Texas to face tougher tests in Big 12 play

BY foxsports • September 27, 2012

Mack Brown will try to convince his players they should be afraid of Oklahoma State, and he will try to do it by reminding them that beating Ole Miss is not the same as beating Oklahoma State.

"We've had better personnel than the three teams we've played," Brown said.

The implication is that this will no longer be the case.

It might make for timely coaching rhetoric as the No. 12 Longhorns (3-0) travel to Stillwater, Okla., to open Big 12 play against Oklahoma State (2-1) on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on FOX.

But it might not even be true.

Texas might have better players than every other team in the Big 12. That's not exactly a headline. There haven't been many Big 12 seasons in which Texas or Oklahoma hasn't had the most talent in the conference.

But what is new, at least relative to last season, is that Texas' talent now appears to have bloomed into a mature, congealed team with its own identity. The Longhorns rush the passer as well as anybody, they run the ball as well as anybody and – this is the key to the vault – they have a quarterback who now appears to have the capability and confidence to push the ball down the field.

That's new. Real new.

For most of the last year, there may not have been a quarterback in America who inspired more ambivalence than David Ash. He was so very OK. And he began this year looking like the kind of quarterback you try to hide in your offense. Keep the completion percentage up, keep the third downs short, march along. Nothing to see here.

Then Ash just went off. Completed 19 passes for 326 yards and four touchdowns at Ole Miss on Sept. 15 where the Longhorns won 66-31. Big 12 offensive player of the week. Zero to hero.

Ash has completed 76 percent of his passes for 704 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions this seasons.

"Now we're getting more explosive plays like we needed," Brown said.

Now the Longhorns are looking like contenders.

But, Brown said, "Now the personnel gets very similar (to ours) this week."

Probably. The Cowboys have the top offense in the Big 12, averaging 62 points and 687 yards per game, although those numbers are perhaps a little inflated by an 84-0 win over Savannah State to begin the season. OK State also is in the middle of the pack on defense after the non-conference season (though, in fairness, so is Texas).

Regardless, the Cowboys are the best team Texas will face this year. But if Texas is what it appeared to be two weeks ago in Oxford, Miss., this weekend's game should be the launch point for a season without a ceiling, and Brown knows it.

"You can't have any misses," Brown said. "You have got to win them all if you want to be in the mix at the end."

And Texas is going to try to win them all by lining up and just getting after it. That's the strategy. Brown believes his roster is such that it can only defeat itself, and it shows in the way he is managing his sophomore quarterback.

"We've got good players," Brown said. "Get the ball where it needs to be. The best thing we've done offensively right now, is we're not turning the ball over."

Texas believes it will win the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Brown has hitched his whole approach with this year's team to that belief, and so far he appears to be right. Texas had a physical advantage at nearly every position against Ole Miss.  

Yet Brown remains skeptical with Oklahoma State around the corner. Or hopeful. Or at least curious.

"I thought we did some really positive and good things that should give us a view of who we want to be in the future, at Ole Miss," Brown said. "That's why I'm so excited about this weekend --  to see if that's for real."