The Week That Will Be (11.19.2011)

Last Week: 2-4 ATS 3-3 SU
For the Year: 34-32 (.515) ATS 44-22 (.667) SU

We learned last week that Boise State can have the all-time leader in wins at quarterback, can have the coach that everyone is the first to call, but sometimes it just comes down to whether or not you can make a kick.

…we learned that Aaron Murray might very well be the best quarterback in the SEC, while Gus Malzahn had better find a head coaching gig while the iron is still somewhat lukewarm...

…we learned that Stanford can water down the field, can let the grass grow for several days, but none of that works on Oregon’s speed. What exactly was the Cardinal working on when they had Andrew Luck still in the game during blowouts?

…we learned that Texas A&M is Sonny in The Road Goes on Forever. Life kicks ass during the first half of the song…not so much in the second half. Let’s just hope no lawmen get hurt.

…we learned that Oklahoma State’s defense is an easy mark, but if you watch them you’ll see why shutting out Texas Tech offensively isn’t that unusual. There were 55 solo tackles for OSU in that game, meaning that Tech had to drive the field most of the day, which they couldn’t do. The bend-but-don’t-break defense can work…if you don’t break.

…and finally, we learned that Ron McElvey was a play away from getting in at running back for Texas on Saturday.

Anyhow…

With three regular season games left to be played this season, most of the pre-season possibilities are still in play.

There is the 9-3 record that most of us believed might be the high water mark for a team that struggled to win five games all of last season, and still leaves that 10 win season that we all used to "meh" like crazy in reach. There is the 8-4 mark that Vegas itself thought we would reach this season, a very solid stepping stone season after a disastrous 2010 campaign with a respectable bowl berth and promise of a return to prominence next season.

There is the 7-5 mark that a few of us might have seen coming, with limited knowledge of the personnel on offense, a mostly-new secondary and a quarterback that struggled last season returning as the starter. And then there is the 6-6 record that a lot of us feared, one that showed that last season wasn’t just a fluke, that there is a system-wide problem here that could not be flushed out in the matter of one season.

Encouragement or disappointment. It could go either way.

Left on the schedule is a Kansas State squad that has been very solid this year, and is a program that has given Texas fits even when it was near the bottom of the Big 12 conference. There is the possible last meeting with Texas A&M, on the road in a hostile environment where eternal bragging rights could be on the line. Then there is an improved Baylor team that features a quarterback who can take over games…as we saw at DKR last season.

Which way will it go?

Lost in the midst of the turbulence of this season is the fact that this ranks right up there with Mack’s best coaching jobs at Texas….no, there isn’t a signature win, but to be sitting here at 6-3 in mid-November with a duo of quarterbacks that have as many touchdown passes as a quarterback who last played two months ago (Garrett Gilbert), and two wide receivers (John Harris and Jaxson Shipley) is truly remarkable.

Gone is the quit that last season’s team had. This defense has carried this offense all season, but hasn’t used the excuse of poor field position or fatigue. It has done its job without complaint and done it very well.

Sure, there are those that will fault Mack for is a recruiting philosophy that forced a true freshman into starting duty in the first place, and that would be completely fair, but we have already seen that change this season as prize recruit Connor Brewer will be joined by Tatum quarterback Jalen Overstreet next year on the 40 acres.

What do we need to see these last three games? We need to start seeing signs that David Ash is the man. Yes, all together now, he’s just a true freshman thus we can’t expect much from him, but at some point that has to stop being an excuse. We are 9 games into the season, and if you are a believer in the old adage, there aren’t any freshmen at this point of the season.

We saw the emotion after the long run against Texas Tech, we’ve heard the numerous practice reports on the Interwebz that place the guy somewhere in the middle of Tim Tebow and Joe Montana, we’ve heard that his teammates react to his leadership, but it is time to start to see glimpses that this guy can be the next one in a lineage of Vince Young and Colt McCoy, and that he’s not just a placeholder until the next great one comes along.

Football is a funny game in that if he completes even one or two of those passes against Missouri he is looked at very differently, and Texas probably wins the game, but the fact of the matter is that they were not completed. Plenty of freshmen or redshirt freshmen shine every season…we need to see glimpses of that from Ash to have a realistic shot at finishing this three game stretch with a winning record. The opportunity is there…all three of these teams have been torched through the air this season (KSU 117th in pass defense, A&M 119, Baylor 81)…show us.

This team entered this season with no identity, then it was the team with the dual quarterbacks, then it was the power rushing team, well now, if the running backs continue to be out or hindered, needs to be David Ash’s team. It needs to be his huddle, it needs to be his game plan, it needs to be his arm that wins us these games.

Perhaps he isn’t good enough right now to win them. But give him the opportunity and the game plan to be successful. If the season is going to ride on him, let’s get behind him, starting this Saturday evening.

On to the games...

Missississipi State @ Arkansas -13:

Arkansas is averaging 45 points per game in Fayetteville this season, but could be stymied by a Mississippi State defense that is only giving up 17 points per game in their last 8 ballgames…but they haven’t faced nearly as potent of an offense as Arkansas in that stretch.

Arkansas 41 Mississippi State 17
ATS – Arkansas
SU – Arkansas

USC @ Oregon -14.5:

Oregon still has a shot at the national championship game, while USC is probably looking at this like their bowl game as they are ineligible for post-season play.

The health of Robert Woods is in question here, which is unfortunate because USC might need all the offense they can get. They have given up 100 points in their last two meetings with Oregon, and while their defense has been better this season, it still has had its lapses.

Oregon wins here, but Matt Barkley manages to keep it close.

Oregon 41 USC 34
ATS – USC
SU – Oregon

Nebraska @ Michigan -3.5:

Nebraska’s defense has been inconsistent, and doesn’t figure to get better against a Michigan team that has been prolific in Ann Arbor. Denard Robinson has to be better (13 interceptions on the year), and while he’s nursing a sore wrist, Michigan should get the victory here.

Michigan 31 Nebraska 23
ATS – Michigan
SU – Michigan

Oklahoma -15 @ Baylor:

For all the talk about Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, it is Baylor that has the best offensive statistics in the conference, averaging 568 yards per game. Baylor has never beaten Oklahoma in Big 12 play, and they don’t figure to here, but you have to think they can move the ball against a defense that gave up 527 yards to Texas A&M and 572 against Texas Tech.

Oklahoma wants the blowout victory, but it won’t happen here. Robert Griffin will give them too much trouble.

Oklahoma 48 Baylor 38
ATS – Baylor
SU – Oklahoma

Oklahoma State -25 @ Iowa State:

Win this one, and Oklahoma State has to only win against Oklahoma and they’ll be playing for a national championship. No pressure. Iowa State is riding a modest two game winning streak, but they don’t figure to give OSU much of a battle here.

Oklahoma State 52 Iowa State 16
ATS – Oklahoma State
SU – Oklahoma State

Kansas State @ Texas -9:

Let’s start on the easier side of the ball. Kansas State does what you think a Bill Snyder coached Kansas State team does: they run the ball, and they use the quarterback to run the football. Collin Klein is a 6’5" 226 lb. (Vince Young is 6’5" 232 lb for reference) former wide receiver who got his first start against Texas last year.

If you remember correctly, that is the game where they damn near took the opening kickoff back on us, and then scored a couple of plays later. Two guys touched the ball all night (Klein and now Miami Dolphins running back Daniel Thomas), no wide receiver recorded a reception all night, but yet the Wildcats still managed to put 39 points on the board…and then our coaching staff had the audacity to say that Klein starting threw them off…perhaps there is a reason Florida is 5-5 this season.

Klein is 26th in the country in rushing, and first in touchdowns with 24. Ricky Williams has the record with 27 rushing touchdowns in a season. He’ll run left, and he’ll run right, and then he’ll run up the middle, and occasionally they’ll hand it to the running back John Hubert. It’s the "See Tebow, Tackle Tebow" defense. Manny Diaz should be better prepared for it than his predecessor, but everyone should have been prepared for it this season and he’s beaten his opponent more often than not. The best to contain Klein this year? The Missouri team that just shut down our offense, held him to 45 yards on 24 carries (Kansas was the only other team to hold him under 100 this year, and that had nothing to do with Kansas and their defense).

Contain Klein and you roll KSU. But good luck with that.

On offense, who the hell knows? We don’t even know who will be playing in the game long after the opening kickoff, so your guess is as good as mine. The good news is that this isn’t the Bob Stoops/Phil Bennett defenses of old, this is a defense that allowed 690 yards to Oklahoma, 575 to Oklahoma State, 482 to Texas A&M and 580 to Texas Tech. The bad news is that those teams have a lot more weapons on offense than we do. As stated above, give Ash an opportunity to win by giving him more than screens and Throw It Deep And Hope Like Hell A Guy In A Texas Jersey Catches It. Oklahoma, OSU and Baylor completed 82.1% of their intermediate passes (6-14 yards). Give him those crossing routes and build some confidence (hat tip to @hornsnation for that stat).

If you’re going to tell me that Brown, Bergeron and Shipley play, I say that Texas has a very good chance of coming out on top. If the running backs play, I think A&M last week showed you can run on KSU. If none of them play…well, baseball scores it is.

Maybe I’m just a hopeless optimist, but you’ve got to think that it will be better than last week, no matter who is playing. Texas grinds one out here.

Texas 24 Kansas State 21
ATS – Kansas State
SU – Texas

For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for Missouri’s We Need a New Field fund.

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