Finalize the Foe: Texas Longhorns

Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off of a disappointing loss to Virginia, the Cougars must now turn their attention to the very talented and always tough Texas Longhorns. What can we expect in the coming game?

As we prepare to analyze BYU's Week 2 opponent, the Texas Longhorns, lets briefly take a look at the Cougars game against Virginia this past weekend.  What can BYU's performance against Virginia tell us about how they will match up with Texas? Let's take a closer look.

Rewind the Tape a Week

The Cougars entered the first weekend of the college football season with a lot to be excited about.  They had a new offensive coordinator, a new offense, a healthy quarterback, a stimulating schedule, a healthy kicker, Kyle Van Noy, and a game against a beatable Virginia team in which they were favorites on the road.  Now that the weekend is over, that feeling of excitement has understandably turned into a feeling of concern for most Cougar fans as they look forward to the Texas Longhorns (as well as the rest of the schedule).

There are a plethora of story lines that came from the Virginia game, including the two hour lightning delay, wet conditions, Cody Hoffman's injury, and some 'questionable' play calling in certain situations.  Many fans are also concerned with the penalties, the throwing inaccuracy of Taysom Hill,  the dropped balls, and the complete lack of efficiency of the new "go hard, go fast" offense.  These are all valid concerns as the Cougar's prepare to take on the Texas Longhorns this coming Saturday in Provo.  Texas is a significantly stronger team than the Virginia Cavaliers on both sides of the ball.

Who are the Texas Longhorns?

Texas is one of the most storied college football programs of all time.  They have won 16 national championships, the most recent being in 2005.  Texas has also won 32 conference championships, as well as produced 2 Heisman winners and over 50 All-Americans.  They are led by Coach Mack Brown, who has been at the helm for the past 15 years while leading Texas to a 150-43 record and a national championship during that time.  Texas entered this season coming off of a 9-4 record (5-4 in the Big 12), and a bowl victory over Oregon State in the Valero Alamo Bowl.  BYU leads Texas with an all-time head-to-head record of  2-1.  The last time they played was in Texas in 2011, with BYU losing 16-17.

The Texas Longhorns will be making their second trip ever to Provo this week, coming into the game on Saturday with a 1-0 record after having dismantled New Mexico State 56-7 last Saturday.  The Longhorns began the game slow, as the board was scoreless at the end of the first quarter.  But they were able to score 56 points over the last 3 quarters, as they proved to everyone why they are ranked in the top 15.  Let's take a close looker at what we have seen from the Longhorn's offense and defense, and how they will match up the Cougars.

The Offense

Texas returns 10 of last years 11 starters on the offensive side of the ball, including junior quarterback David Ash.  Ash went 20-28 against New Mexico State with 343 passing yards (an average of 12.3 yards per pass), as well as 8 rushes for 91 yards (an average of 11.4 yards per rush).  He also threw two interceptions.  Ash was able to show that he is a duel threat quarterback that can hurt you either through the air or on the ground. He was able to spread the ball all over the field, as he completed passes to eight different receivers. David Ash accounted for 434 yards of offense just by himself.

The Longhorns also showed that they can be just  as effective rushing the ball, as they were able to rush for 359 yards.  They established a balanced rushing attack, with five different players getting carries out of the backfield.  Their leading rusher was freshman Jalen Overstreet, who ended the day with 92 yards on 9 carries.

With such an effective rush game to accompany their potent passing attack, they were able to orchestrate a very balanced offensive game plan, as they had a total of 356 passing yards and 359 rushing yards, totaling 715 yards of offense.  They also had 26 first downs while only punting the ball three times.

Another thing to note about the Longhorns offense was that they were able to execute a number of big plays.  They had four plays of 50 yards or more that went for touchdowns, three of which were passes (54 yards, 66 yards, 74 yards) and one run (55 yards).  Texas unveiled their new uptempo style offense as well on Saturday, and it seemed to be firing on all cylinders.

The Defense

Last season, Texas' defense gave up a total of 5,244 yards, the worst in school history. The defense was injury plagued, with their leaders missing a combined 17 games.  Having 9 of 11 starters returning on defense, the Longhorns are hoping to significantly improve their situation this season.  This seems to be the case thus far, as last Saturday they were rock solid against the Aggies; both with their front seven, as well as their secondary.

They only allowed 242 yards passing and 104 yards on the ground, giving up a total of 346 offensive yards.  Perhaps the most telling statistic on the defensive side of the ball for the Longhorns was that they prevented the Aggies from completing 13 of their 18 third down attempts.  Any time that you can keep an opponent to a third down efficiency rate of less than 30%, you are in good shape to win.

Another highlight of the Texas defense was the fact that their defensive line dominated the line of scrimmage.  They were able to pressure New Mexico State's quarterback all night long, forcing him into bad decisions as he threw one interception and fumbled the ball twice.

There are several break-out players to keep an eye on on the defensive side of the ball this Saturday.  Safety Adrian Phillips, who claims he is back to 100% after coming off of a shoulder surgery over the summer, had five tackles against NMSU.  Linebackers Steve Edmond and Dalton Santos have improved and combined for 8 tackles over the weekend as they were able to help plug up the New Mexico State run game.

**Keep in mind, this performance was against a New Mexico State team who went 1-11 last season.**

What is Texas expected to accomplish this season?

At Bit 12 Media Day a couple of months ago, Coach Mack Brown said that Texas was about to make another run at a national title. Most early season bowl projections have Texas playing in a BCS Bowl Game, as many people are expecting Texas to be the favorite to win the Big 12 Conference this season.  The season won't be easy though. Texas will face another deep Big 12 conference schedule, with games lined up against Oklahoma, TCU, West Virginia, and Oklahoma State.  Texas is likely to finish the season with a 9-3 record.

How do they match up with BYU?

BYU's defense played exceptionally well against Virginia, holding them to an average of 3 yards per play.  It's hard to top a defensive performance like that.  Despite concerns heading into the season, BYU's secondary seemed up to the task, as they were able to lock down Virginia's passing game for the most part.  They were also able to keep Virginia's run game in check, holding them to just over 100 yards on the ground. Texas, of course, will be a completely different animal than Virginia, and it will be interesting to see how the Cougar's strong defense will match up against a high-powered and up-tempo offense.

The real mismatch in this game will be BYU's stagnant offense against Texas' much improved defense.  BYU's defense was able to hold Virginia's offense to an average of 3 yards per play, on 223 yards, but still lost the game; all while running 93 offensive plays of their own. This is a giant red flag for the offense.  Granted, the weather conditions were less than ideal, and the two hour weather delay wasn't any help, but that's not an excuse for the false starts, holding penalties, missed reads, questionable play calls, and bad offensive line play.

Even given the weather conditions, which were the same for both teams, running 93 offensive plays against Virginia should give you enough offense to win the game.  BYU's go fast, go hard offense was completely ineffective for the vast majority of the game, and definitely seemed to hurt them more than it helped, as the defense seemed worn down by the end of the 4th quarter.  We shall see if BYU's uptempo offense fares any better against Texas' stingy defense, stacked with some of the fastest athletes in college football. Hopefully the mistakes of Saturday's game can be reduced to first game jitters and won't be repeated against Texas.

As usual, Kyle Van Noy and the BYU defense should keep the game close this Saturday, at least for a few quarters.  It will be up to the Cougar's offense to see if they can rise to the occasion.  They will surely need more than 362 yards of total offense to beat Texas.  Taysom Hill will have to throw for better than 13-40 (30% completion rate), Jamaal Williams will have to run for over 100 yards again, and the offensive line will need to play significantly better to give BYU a chance for victory.  If the Cougar's fail to win this game, they will fall to 0-2 for the first time in the Bronco Mendenhall era.  After the Week 1 performances of each team, it is obvious that Texas is the clear favorite to win the game, despite being on the road. But remember, this is college football, and literally anything can happen.

Prediction: Texas wins 24-13

For another look at Texas, see Matt Brown's outlook on their team from this last summer: Know the Foe: Texas Longhorns.

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