Texas Football: 4 reasons why the Longhorns can dominate Houston

Xavier Worthy, Texas football. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Xavier Worthy, Texas football. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /
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Jonathon Brooks, Texas football
Jonathon Brooks, Texas football /

No. 8 Texas football faces its second road test in Big 12 play this season on Oct. 21 at TDECU Stadium against head coach Dana Holgorsen and the Houston Cougars. Texas and head coach Steve Sarkisian are heavy favorites heading into this conference matchup against Houston on the road this weekend.

The Longhorns are a 23.5-point favorite against Houston in the first game after the bye week.

This is the first game on Texas’ journey to make it to the Big 12 Championship Game for the first time under Sark. If Texas wins out in the second half of the regular season, that would set up a likely Red River rematch with the Oklahoma Sooners in the Big 12 Championship Game in early December.

Why No. 8 Texas football can dominate Houston in Week 8

Houston, meanwhile, has some confidence heading into this matchup against the Longhorns. Holgorsen and the Cougars got their first Big 12 win last week thanks to a miraculous last-second Hail’Mary from quarterback Donovan Smith to wide receiver Stephon Johnson Jr. against the West Virginia Mountaineers.

West Virginia’s loss to Houston last week means Texas controls its destiny in the quest to earn a spot in the Big 12 title game down the stretch. But first, the Longhorns must take care of business against this Houston squad on the road.

Here are four reasons why the Longhorns will dominate Houston in Week 8.

Houston’s issues blocking along the interior O-Line

Among Houston’s weaknesses this season is blocking along the interior offensive line. Houston has experience among the starters along the interior offensive line. But that doesn’t mean they’ve held up well in pass pro or run blocking this season.

Two of Houston’s starting interior offensive linemen, super senior right guard Tank Jenkins and senior center Jack Freeman, are amid the 11 starting IOLs in the Big 12 that have allowed double-digit quarterback pressures this season. Former Texas transfer and starting left guard Tyler Johnson has done better in pass pro this season, but he still grades out around the middle of starting Big 12 interior offensive linemen.

All told, Houston has allowed a lot of pressure on starting quarterback Donovan Smith in the first half of the regular season. Houston has more blown blocks in pass pro along the interior offensive line than any other team in the Big 12 this fall.

Houston does have one starter along the offensive line that is among the best in the Big 12 this season. Starting senior left tackle Patrick Paul is the highest-graded offensive lineman in the Power Five. He’s also the only starting offensive lineman in the Power Five this season who has allowed zero quarterback pressures.

To compensate for the struggles dealing with opposing defense’s interior pass rush, Holgorsen and the Cougars have tried to get the ball out of Smith’s hands faster in Big 12 play. Houston tries to get the ball to its abundance of playmakers in the receiving corps, including the Big 12’s leader in receiving yards this season, redshirt sophomore wideout Sam Brown.

Smith has the fourth-lowest average time to throw of all Big 12 starting quarterbacks in conference play this season at 2.53 seconds.

This is a matchup the Longhorns can exploit this weekend. Texas has the most formidable interior defensive line duo in the Big 12 this season in redshirt senior T’Vondre Sweat and junior Byron Murphy II. Sweat and Murphy have wreaked havoc on the opposing team’s backfields this season with their interior pass rush. They both rank in the top three among Big 12 interior defensive linemen in win rate on pass rush plays this season.

If the Longhorns can collapse the pocket while finding a way to spy Smith effectively, that should drastically limit what this Houston offense can do on Oct. 21.