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What we can learn from blowouts

9/3/2010

You won't hear this from any of their coaches, but let's be frank: Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas A&M will win on Saturday. Convincingly, to say the least.

Oklahoma State isn't bringing a cupcake to Stillwater, but the Cowboys are heavy favorites at home against Pac-10 doormat Washington State.

So, what can we learn from watching them race out to early leads? Each team's coach weighed in on what they want to see from their team most going into season openers against teams that clearly look overmatched on paper. (Note: My words, not theirs.)

TEXAS

Longhorns coach Mack Brown hasn't been shy about his defense, playing prognosticator this preseason and stating they might be his best ever. No such praise for his offense, which is breaking in all kinds of new blood everywhere.

"We’re changing what we’re doing as well," Brown said. "Our philosophy won’t change, but we will run more and we’ll have more of a power running game, even though we’ll probably throw the ball 50 percent of the time."

In charge of that power running game? Power running back Cody Johnson, a 251-pounder who'll be running behind an offensive line that's replacing three starters and moving another, All-Big 12 right tackle Kyle Hix, to left tackle. No amount of domination up front will impress anyone, but Brown will at least give a look at what his team has been working on since spring, as well as fresh-faced signal-caller Garrett Gilbert.

James Kirkendoll has emerged as the No. 1 target in preseason camp, but can he do it consistently and help Gilbert? We'll get an idea on Saturday, but we may not know for sure until after the Longhorns' trip to Lubbock in Week 3.

OKLAHOMA

Oklahoma's first play from scrimmage last season was halted by a false start. That trend continued throughout the game, and the Sooners lost to BYU, derailing a run at a national title.

So it shouldn't be surprising that Sooners coach Bob Stoops will be looking carefully at his team's mental performance on Saturday against Utah State as much as their physical performance.

"I just want to see us play with some discipline," Stoops said. "Penalties, taking care of the football and mental responsibility. Just not having mental errors. Take care of the ball, don’t have foolish penalties and execute cleanly."

Oklahoma will have the advantage of kicking off its season at home at Owen Field, where it's looked invincible of late, instead of the unfamiliar stage of Cowboys Stadium, which had never hosted a college football game before last year's tilt with the Cougars.

That could mean making Stoops happy will come a little easier for his players this time around.

NEBRASKA

The Huskers have ridden a wave of hype since a fantastic finish to the 2009 season, and finally, on Saturday, it's time to start validating it. Nebraska coach Bo Pelini has been -- for the most part -- complimentary of his team. Against Western Kentucky at Memorial Stadium, they'll get a chance to show Huskers fans he was right.

"I’m anxious to see our guys execute, put to the test in live action against someone other than ourselves with the things we’ve been talking about," Pelini said. "It’s always different, that first game, it’s obviously the first time you’ve got a live opponent."

Plenty of attention will be placed on his yet-unnamed quarterback, but Pelini says he's not looking forward to getting a glimpse of any position group in particular.

"I’ve liked the progress of our football team through camp, and now it’s time to see who’s going to step up, now that it’s for real," he said.

OKLAHOMA STATE

With just eight total starters returning on both sides of the ball, Mike Gundy's team may possess potential, but it's clearly lacking in experience. Gundy has seen what he's got in practice. He hasn't in games. That might change things.

"The first few games, you learn what you’re dealing with with young men and how they handle being in a game situation and how tough they are," Gundy said.

That includes freshmen. And though Gundy wishes only a couple will enter into Week 1 with unanswered questions, the Cowboys' depth chart features nine freshmen.

"We don’t have that luxury," Gundy said. "Our QB hasn’t played a lot, so we’ll learn a lot about him and we’ve got several guys on defense that’ll be playing for the first time. And a number of offensive linemen. We’ve got six or eight guys we’ll know a lot about after next week and maybe even more so a month from now."

TEXAS A&M

The offensive line has been of particular concern for Texas A&M all preseason, a unit that may start three true freshmen this season, and will at least play all three. But Colorado learned last season that three linemen don't compose an offensive line. Sherman wants plenty more than that. Ten, in fact.

"It’s something we’re still working on, and I imagine it will be through the first third or half of the season -- trying to find out who those guys are -- and a lot of that will be predicated on how well we play in these games," said Sherman, who plays Louisiana Tech and Florida International the next two weeks. "As we get closer, I'll feel comfortable on offense if we can get like an NFL formula. They only dress like eight guys on game day; we want to get eight guys that could rotate in there at any time. I think we’re close to that. We’re not right where we need to be in the two-deep, as far as having 10 guys on offense, but I feel like we’re getting there."

The same goes for his defensive line, but with a new 3-4 scheme under Tim DeRuyter, developing depth there is a bit simpler.

"I feel like we have to have at least 6-8 guys in rotation because those big guys get tired chasing the football. I think we’ll end up having a two-deep and work toward that three deep," Sherman said.