30 September 2011
Matchups to watch:
1. Kelechi Osemele vs. Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor
Texas’ defense has been anything but disappointing this season but if there’s one position that hasn’t done its part, it’s at defensive end.
Texas is going to need Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor to step up Saturday.
Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor have occasionally been double-teamed and may not have played at 100 percent at times, but neither of them have a sack. It’s been three games. That has to change. Unfortunately for them, they’re going up against arguably the best left tackle in the Big 12. Jeffcoat and Okafor will have their hands full with Kelechi Osemele, a projected first-round pick in next year’s NFL Draft, lining up across them. The senior has started every game at left tackle and could be an All-American by the end of the season. But Jeffcoat and Okafor are great players in their own right. They’re pro prospects, too. But they need to prove it Saturday. Iowa State might not be the best team Texas faces this season, but they might have the best offensive lineman its defensive ends will face this year.
2. Mike Davis vs. Leonard Johnson
Garrett Gilbert might not have been Texas’ best option behind center but he did have the best arm. And when he stepped down as the starting quarterback, Mike Davis’ numbers plummeted. The sophomore wide receiver didn’t have a single catch against BYU after registering 115 yards in the season opener against Rice. Davis had two receptions longer than 50 yards that day. He bounced back against UCLA with another three catches, this time for 77 yards. Davis’ 32 yards per catch is fifth-best in the nation among wideouts with at least five catches. With D.J. Grant occupying the middle of the field and Iowa State’s defensive coaching staff being confident in the cornerbacks, especially Leonard Johnson (who could easily be drafted in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft next April), in one-on-one situations. Look for Case McCoy to launch a few long balls Davis’ way Saturday. It’ll just be him and Johnson and it’ll be a battle worth watching.
3. Malcolm Brown vs. Iowa State’s front seven
Malcolm Brown was sensational in his first start, running for 110 yards and a touchdown against UCLA two weeks ago. He’s showing everyone why he was such a coveted high school prospect and that he could be the next great Texas running back. Iowa State has given up over 150 yards per game so Brown will be facing a run defense that he can take advantage of. The Longhorns tried emphasizing a run-heavy offense last year but they didn’t have the personnel to do it. Now that they have Brown in the backfield, they’ve averaged 226.3 yards per game on the ground, topping the 200-yard mark twice and averaging a 4.8 yards per carry. In an era where quarterbacks and passing rule the land, Texas is running the ball more than twice as much as they’re throwing it (141 rush attempts, 67 pass attempts). Brown is a big reason why they’re able to win games doing that. I would like to see him score with both shoes on, though.
4. Bryan Harsin vs. Tom Herman
Bryan Harsin is the play-caller Texas fans have been waiting for. With Greg Davis out of the picture, Harsin has installed a new offense and displayed a much-needed willingness to take risks. He’s taken the risk of featuring freshman at virtually every position (David Ash at quarterback, Malcolm Brown at running back, Jaxon Shipley at receiver, Dominic Espinosa at center). And he takes plenty of risks every game with the number of trick plays he draws up. Think about this: Case McCoy and Garrett Gilbert, who have taken the majority of the snaps this season, have not completed a pass in every game. Gilbert didn’t play against UCLA and McCoy was 0-for-2 against Rice. However, David Ash and a receiver have done what they couldn’t. Ash has steadily improved, completing one pass in the season opener, two in the second contest against BYU, and three against UCLA. Meanwhile, freshman wideout John Harris heaved a 36-yard touchdown toss to Shipley, who was completed pass in each of the last two games. The matchup of offensive coordinators is one that Harsin shouldn’t have trouble winning, but considering how Iowa State’s trickery hurt Texas in this game last year, Harsin needs to call more trick plays and run more plays out of the Wild formation than Herman does.
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