AUSTIN, Texas — Editor's note: All stats are from NCAA's website through games played on Oct. 5. Stats are subject to change following games played Oct. 12 and onward.
All of the media hype, highlights and spotlight surround junior quarterback Heisman candidate Sam Ehlinger and deservedly so.
Ehlinger's leadership is prevalent and his performance on the field has ranked among the top tier quarterbacks in college football, which will inevitably warrant the attention he is given.
Ehlinger may remain a marquee focus of opposing defensive coordinators, but a significant amount of UT's success the rest of the season may be dependent on the injury-plagued running back group standing alongside him in the backfield.
Here's why I say that.
Of the seven teams remaining on UT's schedule, four of them have rush defenses that rank in the bottom half of the NCAA, and three of those four are ranked 100 or lower. There are only 130 NCAA FBS football teams.
Conversely, four of those same seven teams are inside the top 50 NCAA pass defenses. The average position for rushing defense of UT's remaining opponents is 67.14 out of 130 teams, while the average position for those team's pass defense is 45.14 out of 130.
So, Ehlinger will begin to face some more adversity – on paper at least – in terms of the effectiveness of pass defenses in the coming weeks.
UT OPPONENT RUSH DEFENSE RANKINGS (avg position: 67.14 out of 130)
Oklahoma -- 64 out of 130 (148.6 per game)
Kansas -- 120 out of 130 (220.8 per game)
TCU -- 24 out of 130 (101.2 per game)
Kansas State -- 101 out of 130 (188.6 per game)
Iowa State -- 33 out of 130 (113.6 per game)
Baylor -- 28 out of 130 (106.6 per game)
Texas Tech -- 100 out of 130 (187.6 per game)
UT OPPONENT PASS DEFENSE RANKINGS (avg. position: 45.14 out of 130)
Oklahoma -- 37 out of 130 (197.8 per game)
Kansas -- 66 out of 130 (223.7 per game)
TCU -- 16 out of 130 (182.8 per game)
Kansas State -- 8 out of 130 (155.4 per game)
Iowa State -- 77 out of 130 (234.4 per game)
Baylor -- 40 out of 130 (199.6 per game)
Texas Tech -- 72 out of 130 (226.8 per game)
When you look at the stats from games Texas has played in to this point, the only loss so far this season (i.e. LSU) is when the running back group did not account for 100 yards. Texas eclipsed the 100-yard mark in the game as a team because Ehlinger rushed for 90 yards, but the running backs only accounted for 61. In all other games, they collectively rushed for more than 100 yards.
Starting running back Keaontay Ingram will take a large portion of this work, with support from converted true freshman quarterback Roschon Johnson and Daniel Young, who is working his way back into the rotation after being injured. Another running back Texas is awaiting to return from injury is freshman Jordan Whittington, who Tom Herman said in a press conference on Sept. 25 was aimed to come back roughly after the West Virginia game.
Ingram expressed that he's looking to keep consistent production in the run game moving forward.
"Keep attacking like we did week one, week two, week three, week four, nothing has changed," Ingram said after the Oklahoma State win. "I feel like if things change, then you start decreasing. If you keep doing the same things in your routine, I feel like we'll keep moving in the right direction."
Texas is undefeated in 2019 and won by an average of margin of 20.75 points per game when the running back group has collectively rushed for more than 100 yards.
Roschon Johnson had his breakout game against West Virginia, picking up 121 yards on 21 carries. Ingram added 25 yards to the production from the running back group against the Mountaineers.
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