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Has Texas returned to prominence?

The Longhorns face a stiff test against the Sooners in the Red River rivalry. Dave Miller

Print This October 05, 2011, 01:30 PM EST

It's clear that Texas is a different team than the 5-7 squad that failed to reach the postseason just one year after its BCS national championship appearance.

But heading into their Red River Rivalry game against Oklahoma on Saturday in Dallas, just how good are Mack Brown's Longhorns?

David AshICONCan David Ash and the Longhorns keep up with the Sooners' offensive attack?

Texas is unbeaten heading into the showdown with the Sooners mostly because of its defense, which is giving up just 14.8 points per game and has caused 10 turnovers under first-year coordinator Manny Diaz. But do the Longhorns have an offensive identity?

Since Garrett Gilbert was benched in the second game of the season against BYU, sophomore Case McCoy and freshman David Ash have split time at quarterback and have protected the football better than Gilbert, and the unit has been able to move down the field more effectively. Ash's running ability has also been a nice added wrinkle for the offense, which has benefitted from the solid play of true freshman running back Malcolm Brown.

However, one can argue that Bryan Harsin's unit has made its name on its trick plays, with Ash playing a key role in that aspect of the offense. Harsin certainly knows how to use trickeration to his advantage after doing it so well at Boise State, so it's a valuable commodity to have in Austin. But will it be effective against the Sooners this weekend?

It certainly was when Harsin was Boise's first-year offensive coordinator in 2006 when he helped the Broncos earn a stunning 43-42 victory over Stoops' Sooners in the Fiesta Bowl. So the OU coaching staff is well aware that they could see anything and everything this weekend.

But do the Longhorns have enough traditional playmakers to make this a game for four quarters?

Freshman Jaxon Shipley has made an immediate impact, which has been huge for an offense starving for quality receivers, and he's coming off of a six-catch, 141-yard performace last week against Iowa State. And sophomore Mike Davis is averaging nearly 30 yards per catch on the season, but he hasn't had more than three catches in a game. These are valuable receiving weapons for McCoy and Ash, but are the signal-callers capable of finding them often against a Sooners defense that held Ball State to 95 passing yards last week and held its own against the high-powered offenses of Tulsa and Missouri?

For the sake of consistency and stability, should Harsin stick with one signal-caller or continue his two-QB system while continuing to employ trickeration to fool an OU defense that was paced by Tony Jefferson's three interceptions last week?

No matter how the Longhorns try to move the ball offensively Saturday, a commitment to a physical brand of football will be needed. Or else we'll have the same questions about the Texas offense that we had coming into this season.

Email dave.miller@nationalfootballpost.com or follow me on Twitter at Miller_Dave

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