September 24, 2012
In August, Cowboy fans considered Texas a likely win. Even Vegas had OSU favored at the beginning of the year, but after OSU's lackluster performance in the desert and Texas's dismantling of Ole Miss, the game looks a bit different. To top it off OSU lost their starting QB on the sixth play of the Louisiana game. However, there are some reasons to convince me OSU can beat Texas and three reasons they can't.
#1 Walsh's Feet
Most defensive coordinators would agree that dual threat quarterbacks are the hardest thing to prepare for. It is easier to prepare for a running or passing offense, but the combination of the two can give coordinators fits. Lunt's uncertain status is causing Texas to prepare for a pro-style, drop back QB (Lunt) and a fast QB with running ability (Walsh). Texas has proven to have a pretty stout pass rush with the ability to get up the field quickly. Fans should look for Walsh to make some plays after being pressured out of the pocket despite the offensive line giving up zero sacks on the year.
#2 The Zone Read/Option
Remember the images of Vince Young pulling the ball from the RB and running the other way through a wide open gap? These images haunt not only OSU fans but USC and Oklahoma fans as well. After watching the game last Saturday, (hopefully) Monken is implementing a form of the zone read with a QB run option. This play will allow OSU to take advantage of Texas's fast aggressive defense while requiring them to play stay-at-home defense instead of pinning their ears back and blitzing all night (which they will do against Lunt). The threat of the Walsh keeping the ball and running around the end for 20 yards will help neutralize Texas's defensive ends. The zone read option is must be worked on in practice and failure to prepare can lead to big plays (ask anybody that has played Georgia Tech about option preparation).
#3 Walsh's Leadership
It is clear to anybody looking close enough that Walsh is a born leader. He is the son of a coach, and appears to have a high understanding of the game. He was named a team captain despite being a back-up at the beginning of the year. I don't see Walsh getting rattled and having a Landry-esque mental breakdown. Playing a night game in front of their home crowd creates a scenario where beating Texas for the third year straight is easily imaginable.
Reasons Walsh won't Beat Texas
#1 Walsh's Style of play
Saturday, Walsh reminded me of Brett Favre (minus the arm). Not so much the talent, but the style of play. Walsh sprints down the field celebrating every score like an 8th grader in the city playoffs. There were times fans could see him jawing with the opposing team. Walsh plays with an excitement and energy Lunt and Weeden lacked, and this style can rub teams the wrong way when leading by 40. As a result, Louisiana committed some of the most atrocious late hit penalties I have ever seen. Whether it be coaches orders or frustration, defenses with extra motivation to hurt the opposing QB play a little better (at least Roger Goodell seems to think so). Also, Walsh took too many hits and coaches should be telling him to avoid lowering his shoulder against the Texas linebackers. If Texas knocks him out, OSU will be down to the third string QB.
#2 Walsh's Arm
Yes, Walsh was 21-30 for 347 yards and 4 touchdowns last week. But any D coordinator will notice Walsh's inability to throw the ball outside the hashes. The deep 20 yard out that Lunt and Weeden threw with ease is not an option for Walsh. You can see it on the pass attempt to Tracy Moore when Walsh left the ball 10 yards short. Every completion was over the middle and it became obvious that Walsh struggled with other throws. Expect Texas to keep the safeties in the middle of the field while playing tight man coverage on the outside daring Walsh to make the long throws. Safeties not worrying about deep throws over the top or having to double a Blackmon or Bryant will cheat in and stop the run.
#3 The Defense
What does this have to do with Walsh? Well, the defense can't rely on the Offense scoring 45+ points like with Weeden, and up to this point they have showed little. I personally think the defense will have a solid night, but questions still need to be answered such as the lack of takeaways. Against Ole Miss, Texas's power run game looked the best it has since ESPN last aired "Run Ricky Run." Brown and Gilbert only job should be to shut down the two best receivers one-on-one all game. If OSU can take out the passing threat they will be able to play 8 or 9 in the box, and with the improvement at defensive tackle (Barnett) the run game can be stopped. Up to this point though, fans should be weary based on the Arizona game.
Will Walsh start? Will the defense wake up? Is Texas's offensive that good? All these questions will be answered next Saturday. There is a chance fans will see a performance similar to the other run oriented freshman QB with an average arm play against Texas for the first time at home. There is a possibility Walsh could repeat Tony Lindsey's 126 yards rushing in 1997 against Texas.