Texas Football: 3 major concerns for UT in CFP semis vs. UW

Quinn Ewers, Texas football
Quinn Ewers, Texas football / Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman
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Quinn Ewers, Xavier Worthy, Texas football
Quinn Ewers, Xavier Worthy, Texas football / Annie Rice/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal /

Washington's potential to turn Quinn Ewers over on defense

Washington has given up a lot of passing yards this season. The Huskies rank 11th from the bottom in the FBS this season in passing defense, largely due to the volume of pass attempts they've faced in the PAC-12. Washington is the only Power Five team that had over 500 passing attempts on defense this season.

Nonetheless, Washington has given up a ton of production through the air to some mediocre to bad teams in the PAC-12 this season. Three teams with bottom-half passing offenses in the Power Five threw for over 275 passing yards against Washington.

One way Washington has overcome the yards its given up through the air on defense is by generating turnovers.

A staple of this Washington in PAC-12 play this season is the ability to generate turnovers in pass defense. The Huskies led the PAC-12 in interceptions in conference play this season with 12.

The Husky secondary is led by senior cornerback Jabbar Muhammad, who led the PAC-12 with a dozen pass breakups and led the team with three interceptions. Muhammad has been very sticky in coverage this season and made big plays in some huge spots for the Washington secondary.

He had three forced turnovers in Washington's top-10 road win against the No. 10 Oregon State Beavers during the regular season. Muhammad also had a key pick in UW's close win over the Cal Golden Bears. And he had multiple pass breakups and a key third-down stop in UW's biggest regular season win, against the Oregon Ducks on the road on Oct. 14.

Muhammad will be a key player to watch for the Washington secondary against redshirt sophomore quarterback Quinn Ewers and the Texas pass offense in the Sugar Bowl. The former Oklahoma State transfer has already faced Texas twice when he was a member of the Pokes defense in 2021 and 2022.

Ewers must be able to manage turnovers in this game to prevent Washington from getting too many opportunities to cash in with this high-powered passing attack on offense and from wearing down the Texas defense.

He's improved week-by-week since returning from the shoulder injury he suffered on Oct. 21 on the road against Houston. Ewers had a career day with a record-breaking 452 passing yards and four passing touchdowns in the Big 12 title game against Oklahoma State.

But turnovers have been a bit of an issue for Ewers recently. Since he came back from the shoulder injury in Week 11 against TCU, Ewers has tossed three picks in four games. And he's registered at least one turnover-worthy play in each of the last four contests.

When Texas has turned the ball over more than twice in games this season, they are 1-1. And that one victory came in overtime against the No. 23 Kansas State Wildcats.

Winning the turnover battle is a great way to ensure a better path to victory for the Longhorns. If Texas turns Washington over multiple times while Ewers takes care of the football in this game, that will keep Penix and the vaunted Husky passing attack on the sidelines for longer.

Next. Why UT can dominate UW. 4 reasons why UT can handily defeat UW in CFP Semifinals. dark