Oklahoma's seemingly mundane rout of Baylor on Saturday garnered considerable coverage throughout the day. It was ESPN's first highlight of every in-game studio update and the lead story on SI.com's front page well into Saturday night. Part of it was due to a slow news day, but mostly it was due into the fact that the nation's No. 1 team faces Texas next weekend.
What of the Sooners' fifth-ranked opponent?
Texas, which has been flying under the radar due to a weak early schedule, jumped to a 28-0 lead at Colorado on Saturday night en route to an impressive 38-14 victory. On the eve of the Oklahoma game, the Longhorns answered their two biggest questions, at least for one night.
In response to their lack of a running game, unheralded senior Chris Ogbonnaya stepped up with a career night (187 rushing/receiving yards, two touchdowns). More notably, Texas' defense -- its unquestioned sore spot the past two seasons -- held the Buffs to 266 total yards. RB Rodney Stewart, coming off consecutive 100-yard outings against West Virginia and Florida State, managed just 27 yards on 12 carries.
Longtime Austin American Statesman columnist Kirk Bohls offered this assessment of the Longhorns' defense, which has allowed five touchdowns in five games under new coordinator Will Muschamp:
"This unit could draw comparisons with the 2005 national championship club that sent five defensive backs to the NFL and four defensive linemen, but this team even has quality linebackers. Big-time linebackers.
The Longhorns haven't had a defense with teeth like this in ages. And that is the reason Texas has a legitimate chance in the Cotton Bowl against top-ranked Oklahoma."
A more skeptical observer might note that the 'Horns secondary has not yet proven any different than in 2006-07. Texas ranks 96th nationally in pass defense, allowing 244 yards per game. Then again, the he 'Horns have jumped to big leads in every game, leaving their opponents no choice but to pass. If you go by pass efficiency defense, Texas ranks a more respectable 39th, with a 51.8 opposing completion percentage.
Texas certainly seems capable of shutting down Oklahoma's running game and turning the Sooners one-dimensional. As Bohls wrote: "Here's an early guess that neither team will run for 100 yards." If that's the case, the game will become a duel between QBs Colt McCoy (79.2 percent, 1,280 yards, 16 TDs, three INTs) and Sam Bradford (72.6, 1,665 yards, 18 TDs, three INTs).
What do you think? Are McCoy and the Longhorns' defense up to the challenge?