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2013 Red River Shootout | Know Your Opponent Q & A With Burnt Orange Nation

Cooper Neill

We don't need to remind you what week it is or that it's currently 9:00 in the a.m. and Texas still sucks!

However, you may need to know more about this Texas team the Sooners will be lining up across from on Saturday. So we utilized the SB Nation family once again and reached out to our old friend Wescott Eberts of Burnt Orange Nation to get the lowdown.

As with many a Texas fan this year, his beloved Horns have beaten him into a submission of sorts. But he was a good enough sport (as usual) to graciously answer our questions, so it's only fair in Texas' time of need that you respond in kind and read them. In fact, let's give them one big collective hug. They clearly need it.


Now quick, go take a shower!

CCM: Let's start this off on the right foot. I know a number of our CCM non-stat savvy readers are anxious to read about the advanced metrics for this Texas team and how what we've seen on the field doesn't tell the whole story. So what ya got for us this year?

Wescott: On the defensive side of the ball, there are no hidden truths in the advanced metrics obscured by lack of context.

Last year, for instance, after facing seven of the top 25 offenses in S&P+, the Longhorns finished 32nd in defensive S&P+. Crazy, right? So when Texas fans want to talk about the defense being one of the worst in school history, what the adjusted numbers suggest is that the same things happened to the other defenses those teams played as happened to the Longhorns. The results were bad. It was viscerally terrible, but when looked at in context, it wasn't quite that bad.

The difference this year is that Texas is struggling against offenses that aren't even in the same stratosphere, so there's not much of a bump between the unadjusted S&P ranking (94th) and the adjusted S&P+ (84th). The run defense is worse (103rd) and the ability to defend on passing downs is terrible (95th). The Longhorns are exactly what they appear to be this season.

CCM: If possible, attempt to explain Major Applewhite's decision last Thursday to feature Case McCoy and the UT passing game. And is that something you fear could possibly happen again on Saturday in the Cotton Bowl?

Wescott: The best way to explain the abandonment of the run game might be that Mack Brown was meddling in the game plan on the way to Ames, as a rumor from Inside Texas suggested.

Iowa State also reacted pretty quickly to the Johnathan Gray touchdown run by putting eight defenders in or near the box and the Cyclones were giving a lot of pass reads on the packaged concepts Texas is running for the first time this year. Of course, if an offensive coordinator wants to run the ball, he can of course just call running plays, as offensive coordinators have done in football for a long time.

And even more perplexing were calls like a play-action fake on 2nd and 2 in the first half that resulted in a sack and destroyed possession.

A reprisal of the game plan would seem unlikely -- there will be plenty of packaged plays and Oklahoma may want Texas passing as well, but where Iowa State was weak at cornerback, especially after one of their starters went out for a bit and the Longhorns attacked his replacement, Oklahoma is strong. It would be folly to put this gameplan on Case McCoy given the quality of the Sooner secondary.

On the other hand, folly and Texas football have been frequent bedmates of late.

CCM: As an OU fan, Jonathan Gray and Daje Johnson scare me. What kind of role do you each need to play in this game for Texas to pull the upset? And are there any other guys on offense OU fans need to be worried about?

Wescott: Johnson and Gray will probably be the two most important players on the field for the Texas offense against Oklahoma. Both were noticeably absent from the Iowa State game for long stretches.

The odd thing about Johnson is that he saw some snaps and returned kicks, but didn't get any carries and only had two catches. Brown said Wednesday that the coaches were being cautious last week with Johnson and that is now completely healthy following that high ankle sprain against BYU. Expect him to play a big role in the offense and see time as a running back, which he did not last week when he received not a single solitary carry.

Despite some flashes against Kansas State and a nice spin move down the sideline against Iowa State, the problem with Gray is that he doesn't move piles and he hasn't broken many tackles. If the Oklahoma front seven can make contact with him, he's not going to produce a lot of explosive plays, but if the Texas offensive line can crease them, Gray's vision makes him quite dangerous.

Other than those two, it's basically the Mike Davis show deep, with the exception of the long Kendall Sanders catch against Kansas State, the type of play-action post route that Texas has been dialing up for Davis for some time now. The good news for Texas fans with Davis is that he too is supposedly back to full health this week after being noticeably slowed since the Ole Miss game.

CCM: Can we expect to see Texas' ballyhooed true freshman quarterback, Tyrone Swoopes, in this game at some point?

Wescott: Who knows? Mack Brown seems plenty happy to ride and die with Case McCoy at this point and McCoy has responded by saving his ass a couple times. The dude is some type of weird guardian angel for Mack Brown. It's really odd and also terrifyingly sad.

CCM: Is David Ash's career potentially being in real jeopardy as a result of these concussion symptoms something being discussed right now in Austin?

Wescott: Too early to worry too much about Ash's career, but the fact that his symptoms have continued to linger now a month after the original concussion and not practicing for weeks since the Kansas State game is extremely concerning. It's pretty clear at this point that some positive developments need to happen in terms of those symptoms clearing up or his season is going to be in jeopardy really quickly. And that would definitely start to jeopardize his career, especially if he were to suffer another concussion down the road at some point.

CCM: Is if fair to say the front four is the strength of this Texas defense? And how much, if at all, would you say they compare favorable with TCU's defensive line that caused all kind of problems for OU last week (thinking to UT's ability to stop the OU run game and/or pressure Bell)?

Wescott: The defensive line is the only semi-competent unit on the defense right now and it's an extremely talented group with Malcom Brown coming on like a gangbuster the last several weeks and Hassan Ridgeway stepping up behind him right now at defensive tackle, along with strong play from Cedric Reed and Jackson Jeffcoat. As with the rest of the defense, the problem is that discipline is often lacking with the group, resulting in scrambling lanes, especially, as well as some instances of poor technique in terms of pad level that have slowly improved over the last several weeks.

I think all the lateral movement in the Oklahoma running game will put a different stress on the front and I thought the play of TCU's secondary really gave the defensive line a lot of time to get to Bell, so while I think Texas has a talent advantage over TCU's front four with Devonte Fields not 100%, I think the talent difference won't equate to more trouble for Oklahoma.

One thing that is clear with the Texas run defense is that if the defensive line doesn't make the play, the odds of anything good happening for the Longhorns basically drop to somewhere near zero.

CCM: If you were Greg Robinson, detail for us the game plan you'd implement on Saturday.

Wescott: After watching the defense last Thursday, I can unequivocally say that I'm glad I'm not Greg Robinson.

With that out of the way, the plan will probably be to continue playing with a single high safety and risk giving up big plays in order to get more players near the box to take away the Oklahoma running game. Since Texas is starting Dalton Santos and Steve Edmond at linebacker this week, Robinson is clearly hoping that if he gets as much beef as possible on the field, he'll be able to effectively deal with the running threat posed by Blake Bell.

After so many issues with the pass rush losing the quarterback last week, Robinson has to either ensure that there will be better discipline or just deploy a linebacker as a spy on Bell. The latter probably has a better shot of working given that there was an emphasis heading into the Iowa State game on pass-rushing discipline that didn't take so well.

CCM: How has Texas performed on special teams so far this year? Is this something you'd consider to be an advantage for the Horns in this game?

Wescott: Breaking down the special teams into the kicking, coverage, and return games, the Longhorns have been good in the kicking games, though Anthony Fera isn't a sure bet to hit anything over 40 yards, poor in kickoff coverage and disturbingly poor in the return game, where they have produced almost nothing. Fera has been good at pinning opponents deep in their territory by keeping his punts out of the end zone, but other than that, Texas probably doesn't have any advantage in any areas of special teams, a troubling trend that has persisted for some time now.

CCM: Just to be perfectly clear, I'm not predicting a blowout . . . But if this game does get ugly for Texas once again, do you see Dodds & co. allowing Mack to finish out the season or would another embarrassing loss be enough to justify them pulling the ripcord midseason?

Wescott: There's a vast chasm between justification for firing Mack Brown in the wake of another blowout at the hands of Oklahoma and the likelihood of it actually happening, which I would place at just about zero -- Brown finishes the season regardless of what happens on the field.

CCM: We don't necessarily need a score prediction (unless you want to), but give us an idea of how you see this game playing out on Saturday.

Wescott: No score prediction this year and certainly no prediction of a close game for a third straight season. Texas can't afford turnovers and can't afford to get behind early, a scenario that would play into the hands of the Oklahoma defense, which has excelled with leads this year. If the Longhorns can't run against a stacked box and stop the run early, this one has a chance of getting ugly quickly.

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