Texas Football: 4 reasons why UT can handily defeat UW in CFP semifinal

T'Vondre Sweat, Texas football
T'Vondre Sweat, Texas football / Aaron E. Martinez/American-Statesman /
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T'Vondre Sweat, Texas football
T'Vondre Sweat, Texas football / Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

T'Vondre Sweat and Byron Murphy II can dominate the trenches vs. UW's smaller interior O-Line

Where I would expect Washington to exploit Texas's defense the most in this matchup on New Year's Day is in the secondary with the Huskies' tremendous receiving corps and Heisman runner-up at quarterback.

Super senior quarterback Michael Penix Jr. will spread the ball around to his many talented and productive receivers, namely the 1,000-yard receiver duo of Rome Odunze and Ja'Lynn Polk.

The best way Texas can disrupt that high-powered Washington passing attack is with interior pressure on the passer to collapse the pocket and make Penix uncomfortable. Texas's stud defensive line duo of redshirt senior T'Vondre Sweat and junior Byron Murphy II is the best that Penix and the Huskies have faced among any interior defensive line this season in the PAC-12.

Sweat and Murphy are the two highest-graded defensive tackles in the Power Five this season. There has yet to be a team that has found a way to limit these two in the same game since they're so powerful and disruptive along the interior of the line this fall.

Sweat won the Outland Trophy as the best interior lineman in college football this season. He was also named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. Murphy, meanwhile, won the Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year honors.

"And they definitely play — what’s the word? They play good ball, man. But I wouldn’t say — we’re not playing, like, the 49er’s D-line or the Eagle’s D-line. So we’ll be good."

Penix has plenty of confidence, though, heading into this matchup against the stout Texas interior defensive line with Murphy and Sweat.

Those comments from Penix definitely caught Murphy's attention this week.

Penix talked with the confidence that Washington had played defensive lines as good as Texas's week in and week out this season. But it is a true fact that this Texas defensive line has the two most effective (regarding PFF defensive grade) players at their position in college football this season.

The duo of Murphy and Sweat can dominate the smaller Washington interior offensive line. Washington has done a nice job of pass protection this season, ranking in the top 10 in the Power Five in pass blocking efficiency.

But Washington's interior offensive line is giving up 50+ pounds in certain spots to Sweat and at least 25 pounds to Murphy. Washington's starting center, redshirt freshman Parker Brailsford, is 6-foot-2 and 275 pounds. And while right guard Julius Buelow has great length at 6-foot-8, he is pretty thin for his height at 310 pounds.

At 6-foot-4 and 362 pounds, Sweat is at least 30 pounds heavier than every Washington interior offensive lineman. Murphy is also heavier than two of Washington's three starters along the interior offensive line.

It's also not a great sign that Washington's two starting guards, Nate Kalepo and Buelow, both rank in the bottom third of eligible pass blockers in the PAC-12 this season.

Sweat and Murphy can very disruptive, consistently collapsing the pocket from the interior against Penix. That will force Penix to make decisions or throw on the run, which isn't something he's naturally accustomed to. Penix is a solid quarterback, but he struggles when he's forced to throw on the run.

Penix is completing just over 52 percent of his passing attempts while throwing on the run, which ranks 43rd in the Power Five this season. He's also not getting the ball very far downfield when he's forced to throw on the run, averaging 5.4 yards per pass attempt, good for 46th in the Power Five.

Regarding the Texas interior run defense against Washington's ground game, Sweat and Murphy will be a load for Huskies starting running back Dillon Johnson to deal with when he run's up the middle in this game. Johnson has been solid this season, rushing for over 1,000 yards for the first time in his collegiate career.

But the Mississippi State transfer hasn't faced a defensive line as stout as Texas's against the run this season. Texas has faced much better running backs in Big 12 play this season and had a ton of success shutting them down.

The Longhorns held the Doak Walker Award winner, Oklahoma State's Ollie Gordon II, to a season-low rushing performance with just over 30 yards in the Big 12 title game.

Texas also held the Kansas schools, two top 15 rushing offenses in the FBS this season, under 125 rushing yards in both of those games.

Sweat and Murphy are the key to Texas being able to put this Washington offense off schedule and force them to get the ball out quicker, which prevents those long developing route concepts in the intermediate and deep passing game from getting open. Those deeper routes are the bread and butter of this nation-leading Washington pass offense.

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