Storylines for the Longhorns as they face Oklahoma on Saturday:
1. Winner take all
OK, not exactly. But the loser almost certainly will be out of the Big 12 race while the winner will at the very least stay one game behind Kansas State and West Virginia.
"I think in my estimation we could see a conference champion with one or maybe two losses this year the way this league is, because there's so much parity in the league," said Texas coach Mack Brown. "So this game is really important -- not just that it's the OU game -- but that it matters in your league play and league championship play."
2. Special teams
During the Mack Brown era Texas had failed to miss a game-winning field goal. The Longhorns were 8-of-8. While Anthony Fera’s 41-yard attempt could not be classified as a game winner, it was a crucial kick. And it could be one of many that Texas faces this season. It’s become clear that while the Texas offense can score, so too can other teams. So it is imperative the Longhorns take advantage of every scoring opportunity afforded them. Right now Texas is 4-of-9 on field goals. Brown said this week it was a lot to ask of Fera to come in, off injury, in that particular situation and kick a 41-yard field goal. The coach said he had faith in Fera because of his accomplishments at Penn State.
But while Fera was perfect at Penn State inside 40 yards, he missed 3 of 6 from beyond 40 yards. Fera’s injury responded well after his kicks against West Virginia and he is expected to be the kicker again this week.
3. Pocket pressure
Texas’ defensive ends have turned up the heat on opposing quarterbacks so far. The Longhorns have averaged 2.6 sacks per game. But in the last three games, Texas has averaged 3.7 sacks per game. Oklahoma, which has played just one top 40 defense, Texas Tech, has allowed Landry Jones to be sacked an average of twice per game.
Added to that is the fact that Jones is not the same quarterback without his favorite target, Ryan Broyles. Since Broyles’ injury and subsequent departure Jones per pass attempt has dropped from 8.5 to 6.4. His completion percentage has dropped from 64.6 to 59.6.
4. Big plays
Oklahoma has allowed fewer plays of 10 yards or more than any other team in the Big 12 this season. The Sooners have only allowed 39 such plays. On the flip side of that Texas has allowed 20 rushes of 15 yards or more. Only two teams have done worse, Clemson (23), which has former OU defensive coordinator Brent Venables in the same position and Indiana (21), which has former OU offensive coordinator as head coach.
Adding to Texas’ issues is that OU running back Damien Williams is averaging 7.8 yards per rush. That is the best among Big 12 players with 40 or more carries. Joseph Randle, who had 199 against Texas, is averaging 7.1.
5. Turnover trouble
Oklahoma’s issue in its lone loss of the season was turnovers. The Sooners gave the ball away inside their five and KSU’s five therefore taking away an apparent touchdown and giving one to Kansas State.
Oklahoma rebounded with a +2 in takeaways in a win at Texas Tech. The Sooners secondary forced Seth Doege into three interceptions. Still Oklahoma is -2 in turnover ratio.
Texas, which had been one of the worst teams in the country in turnover ratio the previous two seasons, is plus seven this season.