Today I wanted to examine the schedule and pick out Texas' trouble spots but first there was a Huckleberry post that warrants mentioning. If you've read my recent NBA stuff you know I've had a lot of interest in the use of regressions to make conclusions about sports statistics and what really correlates to winning.
Unfortunately I have the mathematical abilities of a neanderthal, but then that doesn't matter because we have Huckleberry. In addition to finding that forcing fumbles have a low correlation to winning and aren't consistent from season to season, Huck demonstrated that passing the ball effectively and stopping other teams from doing the same should be the number one priority.
You know, like the ancient wisdom of football recounted to us every weekend by the experts.
Well, thankfully it appears that Muschamp grasps the importance of stopping the passing game by his employment of speed over power at various position and the coverages he calls.
Now, for many offenses the killing blows are administered by the passing game but enabled by having a consistent running game that can stay ahead of the chains and force to defense to react in ways that allows for the kill shot openings on the deep pass. The 2010 Texas offense is expected to be such a unit.
All that to say, Muschamp's strategic aims are right on target where other coordinators here have struggled to grasp wisdom. Like Gene Chizik emphasizing how Texas needed to stop the run to win in Lubbock...that twit.
Trips Right already peeked at the non conference schedule for the men's program, now I'm going to examine the football schedule this year looking for the dangerous teams with the following attributes:
1). Teams that can stop the run with an honest front: This is where Scipio's nightmare scenario comes into play where the receivers are locked up by deep safeties while the defense ignores the blocking/receiving dangers of Smith/Matthews. Or you could see my nightmare where Texas is playing 4 and 5 wide all the time and Hix and Mitchell are being asked to stay in front of Von Miller and Jeremy Beal unassisted.
2). Teams that can run ball-control offenses: Teams that can either pound the ball down the middle and try to draw in Christian Scott into making a mistake or teams that can spread it out and pick on Gideon or a corner if one of our big 3 is injured (ala A&M last year). Ultimately I don't think this defense will have many holes likely to be exposed by anyone on the schedule but to have success against the newest Muschamp Virus program then having either a real running game or short-passing game will be essential to accomplish anything. It takes a deep offensive roster to spread Muschamp's legions out enough to hit the weak points.
Now we go down the schedule:
Rice: That's a negatory on both counts
Wyoming: yeah moving on...
at Texas Tech:
Attribute 1: The heart of this defense is in linebacker/end Brian Duncan and NT Colby Whitlock. I think they are a stronger bet to handle the Texas running game without an 8 man front than many of the other Big 12 defenses.
Attribute 2: Ball control? Texas Tech? Even last year's Muschamp defense couldn't totally stamp them out. If its necessary to keep them under 20 to win that could be a tall order. They have Lewis and Leong back at receiver, Batch at RB and either Teen Wolf or Sheffield at quarterback. Combined with one of their better looking lines it's a enough overall quality to hit some soft spots.
Factor in that the game will be in Lubbock and comes early in the year for a new line/quarterback and I think you have a strong candidate for 1st loss.
Attribute 1: Uh, I don't even really know. They were 7-5 last year and this is a home game. I'm not really worried.
Attribute 2: From what I can tell they employ the kind of running-heavy pro-style offense that Texas has struggled against when run by teams with talent. UCLA lacks a ton of talent still and is transitioning to the zone-running game...let's make this one a negative.
Attribute 1: While their new linebackers seem more like the kind that dominated the Big 12 in the early 00's than the kind that have successfully navigated the spread they should be pretty capable of handling the Texas running game if that is Stoop's objective. Last year they based their whole scheme and approach to stopping Shipley and the short game and Texas still barely ran the ball effectively enough to win. I don't see good things for this contest if stopping the run is how Texas is best handled.
Attribute 2: They do have Ryan Broyles but I'm guessing that their offensive line minus Stephen Good and Trent Williams isn't any better this year and consequently I very much doubt that Landry Jones has much control over the ball or his bowels.
So it's a toss up like last year's contest with D/ST carrying the way. I'm going with Gilbert making enough plays and the Texas D/ST creating the crucial opportunities again to swing this our way.
Attribute 1: Alright, the Nebraska D is getting a lot of credit heading into the season essentially because of Pellini's reputation and last year's accomplishments. Well they lost a good linebacker in Dillard, they lost a guy that routinely beat double teams and enabled them to beat the run with only 5 or 6 guys, and they lost 2 starting safeties.
That last one is an underrated blow as having experienced safeties makes a huge difference in this league and often marks the good defenses from the bad. They have a guy named Hagg who played a lot as a nickel last year starting at safety now and still have players like Amukamara, Crick, and another Steinkuhler...but it seems highly doubtful they will replicate last year's success. Were I a husker I would have little confidence that this defense can stonewall the Horns again.
Attribute 2: There is a lot coming back on a solid offensive line and some very strong skill position talent. If I were Pellini I would go zone-read with the quarterback not named Zac Lee and have a unit that might cause problems. They have running back depth and the athletes at quarterback to be a spread-style option team but they'll probably opt for a stupid SEC "pro-style" offense again with their 4.7 receivers and noodle-armed QB.
When you weigh in factors like Nebraska's question marks in big places, the Lincoln crowd/weather, and then that Texas will have just played Tech, UCLA and OU I think you get a strong case for Texas 2nd loss. Of course, I don't even remember the last time NU prevailed against Texas in that stadium.
Attribute 1: After losing Jordan Lake, and more importantly Joe Pawelek, I very much doubt there is much left here to do anything but try and get in the way in Baylor's various shootouts. Certainly NT Taylor can try to get in someone's way.
Attribute 2: With a guy like Robert Griffin calling all the shots there are always numerous options for chunks of yards. If OU had Griffin they would actually be legit National Champion frontrunners. Even as it is I think this will be one of the best 4 offenses Texas faces. Check mark.
Of course it's still a home game and it's still Baylor. It might be a scare but it won't be a loss.
Attribute 1: This is supposed to be a depleted front 7 although we can assume that Snyder will be cunning in their placement against Texas. Assuming Texas has any kind of balance on offense that should prove far beyond any Robert E. Lee chicanery in covering up gaping holes in the line.
Attribute 2: The running game looks strong for KSU but not exactly Alabama strong. 4 returning OL to pave the way for Daniel Thomas is a better start than most of the Big 12's programs so there is only just enough here to be antsy given our history with this program and the location of the game but still not enough to forecast a loss.
Attribute 1: Orie Lemon is being talked up like he's Achilles returned from the underworld and padded up in Cowpoke orange and their D coordinator Young keeps getting attention for accomplishing less than did his predecessor Beckman who frequently gave Colt fits. I don't see anything more here than what they usually trot out and Young will insure that their approach is based on getting in the way more than trying to actively confuse and attack Gilbert like Beckman would have.
Attribute 2: They are transitioning to some version of the Air Raid rather than trying to maintain the physical running game that gave them an edge in every conference game the last several years. In defense of this decision, I suppose they couldn't find more Pettigrews and Okungs to build on that tradition, but spreading out Texas and trying to throw all day is a bad decision if you don't have the horses on the line and the system strength Leach had at Tech.
I will be very surprised if this game is an actual challenge for the Horns, I think it gets ugly in stillwater.
Trap game with big bad Florida athletes...is what Mack will sell to the team and media before the turkey day contest. Unless this is another inaugural opening of a new stadium it's going down as a W.
Attribute 1: Negative. No dominant tackles or All-conference level inside linebackers to handle a strong running game. They should be better against the pass with Hunter and Miller (safety and OLB) back but their transition to a faster defense will come at the wrong time to take a punch in the mouth up the middle from Huey-Snow-Allen.
Attribute 2: Depending on how Tech transitions under Tuberville this could be the best offense Texas faces. They have 4 receivers back who created headaches last year, 2 backs that look better than anyone on the Texas roster, and Jerrod Johnson who wanders from retardation to savantism from game to game. Sadly we can always count on the Aggy savants coming out against Texas.
That's a negative and a check. If this game came at a more grueling part of the schedule or were in college station I would be concerned but Texas could be playing for the conference title game at this point after taking it easy against Florida Atlantic and the offensive unit under Gilbert will have found its feet by this point.
This might be a tougher schedule than the one that brought down Texas in 2008 and killed the title chance as the new 4 pack of brutal contests comes early in the season. I'll disagree with many and call the Tech and OU games the toughest on the schedule. I'll look wrong when Nebraska pulls out a win cleaning up a tired squad in front of a rabid home crowd but then vindicated when a 10-2 season puts Texas in the conference title game and they make Tom Osborne cry one more time for good measure.