Wesley Hitt - Getty Images
Not all was lost last week, but the time is now to grow up as a team.
Last Week: 4-2 ATS 3-3 SU
For the Year: 18-18 (.500) ATS 25-11 (.694) SU
We learned last week that defense does indeed reign supreme in some conferences, as South Carolina obliterated Georgia on the strength of holding the Georgia freshman duo of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall to 18 yards on 17 carries in the first half....and in Gainesville, Florida dominated LSU despite completing only 8 passes for 61 yards by allowing only 42 rushing yards to the Tigers...elsewhere, we learned that Nebraska brought their Big 12 defense to the Big 10, as a 28-point second quarter by Ohio State and 495 total yards buried them in another mess...we learned that the nation's best 12-game winning streak that TCU can be broken when you turn the ball over 5 times...speaking of turnovers, is Oklahoma back on track, or was Texas Tech that bad on Saturday, throwing 3 interceptions...and finally, we learned that when you allow a team to convert 5 out of 5 fourth-down conversions, allow a back-up running back to rush for 207 yards and allow an 8 play back-breaking touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter and 7 of those plays are runs, it doesn't matter how many points your offense scores or how loud the crowd might be.
"Every man at some point in his life is going to lose a battle. He is going to fight, and he is going to lose. But what makes him a man is at the midst of that battle, he does not lose himself. This game is not over, this battle is not over." - Coach Eric Taylor, Friday Night Lights
As I walked out of Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium the other night, I looked around and noticed a mixture of defeat, frustration and pure exhaustion.
There is no doubt that the game against West Virginia was one of the most exhausting as a fan - as the two Ibuprofen that I had to ingest when I got home can attest to - but while many chose to exhibit frustration calling for heads to roll and calling this "another Mack Brown team," I instead chose to look at it another way.
We're really, really close.
West Virginia is a hell of a team. I ask you if there is any doubt in your mind that they'll be favored in every game the rest of the way, and if they manage to get through a treacherous Big 12 schedule unscathed, they'll face the SEC team du jour, likely Alabama, for the national championship.
And we were right there, close enough for most fans to feel like we gave it away, against a really good football team that gave us their best shot.
Most frustrations lie in the fact that the coaching staff isn't giving this team the best opportunity to win - and there is some validity to that - but at the same time, I don't know that many us expected much out of this team, certainly not a Big 12 title or a BCS bowl berth...so is that how much we were spoiled over the first month of promising football?
I see a quarterback that has matured wonderfully, a freshman running back that has seized his opportunity, a receiving corps that has gained leaps and bounds, an offensive line that we haven't talked much about this year (that is a good thing), and enough talent on defense to be great and the coaching staff that didn't forget how to coach in the offseason, just perhaps needs a reminder that we need to focus on the things that we do well instead of shooting for the moon.
We're an Anthony Fera made kick, or a fourth-down conversion gone awry, or a perfect snap away from perhaps defeating that West Virginia team. But before I risk sounding too much like Bill Little here, Texas didn't get it done because of the simple fact that West Virginia is a better football team.
It is my belief that this team can be great, and be great this season, but to be great, it must win on Saturday against a quality opponent. You know the record against ranked opponents recently (0-7 if you can't stomach SportsCenter these days). Moral victories will never fly at Texas, and it is for that reason that this weekend the Longhorns need to take the step from also-ran rebuilder to serious conference championship/BCS bowl contender.
But before Phoenix or Los Angeles or New Orleans or anywhere else, there is Dallas.
It won't be easy. Bobby Stoops sold his chin to Satan in order to have his team fired up and ready to play every October against Texas. This certainly isn't the Oklahoma team that we have all become accustomed to seeing, but that doesn't mean that Texas doesn't need to prepare like it will see that version.
Saturday morning amidst the fairgrounds and revelry at the Cotton Bowl, we'll see if this team is ready to take that step from close to contender.
I can't wait.
On to the games...
Texas A&M -8 vs. Louisiana Tech:
This game is a little more dangerous than A&M was likely bargaining for when they scheduled this game by throwing a dart at a regional map. The Bulldogs feature the nation's 3rd ranked offense, averaging 53 points per game, and have been mentioned as a possible "BCS buster" if they somehow get past this one. They already have road wins over Big 10 Illinois and ACC Virginia under their belt (I know, I know).
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, once their offense leaves the field, their defense enters stage left, and give up 531 yards per game. The Aggies and Johnny Manziel should be able to handle this one...if they give Louisiana Tech the respect they deserve.
Texas A&M 52 Louisiana Tech 38
ATS - Texas A&M
SU - Texas A&M
Stanford @ Notre Dame -7.5:
A week after holding Denard Robinson to 228 total yards, the Notre Dame defense held Miami quarterback Stephen Morris to 201 passing yards when he had literally had a thousand yards in his previous two games coming into Chicago.
The Irish offense hasn't been as efficient, but did manage 587 yards against the Hurricanes, and now face a Stanford defense that gave up 39 first downs to Arizona last week.
Have to go with the hot hand.
Notre Dame 27 Stanford 14
ATS - Notre Dame
SU - Notre Dame
South Carolina @ LSU -2.5:
South Carolina hasn't won in Baton Rouge since 1994, and LSU hasn't lost in Baton Rouge since October of 2009, but this isn't the LSU team of the last two years. Their defense is still quite good, though, so don't put it past them to sneak one out.
South Carolina 20 LSU 16
ATS - South Carolina
SU - South Carolina
Kansas State -6.5 @ Iowa State:
Is this a trap game before Kansas State travels to Morgantown next weekend? Perhaps, but Kansas State (all together now) doesn't beat themselves, and should be able to beat an Iowa State team that needs breaks to beat teams like this.
Kansas State 34 Iowa State 17
ATS - Kansas State
SU - Kansas State
West Virginia -3.5 @ Texas Tech:
Just when you start to give Texas Tech a little respect, they pull that last week, turning the ball over three times and looking lifeless in making Oklahoma look like it was 2003 again.
After playing an up and down game against Baylor, and after a draining game against Texas, is West Virginia going to be up for a Texas Tech team that look out-matched last week? That's Tech's best hope.
West Virginia 48 Texas Tech 41
ATS - West Virginia
SU - West Virginia
Oklahoma -3 vs. Texas:
Get the ball, run the ball. Okay, we've already written what should be Bryan Harsin's offensive gameplan this week.
Since 1999, the team that has led the game in rushing is 12-0, Oklahoma has given up more than 200 yards rushing in two of their four games, and yes, that's what this team does and should do. The maturation of David Ash has been welcome, but this is about winning ballgames. He'll have his chances on Saturday to put his stamp on this rivalry.
On defense, if the Longhorns have been consistent with one thing, it has been pressure on the quarterback. Alex Okafor and Jackson Jeffcoat are playing like All-Americans, and should be able to find success against an Oklahoma front line that is banged up and is giving up 2 sacks per game, bad enough for 78th in the country.
Which brings us to the swing player in this game, Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones.
Jones in his Oklahoma career has shown flashes of greatness, and as a matter of fact has a chance to become Oklahoma's all-time winningest quarterback on Saturday, but has also shown the ability to be quite ordinary, ranking only 56th in the country this year in passing efficiency despite being a fifth-year senior. His passing touchdown total in his last eleven games? A rather pedestrian 8. He has 11 turnovers in that span.
He was terrible in their loss to Kansas State, throwing an interception under pressure and fumbling the football on the two sacks that the Wildcats were able to get. And Kansas State didn't have some exotic defense set up for Oklahoma, they rushed four defenders on 43 of Jones's 45 throws.
Simply put, if you put some pressure on Jones, he'll fold like the U.S. Ryder Cup team.
Don't get any pressure on Jones, and there might be some trouble. Kenny Stills will likely draw the Kenny Vacarro assignment after scoring 3 touchdowns against Texas in the last two years. Their next wide receiver averages a mere 49 yards per game, so if you stop Stills you have to like your chances there.
On the ground, Oklahoma features JUCO transfer Damien Williams, who on the surface is having a fine year, averaging 8 yards per carry and scoring 5 touchdowns on the year...until you realize that he's rushed for 94 yards combined the last two ballgames, both against Big 12 competition. Williams, is, however, a threat out of the backfield to catch the football, totaling 82 yards last week in Lubbock.
In short? Put last year's defense and this year's offense and I feel pretty good about this one. Texas simply has to get better on defense, and this might be a good opportunity to start.
In a game of emotion and a game of momentum, give me the team that has looked the best this season up until now, rather logical of me, I know.
Texas 38 Oklahoma 28
ATS - Texas
SU - Texas
For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for deep fried jambalaya.