Case McCoy is going to put on a Longhorn jersey and helmet and attempt to lead his teammates to victory against Ole Miss in front of a probably less than full capacity DKR crowd and those tuning in on the Longhorn network or local affiliates in Mississippi. Consequently he has my support and well wishes. God bless him on 3rd and long.
However, I think Longhorn fans might be well advised to embrace the darker side of comedy and have the ability to laugh off the product Texas is able to put on the field against the Rebel Bears or whatever we're pretending Ole Miss' mascot is supposed to represent other than antebellum sympathies. It's either laugh it off or feel enraged.
So...I'm not terribly optimistic. I've written on Ole MIss' defense as well as where our own defense is, moving forward into this game. In this space I'm going to provide a little bit of info on what these two squads will look like when matched on a football field.
When Texas is on offense
Texas' offense thrives on outside zone, screens and short passes to the RBs that allow the OL to get moving vertically without having to block DL first, and a verticals-based pass game that can threaten a defense inside and outside the hashes...what's that? Oh yeah, Case is starting. Well.
There are throws Case can make that are useful to this offense. He can throw a hitch route to the short side of the field, a slant, a fade route, etc. He can also identify and make throws to the middle of the field.
The Texas offense can really benefit near the end zone with Case threatening the defense with a throw like this:
However getting there is difficult if attempting to beat coverage in the middle of the field looks like this:
Or if a defense tightens up and forces throws such as this:
Here is the trouble for Major and his playbook in facing the Rebels. They could play a roll Cover 3 with tight coverage on the boundary receiver, all three linebackers sitting on the middle routes, and then off coverage to the field. That removes most of Case's comfortable throws and gets us into turnover country.
What's more, the Texas route concepts adjust to the coverage. So if the coverage dictates that the receivers find places that Case can't reach accurately due to lack of arm strength...you see the problem?
That leaves the run game for the Longhorns, which has struggled, is at its best when the QB presents a running threat (he won't), and just lost its most explosive player (Daje Johnson).
On the Ole Miss side of the equation, they have quick linebackers, a stunting and penetrating DL, and a solid secondary backing it all up. Texas' worst nightmare is a physical DL that stuffs the Power-O and Inside Zone run game that create room on the perimeter for screens and quick outs. Throws which Case can make.
Ole Miss' DL isn't really a big monstrous group, their nose tackle Isaac Gross is a 260 pound penetrating force who gave Barrett Jones fits but may be less threatening to the mobile Texas OL. On the flipside, don't expect Texas to be able to beat these guys with outside zone because they'll be difficult to reach.
Given that Texas was unable to drive New Mexico St's DL off the ball on inside runs, it's hard to believe that they'll do so against Ole Miss' athletic front either. In that event, Texas would be devoid of weapons to use against the Rebs.
Because of Case's throwing limitations and the great likelihood that Ole Miss will either gameplan for his skill set or play prevent defense and allow the lack of Daje to cripple drives, I have trouble forecasting a lot of points for Texas. Frankly there's a lot of opportunity here for Ole Miss.
They could play very loose coverage, beat up the run, and let Case try to dink and dunk down the field before attacking him on 3rd and long. KSU more or less executed that plan and found a degree of success with it but they also allowed Case to throw for nine yards per attempt. If they feel there's a risk of Ash or Swoopes/Overstreet playing they can run that plan or at least have it in their back pocket.
Or they can play roll Cover 3 or other packages that have McCoy's skill set in mind. When the QB is limited you don't necessarily have to defend every Texas skill player to the degree that their talent merits. You don't have to worry about what Mike Davis can do to you only what Case McCoy throwing to Davis can do to you.
If they've felt confident enough to do some homework on Case then I can see them absolutely shutting down the Texas offense and turning us over multiple times. Let's hope to God they haven't spotted weaknesses in our protection they feel they can exploit or things will go to hell in a real hurry. From Hugh Freeze's description in Michael Lewis' "Blindside" I would guess that he relishes the chance to unleash a gameplan that reveals how cunning he is rather than one that simply plays it safe and insures victory. That's actually the worst news for us, we'd rather face the guy that gives us a chance to break tackles and beat prevent.
Finally, there's always the chance that Mack pushes his chips all-in and inserts Tyrone Swoopes if he feels like he has some play making ability. That might throw off the Rebels' staff but would surely end in disaster.
So how do things look on the other side?
When Texas is on defense
Obviously we've covered this topic pretty extensively. Our defense is in a world of hurt right now and Mack has to be hoping they just demonstrate the willingness and toughness to get back on the horse and go to work, much less improve enough to handle a great offensive football team.
Ole Miss is basically an option team. They run zone-read, some triple-option out of zone read, zone paired with passing concepts, etc. You need to be aware and account for each of the threats they can present and you need to have a plan and discipline from your players to force them into the options that won't destroy you.
Manny Diaz had a plan, currently his players are instructing Greg Robinson on what that plan is. Robinson never faced an offense that utilized modern spread option football to the degree that Ole Miss does so his ability to add something new to the defense is somewhat in question.
I'm guessing he will bring an aggressive strategy that looks to attack Ole Miss' preferences and potentially set Texas up for early success. How that could be accomplished, I'm not sure. Texas' options for attacking this specific team are fairly limited.
You probably remember outside receiver Donte Moncrief from last year, he's a risky player to attempt to erase without safety help over the top. Our base Cover 3 stuff, which Robinson will probably keep and feel most comfortable with, is likely to be challenged by Moncrief on vertical routes.
They also have a freshman, 6-3 tight end/receiver who offers another challenge to Texas down the sideline named Evan Engram. This makes shading our deep safety over to Moncrief a little too dangerous.
This is all very unfortunate because Texas does have good cover corners and will probably have to leave them on islands much of the time in order to handle the Rebel option game. You'd prefer to test that against a team that isn't teeming with NFL-shaped outside receivers.
Their OL from last year is mostly intact, along with a cast of talented RB's headlined by Jeff Scott. They run Power-Read and several other plays with read elements of the sort that have ruined our defense for the last year and counting. They have another QB they bring in named Brunetti to run option on the goal line and spare Bo Wallace taking hard knocks on the goal line.
As a team, they involve all of the run and option elements that are so difficult for a soft and undisciplined team to handle and they run them with players who are more athletic than the BYU Cougars. Then they also have receivers and QB tochallenge Texas' only strength on defense: coverage at cornerback.
Best case scenario: Greg gets the players lined up and following their assignments and it simply becomes a game of who can out-execute each other. In that scenario, Ole Miss would still surely score 25+ points. If we both push the pace...considerably more.
We're looking at a demoralizing blowout, be ready to laugh it off and watch with interest what happens in Bellmont as a consequence.