Texas QB Quinn Ewers has made strides since the Huskies met him in the Alamo Bowl last season, in which he completed 31-of-47 passes for 369 yards and a touchdown. That said, he was the victim of a few drops that may have turned into touchdowns, if not huge gains. This season, Ewers is a much more consistent player, having improved his completion percentage from 58% to over 70%, and boosting his yards per attempt from 7.4 to 9.0.
As a player, he’s exceptionally talented and he’s starting to live up to his #1 overall player recruiting ranking. His arm talent is elite and he can make every throw from every angle, generating a lot of power fairly effortlessly. He works the pocket very well, dodging pass rushers and extending plays. He’s not an explosive runner, but has a strong, athletic build that allows him to absorb hits and bounce off would-be tacklers. That said, he has one of the highest pressure-to-sack rates among P5 starting QBs. He doesn’t get pressured often, but when he does it’s not uncommon for it to become a sack, about 30% of the time.
His main targets are the duo of WR Xavier Worthy and WR Adonai Mitchell. Mitchell is a 6-4 transfer from Georgia who leads the team in touchdown receptions (10) and yards per reception (15.9). More than two thirds of his targets come 10+ yards downfield, and Ewers will look for him deep. Worthy is a supremely talented player as well, with elite straight ahead speed. He’s the type of player they want catching the ball running forward, so he gets quite a few looks on screens and flair routes behind the line of scrimmage.
There is also WR Jordan Whittington, who will line up in the slot mostly, and is a good yards-after-catch player. Lastly, there is TE Ja’Tavion Sanders, who is the definition of a matchup nightmare. He’s 6-4 and 243 pounds and moves like a player half his size. He’s a natural pass catcher and also great with the ball in his hands, able to make defenders miss or just run them over. He’s averaging over 15 yards per catch on his 39 receptions this season.
Texas lost RB Jonathan Brooks for the season in mid-November and have since relied on the duo of true freshman CJ Baxter and sophomore Jaydon Blue. Baxter reads blocks well and gets upfield in a hurry. At 6-1 and 218 pounds, he’s a load to bring down. On the season he has 595 yards and 4 touchdowns. Blue gets fewer carries but is more of a home run hitter, using his immense speed and balance to break into the open field. He averages over 6 yards per carry and is a natural pass catcher out of the backfield. Texas has a great offensive line lead by the LT Kelvin Banks, who has started every game since arriving on campus last season. He’s their highest graded pass blocking player, though Ewers has been sacked 25 times (compared to just 10 for Michael Penix Jr.)
In classic Steve Sarkisian style, this is a creative offense that uses a lot of formations, movement, and misdirection to trick defenses and get them looking the wrong way. They utilize play action on more than half of their pass attempts, but in true Sark fashion, are more about using the pass to set up the run, instead of the other way around. Similar to Oregon, there is a good amount of screens and sideways passes before finding the right opportunity to take a big downfield shot. Most of Ewers downfield targets are in the middle of the field. This is an offense not afraid to include the running backs in the pass game, as Baxter and Blue have 32 receptions between the two of them, and have only gotten starters reps in the last few games of the season. Texas averages more than 36 points per game.
In typical Texas fashion, they have talent all over the field and could cause some problems for this Husky defense. They have a deep stable of running backs they can lean on beyond just Baxter and Blue, such as Keilan Robinson, who had just four carries in the Big 12 championship game but turned those into 75 yards and two touchdowns. In the three games that RB Jonathan Brooks has missed due to injury, Texas has averaged 207.7 yards on the ground. The challenge for the Washington defense will be keeping the screens and short passes from being big gains, while also stopping the run. If they commit too much to the short game, Texas has the speed and size outside to beat them over the top. EDGEs Bralen Trice and ZTF will need to pressure Ewers and have some drive killing sacks, which he’s susceptible to giving up.
Easier said than done.
How many points will Texas score in the Sugar Bowl?
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43 or more