Mandatory Credit: Photo by Eric Gay/AP/Shutterstock (13467635t) Texas linebacker Jaylan Ford (41) celebrates after he recovered an Iowa State fumble late in the second half of an NCAA college football game, in Austin, Texas Iowa St Texas Football, Austin, United States - 15 Oct 2022

No. 20 Texas faces interesting challenge against Huskies offense

The number one priority for Texas as they prepare for their matchup with No. 12 Washington in the Alamo Bowl is to stop or at least contain the Huskies offense led by quarterback Michael Penix.

On the season, Penix has passed for 4,354 yards, the most of any quarterback in the FBS. He has tossed 29 touchdowns against only seven interceptions and leads an offense averaging 40.8 points a game.

What makes Penix so dangerous is his accuracy and his ability to use his legs to avoid pressure and create opportunities for completions by extending plays. He is a polished passer with the arm talent to make all the throws and is in complete control of his offense. He has great awareness and always knows where the outlets are to avoid negative plays. Penix has the talent to win games on script, or if things don’t go according to plan, he can win with improvisation.

Washington’s coaches also do an excellent job of creating plays that put defenders in conflict, forcing defenses to choose between defending the run or the pass in a given situation. The Huskies’ offense is also outstanding at presenting layered plays, a run play in the first quarter will set up a deep shot off play action in the third quarter. These plays effectively use your own rules and tendencies against you. It is a safe bet that the plays the Texas defensive staff is working on stopping in their bowl preparation will be used to set up complimentary plays in the bowl game.

So, how do the Horns go about combating this formidable offense?  

Over the course of the season, the Texas defense has evolved into a unit that thrives on applying pressure on the quarterback, and they may be the most athletic group the Huskies have seen all season.

The Longhorn front is big and athletic, and in the last five games, Texas has recorded 31 tackles for loss, including an amazing 14 in their matchup against No. 3 TCU, and at times Barryn Sorrell has been unblockable. This front is backed up by a linebacking corps that is fast and physical. Led by Jaylan Ford and DeMarvion Overshown, the Texas linebackers can blitz from anywhere, and are also capable when dropping into coverage. On the back end, players like Ryan Watts give the Horns the ability to diversify coverages and match up with Washington’s big receivers like the 6-foot-3 Rome Odunze.

The key to stopping Washington will be to win up front and get pressure without having to blitz. As good as Penix has been this season, no quarterback can throw strikes when he is on his back. If the Longhorns can get home without committing extra defenders to rush the quarterback, it will allow defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski to keep at least seven in coverage. This will allow him to utilize exotic coverages Penix may not have seen. Texas would have options such as doubling the Huskies’ favorite receivers, playing a spy on Penix, or taking certain secondary players out of the run fit to eliminate Washington’s run-pass options.

Over the last two years, Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian has prioritized recruiting and improving the Longhorn roster, especially in the trenches. This matchup will provide a great look at how those efforts have paid off and where the Longhorns stand in comparison to a potent offensive attack. The success of the Horns’ front four will go a long way to determining the winner of this bowl game.

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