The seat of Texas coach Charlie Strong is warm right now. Things will get a tad hotter Saturday if his Longhorns lose their Big 12 opener at home vs. No. 24 Oklahoma State. The Pokes are -3 on BetOnline's college football odds with a total of 61.
Star Is Born For Texas
The main reason Texas has struggled since playing for the BCS National Championship in the 2009 season is because the Longhorns haven't found a great quarterback since Colt McCoy led that team. However, Strong may have finally solved the problem.
The coach started junior incumbent Tyrone Swoopes at quarterback in the season opener at Notre Dame and the UT offense was an embarrassment in the 38-3 blowout loss. Swoopes was just 7-for-22 for 93 yards and Texas had only 163 yards of offense, the lowest in the FBS in Week 1. So Strong then switched to freshman Jerrod Heard, who had lost a close battle with Swoopes. Heard threw for 120 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Rice.
And then this past weekend against California, Heard threw for 364 yards while rushing 24 times for 163 yards and three scores. Those 527 yards broke Vince Young's school record of 506. He was the second UT quarterback in school history to throw for 300 yards and rush for 100 yards, joining McCoy (304 pass/175 rush) at Texas A&M on Nov. 26, 2009.
Alas, Texas suffered arguably the most painful loss of any team this season, 45-44. UT trailed by 21 points in the fourth quarter, but Heard tied the game with a 45-yard TD run with 1:11 remaining. Overtime looked likely, but somehow senior kicker Nick Rose shanked the extra point wide right. Just a stunner.
But Heard has clearly made a huge difference. After averaging just 3.1 yards per play during the loss to Notre Dame, not only was Heard promoted but Strong switched play-calling duties to Jay Norvell. In two games since, the Longhorns are averaging 8.1 yards per play. UT has 14 plays of at least 20 yards in the past two games; it had two vs. Notre Dame.
The Texas defense remains a problem, however. Opponents are converting third downs at a rate of 56.2 percent, the worst mark in the Big 12 and nearly nationally. UT allows 240.7 rushing yards per game. That's 119th nationally.
The Longhorns have won 15 out of the last 16 conference openers. The loss was in 2007 against Kansas State. Texas is 1-2 ATS on college football odds in 2015 and 2-1 'over/under.'
Cupcake-City Thus Far For OSU
Oklahoma State (3-0) has played a joke of a schedule thus far, beating Central Michigan, Central Arkansas and then this past Saturday, Texas-San Antonio 69-14. The Cowboys forced seven turnovers, the third-most in school history and most since 2000. The 55-point margin of victory was the sixth-largest in OSU history and the 69 points scored were the fourth-most.
The Pokes do have a very exciting sophomore quarterback in Mason Rudolph, who averages 315.7 yards passing and has five touchdowns on the year. He ranks in the Top 10 nationally in passing yards, yards per completion and yards per pass attempt. He is 12th nationally with a pass efficiency rating of 173.4. Texas is 109th against the pass in allowing 271.7 yards per game and has given up eight TD passes.
OSU is one of only three teams in the nation to rank in the Top 20 nationally in both scoring offense and scoring defense, joining Georgia Tech and West Virginia (again, consider the schedule). That defense is led by potential All-American end Emmanuel Ogbah. He was named first-team All-Big 12 last year and the conference's Defensive Lineman of the Year by the league's coach.
The Cowboys are 1-2 ATS on college football picks this year and 1-2 'over/under.'
Texas leads 24-5. The series is 3-3 since 2009, and OSU has won three straight in Austin. Last year in Stillwater, OSU had its worst offensive game of the season in a 28-7 loss to Texas. Swoopes was the lone quarterback in that one for UT and threw for 305 yards and two scores. Rose made three field goals. The Texas defense limited the Cowboys to a season-low 192 total yards and forced them into three-and-outs on six of their first eight possessions. Daxx Garman was OSU's QB then. He's now at Maryland.
College Football Picks: I don't really trust OSU yet but I also don't that Texas defense. Give the points and go 'under' 61 at BetOnline. The road team has covered eight straight in the series. The 'under' is 4-0-1 in the past five meetings at Texas.