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Scattershooting the 2009 Season

With deepest, deepest apologies to Blackie Sherrod, mostly all hither, but a few yon...

1. One of the stupidest (but not the stupidest…that's coming later) comments after the game was that the key play was the errant shovel pass. No, the key play was the one where McCoy was hurt. No excuses, injuries are part of the game, but he was the single most important player on the field. Yes, Bama had the Heisman winner, but they had other options for when Ingram was out. Texas is a pass-first offense (Texas' choice), and when the guy who runs it is out, the offense is hobbled.

Now, Texas' limitations on offense are a post for another day. Let's look at other games where teams with title aspirations lose their QB early on, and an unprepared backup is thrown into the fire (i.e. OU/BYU 2009 counts, but UT/OU 2009 doesn't, as Landry Jones had already played a few games by then). In 2007, Oregon was ranked #2, on track for the MNC game (they had already beaten USC), and playing at unranked Arizona as a 10 point favorite near season's end. Star spread QB Dennis Dixon tears his ACL with Oregon leading 8 - 7 in the 1st quarter. After the injury, Oregon kicked a field goal to go up 11 - 7, and lost the game 24 - 34.

  In 2009, #3 OU was a 17 point favorite vs. #20 BYU, and star QB Sam Bradford was hurt just before the half, with the game tied at 7. OU kicked a FG right after the injury to go up by 3, but was outscored 3 - 7 in the 2nd half.

  In the 2010 MNC game, #2 Texas was tied at 0 in the early going, when McCoy was hurt. Texas kicked the field goal, but lost the game 21 - 37. In the prior two games mentioned, nobody is pointing to other plays than the QB-injury plays as the "key" moments, and it's stupid to point to any others in the 2010 MNC game as well.

 2. The stupidest thing I heard? Mike Vasic, on KTCK 1310, opined that Texas gained an advantage in McCoy's injury, in that Alabama was not ready for the changeup offered by Gilbert. Now, that is obviously idiotic. Think for a minute. If such a strategy worked, wouldn't underdogs always bench their key players for big games, replacing them with unscouted inexperienced backups?

 Why would somebody think this? They would think this is they believed Alabama was significantly superior to Texas going into the game, that Texas had no chance, and they were trying to explain why Texas was only down three points with four minutes to go. Rather than challenge their preconceptions ("Maybe Texas has a chance?"), they try to conjure a rational that Texas' greatest stroke of bad luck was actually good fortune. In other words, this type of thinking is being willfully dumb.

 3. Yes, the SEC is the best conference. Why is it the best conference? It has great coaches, but that is an advantage can be copied by any school with a checkbook, and a willingness to overspend. It has great fan support, but Notre Dame, TAMU, and the service academies can all tell you that fan support is difficult to translate to on-field results. They have a great talent base, and…that is the reason why they are the best conference. All of the SEC schools have great access to nearby elite talent, and combined with their desire to succeed at football, this gives them the best, most competitive collection of teams. Other conferences may have a couple of teams with elite talent, but they also have teams with slower, less athletic players. Their conference champions are not as battle-tested as the SEC teams.

 Does this mean that nobody can compete with SEC teams? No. It means that a challenger must have elite talent and be battle tested from a competitive conference of like schools. I would argue that the Big 12 South is very similar to either of the SEC divisions, falling short only in that the teams have to play three games against B12 North schools.

 I think Texas did a service for the Big 12 in this game. Did anybody see anything that convinced them that Texas didn't belong on the field, that we didn't have the speed to keep up with Julio Jones, or to get open against their secondary? Did anybody think the game was too fast for any Longhorns except Gilbert? I didn't think so. This can only help future Big 12 teams in polling.

 4. The 2009 Longhorns finished #2, as high as a team can finish and still fall short of the MNC. Prior to the game, a lot of observers thought that a losing Texas team could be ranked behind Florida, or Boise State. It is a tribute to how they performed that they were rated second best. Only one other Texas team ever ranked #2 before- the 1981 team that beat Alabama in the Cotton Bowl.

 Am I alone in thinking that this team was not one of the most talented that Mack has had? It seems to me that the 2001, 2004, and even 2008 teams had edges in pure talent, across the board. The 2009 team was a collection of great parts (defensive units), great players (Shipley, McCoy), and gaping holes of mediocrity (other receivers, OL, RBs). Yet, they won every game they were favored in, and were poised to win a game they weren't favored in. I know I wasn't the only one thinking, as Texas narrowed the gap to three points, "Damn, they're going to do it again!" To borrow a baseball analogy, the 2008 - 2009 Longhorns are the toughest out in college football. They may have gotten more out of their potential than any other Longhorn team ever, passing the prior gold standard for moxie, the 1982 Longhorns.

 5. Let's talk about why Gilbert wasn't better prepared. It's because Mack Brown is a football coach, and no modern football coaches give their backup QB snaps with the first team in games or practice, unless they have doubts about their starter. John Chiles had more such snaps early last year than Gilbert did this year, and that is because Mack didn't quite know what he had in Colt at the beginning of 2008. Simms had such snaps in 1999, and Young had them in 2003, because Mack suspected they were better than the starters. He didn't think that about McCoy. It's not about gaining stats for awards. It's about not wasting precious practice and game time. Remember, the QB position is not the only position the coaches have to prepare.

 NFL coaches, with no limits on practice, don't even give backups serious practice snaps with the first team, let alone in games. This issue is a non-starter. There are no coaches actively preparing to play without key personnel.

 6. How much of a classic was the 2006 Rose Bowl? The game had more elite talent than the 2010 MNC games, up and down both rosters, and had far fewer players coming up small. Texas receivers dropped passes, Texas OL committed stupid penalties, and several Alabama stars (Cody, Jones) seemingly disappeared. Malcolm Williams couldn't make a catch in 2010 that Michael Griffin made in 2006. Those two games are just miles apart. We certainly weren't talking after that game about players choking or screwing up, like we are after this game.

 7. Some stats on the current competitiveness of the Big 12's premiere programs and their coaches:

Record: Mack 208-96-1 (68.4%), Bob 117 - 29 (80.1%, whew, a loss to Stanford would have taken him under 80%)

In years at current Big 12 schools: Mack 128 - 27 (82.6%), Bob 117 - 29 (80.1%) (Note- Mack is 148 - 30 over the last 14 years, 83.1%, and isn't it interesting that Stoops has lost more games in 11 years in the Big 12 than Mack has in 12?)

Big 12 record: Mack 82 - 18, Bob 78 - 17

Big 12 South outright titles (no ties count, only the team that gets to play for the CG): Mack 4, Bob 7

Big 12 titles: Mack 2, Bob 6

MNC: Mack 1, Bob 1

MNCs played for: Mack 2, Bob 4

Times ranked #1 (AP) with current team: Mack 1, Bob 1

Times ranked #2: Mack 1, Bob 0

Times ranked #3: Mack 0, Bob 2

Times ranked #4: Mack 1, Bob 0

Times ranked #5: Mack 2, Bob 2

Times in Top 5: Mack 5, Bob 5

Times in Top 10: Mack 7, Bob 7

Times in Top 25: Mack 12, Bob 9

BCS Bowl Record: Mack 3 - 1, Bob 2 - 5

Head to head: Bob leads, 6 - 5

Now, for the last 5 years:

Record: Mack: 58 - 8, Bob 50 - 17

Big 12 record: Mack 36 - 6, Bob 34 - 9 (Mack has lost more games to the Aggies over the last five years than to the Sooners)

Big 12 south titles: Mack 2, Bob, 3

Big 12 titles: Mack 2, Bob 3

MNC's: Mack 1, Bob 0

Played for MNC: Mack 2, Bob 1

Top 5 finishes (AP poll): Mack 3, Bob 1

Top 10 finishes: Mack 4, Bob 2

Top 25 finishes: Mack 5, Bob 4

BCS Bowl record: Mack 2 - 1, Bob 0 - 3

Head to head: Mack leads, 4 - 1

A win last Thursday would have established Mack as definitely superior to Stoops. With a loss, we can't say that, but Stoops has definitely lost momentum.

8. Issues for next year's team- How is the OL fixed? Do the coaches even realize it's broken? With a less mobile QB, is our run game back to (wretched) 2002 standards, when we didn't have a spread option or zone read component? Are we really going to be a "pass-first" team again, with no proven receivers?

The most important decision a coach makes is which offense to run. What will the 2010 offense be? Do the coaches expect to run the same scheme, or do they plan to tailor it to the reality of our talent?

9. Mack has 12 years with his current team. Of BCS conference coaches, who has more now? Paterno, Beamer, and…? Wow. Coaching turnover is a reality of life. Do you realize that fully half of the Big 12's coaches have less than three years with their current teams?

10. Why do I believe the Big 12 will fail? Because I don't see any team that truly supports the conference. Texas believes the other schools are trying to hold it down. TAMU wishes the legislature had allowed them to go to the SEC 15 years ago. NU believes that Texas screwed up a nice thing they had in the Big 8. Missouri would jump to the Big 10 if invited. The smaller schools want the bigger schools to share more revenue. The conference itself seems incapable of strategic planning, with nothing in work to address the issues weakening it. Who is willing to stick up for the Big 12?