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The Week That Will Be (9-4-10)

Last Week: 0-0 ATS 0-0 SU
For the Year: 0-0 (.000) $0 ATS 0-0 (.000) SU

We sat on the golf course, under the trees along the cart path, about 150 yards off the tee box where one of my errant left hook drives might have ended up waiting for traffic to clear out. We sat there in silence, wondering how the hell anyone was supposed to get out of this "parking lot", knowing that we didn’t have the patience to try it ourselves anytime soon.

So we waited. And waited.

Cell phones rang, text messages buzzed. If you listened carefully between the bangs of the Alabama students next to us kicking the fender of their rental car "because it had insurance", there was one common theme…

What can you do?

What can you do when the quarterback that has won 45 games, the most wins of any quarterback to ever play at this level, gets hit on a freak play and is suddenly rendered unable to play? What can you do when his back-up is a kid fresh out of high school who can’t even find his helmet?

You would have thought that the cool Pasadena air held the answer to that question, as fans in burnt orange fleeces drank the last of their beer, threw it in the trash bag and stared up at the sky, wondering what might have been.

As the glut of cars eased and the rental car became visible, we filed out into the Los Angeles highway system, hoping against all hope that a little In and Out would make it all better.

And then in our exhaustion we never made it to In and Out.

What an terrible ending to a terrible night.

Two days later, as I sat on an American Airlines jet somewhere over the great state of Arizona, the feelings of disappointment and helplessness turning into sadness, I pulled out my phone and just had to write some of these thoughts down.

Some words from that essay: Fate. Why? What if? Fateful.

The common theme in my head, and plenty of others, was that this was an act of fate, that something above intervened and it was karma for making fun of Tim Tebow all of these years.

What can you do?

Don’t wait on fate to repay you.

Get better.

Fix a running game that ranked 61st in the country and gained only 99 yards against Nebraska and Alabama’s defenses combined. It might be lip service, because honestly we’ve heard it before around these parts, but Mack Brown knew early on that being able to run the ball when you needed to, against anybody in the country, is what won a national championship for Alabama (205 yards rushing against Texas) and Florida (249 yards against Oklahoma) in recent years.

When you have the passing attack that Texas has you will of course lean plenty on getting the ball downfield quickly, but getting under center and getting more physical at the point of attack was probably the most important emphasis of the off-season. A possible indication of the direction the team would like to go is the naming of Cody Johnson, as the starting tailback against Rice on Saturday. Although he is slimmed down, Johnson is still the bruising type of rusher that you want to see if your goal is to get meaner up front.

A significant piece of the pie in that re-worked running game is a revamped offensive line, one that has been described as "physical" and "nasty", the traits you don’t want in your daughter’s boyfriend but do want in your offensive line. Again, it will take more than talking about it to get the job done, but any hint of a return to the nasty offensive line such as the one led by Kasey Studdard on the 2005 championship team is welcome.

If it is possible to fix a defense that finished 3rd in the country and 1st against the rush, Texas aimed to do that in the off-season after Texas A&M (190 yards) & Alabama (205 yards) were able to find significant running lanes down the stretch run last year.

What has emerged in camp is a defense that Mack Brown isn’t shy to call the best that he’s had here, which is certainly saying something. The loss of Earl Thomas stung, but Texas promises to be more physical with Christian Scott delivering hits from the safety position. Talent wins out over scheme, as Alex Okafor moves to defensive tackle to help shore up depth problems there, leaving defensive end to Sam Acho, Eddie Jones and true freshmen Jackson Jeffcoat and Reggie Wilson.

Texas loses Roddrick Muckelroy in the linebacking corps but Keenan Robinson (10 tackles against Nebraska; 7 against Alabama) showed promise late last season and will fill in nicely. Those of us that have wondered what Derek Johnson might have looked like in a Will Muschamp coached defense might get their wish when Jordan Hicks takes the field…as a back-up.

But of course we all know what helps an already great defense…a consistent offense.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Garrett Gilbert Era.

How do you follow up a quartet of quarterbacks (McCoy, Young, Simms, Applewhite) that established a win-loss record of 123-24 in their tenure at Texas? How do you replace a quarterback that won the school’s first national championship in 35 years, or the quarterback who won the aforementioned 45 games and broke 47 school records?

By going and getting the guy that could be better than them all.

Name every quarterback in Texas high school football history and Gilbert threw for more yards than any of them, 12,537 of them to be exact. He guided Lake Travis to thirty straight wins in the process of winning two state titles his junior and senior years. He won numerous player of the year awards on the state and national level. But the best of all?

He’s been a Longhorn since elementary school.

It took less than 24 hours after he received his offer from Texas to commit here, the first commit in his class. His dad, former NFL quarterback Gale Gilbert, asked Garrett to consider other schools, but Garrett refused. Why would you look at other schools when your boyhood idol, Major Applewhite, is on the coaching staff at Texas?

And after finding his helmet in Pasadena, despite only throwing 15 completions all year, Gilbert persevered and threw for 186 yards, 162 of those coming in the second half, almost cementing his legacy without starting a game in his career.

But this is Texas and to be frank that is probably the last free pass he’ll get. With the gaudy stats and lineage of successful quarterbacks comes the price of success: Expectations.

Pressure won’t be a problem for Gilbert. Word came early in the spring practice sessions that Gilbert handled the huddle like a seasoned veteran. Intimidating defenders Aaron Williams (perhaps the next Thorpe award winner at Texas) and Chykie Brown tried to rattle the sophomore in informal practice sessions over the summer, only to get their trash talk thrown right back in their face by the normally laid back Gilbert.

Will he be able to put all of that together? Time will tell. There are plenty of heralded quarterbacks who have fallen by the wayside.

But I’m not going to bet against the kid with the rocket arm and honor roll intelligence, the kid with the NFL pedigree and championship experience already under his belt.

What Can You Do?

The process of answering that question begins Saturday in Houston.

I can’t wait.

On to the games...

Pittsburgh @ Utah -3:

Pitt is the favorite to win the Big East this year, but traveling to Salt Lake City to start the year isn’t the perfect recipe for success.

The Panthers are of course looking to avenge the 35-7 loss in the 2004 Fiesta Bowl at the hands of the Utes (no, not really). Dion Lewis is a game changer in the backfield for Pitt, but Utah’s strength of a rebuilding defense is their defensive line.

Look for a gritty, hard fought game, but I’m not sure that a Dave Wannstedt coached team has the ability to go into an environment like this and get the W with an inexperienced quarterback.

Utah 27 Pittsburgh 21
ATS – Utah
SU – Utah

Purdue @ Notre Dame -11:

Brian Kelly had better go to Costco and get the biggest eraser he can find if he wants to erase Charlie Weis from the memory of Notre Dame fans.

Jimmy Clausen is gone, and junior Dayne Crist is the new signal caller in South Bend. Crist has only passed for 130 yards in his collegiate career, so Kelly certainly has his work cut out for him there.

Purdue is seemingly the only team in the country that can’t beat Notre Dame, having lost four out of the last five in this series, and while I see that trend continuing on Saturday, Purdue keeps this one close.

Notre Dame 28 Purdue 24
ATS – Purdue
SU – Notre Dame

Boise State -2 v. Virginia Tech:

Here’s to you, Mr. Taylor, the nation turns its lonely eyes to you…

The only way in which "Can Boise State make the BCS title game?" doesn’t approach "Brett Favre, retiring or one more year?" status and we have Rachel Nichols renting a weekly hotel room in Boise for the next 4 months is for Virginia Tech to end our long national nightmare…and beat Boise State.

This is only the third time since 1996 that the Hokies will play a regular season game on the East Coast, the last being a 48-13 loss to Georgia (hey, Georgia has a coast!) in 2005.

The question for the Hokies last year at this time was what would they do without running back Darren Evans, who tore his ACL and would be out for the year. His back-up Ryan Williams ran for 1,655 yards, putting those fears to rest, and now they get to team up to form one of the most formidable backfields in the country.

They’ll need them unless quarterback Tyrod Taylor shows this year that he can indeed hit the broad side of a barn.

When Boise State isn’t making a mockery of football with their blue turf, running trick plays or proposing to their girlfriends on the sidelines they run out a stout defense to go along with quarterback Kellen Moore, who has thrown for 7,022 yards in the past two seasons.

This game is at Fed Ex Field in Landover, a virtual home game for the Hokies. I look for that to put them over the edge, as how often does Boise really play in front of a true hostile crowd?

Virginia Tech 24 Boise State 17
ATS – Virginia Tech
SU – Virginia Tech

SMU @ Texas Tech -13.5:

The line tells you that these two programs have gone in different directions since 2008, the last time these teams met. Tech was a 36 point favorite that night, and ended up winning the ballgame 43-7.

June Jones has the Mustangs on an uptick while Tech is shrouded with uncertainty after Mike Leach was fired this off-season and Tommy Tuberville took over head coaching duties.

Of course Tech still has the upper hand and could very well win this one handily…but something tells me that SMU kicks it in high gear this season while Tech might stumble out of the gate with the new coaching staff.

Texas Tech 31 SMU 24
SU – Texas Tech

UCLA @ Kansas State -1.5:

Is this the year Rick Neuheisel turns things around in Westwood? A 11-14 record in his first two years on campus haven’t exactly lit a fire under the alumni base, but a couple of strong recruiting classes and the troubles across town at USC have the Bruins thinking that things are turning around.

It all starts and ends with the quarterback position. The Bruins have been killed at that position in recent years with lack of talent and injuries to whatever talent they have, and that continues this year with favorite Kevin Prince a game time decision. Add to the injury issues the fact that the Bruins are implementing a new pistol offense this year, and the UCLA offense is a mess.

The defense is better with Akeem Ayers and Rahim Moore able to play anywhere in the country, and it will have to be to contain Kansas State running back Daniel Thomas.

UCLA won this one last year 23-9 at the Rose Bowl, but with the uncertainty on offense, I don’t see how they stay in the game here.

Kansas State 24 UCLA 16

ATS – Kansas State
SU – Kansas State

Texas -30.5 @ Rice:

Texas blowing out Rice is a yearly tradition going back several years, so I’m not going to bore you with breaking down the Texas MLB v. Rice’s running game, because we all know that Texas is going to win, and they’re going to win big.

So what would we like to see from the Longhorns on Saturday?

I’d like to see the running game get established. Yes, it is just Rice and their pathetic defense, but you have to be able to run against these teams in addition to the Nebraskas and Oklahomas on your schedule. I want to see an offensive line that is less interested in cutting jokes during press conferences and more interested in kicking the ass of the guy in front of him.

I’d like to see Garrett Gilbert establish himself. Come out and shine and the kid has confidence beaming from his ears. Come out shaky and the Horns faithful will wonder if we’re in for an inconsistent year from the quarterback position. Put those fears to rest with a nice yardage, good TD to INT ratio game.

I’d like to see the defense unleash hell. Again, it is just Rice, but I want to see all these new tools and how they’re going to fit into this defense going forth, and I want to keep a bad team down and stay that way, no giving up 20 points ala Louisiana Monroe last year.

That’s not too much to ask, is it?

Texas 55 Rice 10
ATS – Texas
SU – Texas

For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for beer at Reliant.