Kickoff: Saturday, 6:45 p.m. ET (ESPN), at the Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
Spread: Oregon State by 3.5
Watchability: The teams and their fanbases come in with much different perspectives. Oregon State surpassed expectations after winning only three games last season. Texas, by its standards, underachieved for a third straight year. A win on Saturday is icing on the cake for the Beavers and a loss for the Longhorns only adds to the disappointment. A Texas win would be a nice carryover to next season and bring some hope back into the program.
Shining stars: Texas -- DE Alex Okafor. Okafor had at least one tackle for loss in nine of his first 10 games until he injured his ankle early against TCU in the Texas' 11th game. He led the Longhorns with eight sacks and was really the only pass-rusher on the line once fellow DE Jackson Jeffcoat suffered a season-ending injury. Texas does not have another player with more than two sacks. Oregon State -- WR Markus Wheaton. The Beavers' top receiver ranked 11th nationally with 100.6 receiving yards per game. No matter the quarterback, Wheaton was consistent. He caught at least seven passes in nine games and had at least one touchdown catch in nine games.
Who could steal the show: Texas -- RB Johnathan Gray. The Longhorns have two talented sophomore running backs in Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron, but it was Gray, the true freshman, who led the team with 683 rushing yards. The Beavers were strong against the run this season -- allowing 130.5 rushing yards per game -- but they struggled against the speed of Oregon, allowing 430 yards. Gray is Texas' speediest back and will likely be the feature back. Oregon State -- WR Brandin Cooks. Cooks was not far behind Wheaton as he caught 64 passes for 1,120 yards. The 5-foot-10 sophomore is more of a downfield threat. He averaged 17.5 yards per reception, compared to 13.7 for Wheaton.
Magic number for Texas: 136. The Longhorns are 8-0 when rushing for 136 or more yards and 0-4 when rushing for fewer.
Magic number for Oregon State: 7-1. The Beavers' record against nonranked teams this season. Oregon State's loss was 20-17 at Washington.
3 keys to a Texas win:
- Run. As the magic number above illustrates, the Longhorns are at their best when they're able to run. With David Ash reclaiming his starting job at quarterback, he could use some help from Gray and the running game.
- Take care of the ball. The Longhorns had 11 giveaways in their four losses and only turned it over four times in their eight wins. Two of those giveaways came in a game they almost lost at Kansas.
- Limit big plays. Texas' secondary has struggled to make open-field tackles. Texas ranked last in rushing defense in the Big 12 giving up 198.8 yards per game. Oregon State's leading rusher Storm Woods had only one game with 100-plus rushing yards, but he did average a solid 4.6 rushing yards per game.
3 keys to a Oregon State win:
- Run the football. The Beavers averaged only 126.2 rushing yards per game and are a much better passing team, but offenses that are balanced have had good success against the Longhorns.
- Don't let Ash get off to a good start. The sophomore quarterback's confidence cannot be high after getting benched for the Kansas State game. Ash has had some strong performances this season, and he's always at his best when he has success early.
- Get the ball to Wheaton and Cooks. Texas has two talented corners in Quandre Diggs and Carrington Byndom, but they have not performed up to their talent this year and the key to carving up UT's defense is to get skilled players in the open field.
Prediction: Oregon State 38, Texas 31
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis from Big 12 bloggers C.J. Moore and Patrick Southern, follow @CBSSportsBig12 on Twitter. You can also follow C.J. (@cjmoore4) and Patrick (@patricksouthern).