowing just seven yards and intercepting a ball for a touchdown. That was a similar environment to Boone Pickens Stadium, so there could be a feeling of been there, done that.
But Texas has also been on the other side of things against OSU. Typically the Longhorns get down early and have to fight back. If the defense is not stout early, it might be a long day or Texas.