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The Week That Will Be: Signature Win for Swoopes?

Who gives Texas the best shot at a historic upset? Easy. Tyrone Swoopes.

Chris Covatta

Last Week: 2-3-1 ATS 5-1 SU
For the Year: 13-16-1 (.448) ATS 23-7 (.767) SU

Last week we learned:

• Stanford again shows their red zone ineptitude by driving six times inside Washington’s 30-yard line but came away with only 20 points for the game...and a win. Defense can still win, folks.

• UCLA gave up 626 yards in a blowout…win? Weird.

• Arkansas in the first half against Auburn: 151 rushing yards. Arkansas in the second half against Auburn: 2 rushing yards. Arkansas in the first half against Texas A&M: Nearly 7 yards per carry. Arkansas in the second half against Texas A&M: 3.68 yards per carry. Terrible trend.

• Baylor now has 10 touchdown drives this season where the yardage on that drive outnumbered the seconds it took to reach the end zone. Read that again.

• Another year, another 1,000 yard game between Oklahoma State and Texas Tech, and another Texas Tech loss to Oklahoma State.

• You know things are going bad for Texas on offense when Nick Rose and Johnathan Gray could trade positions and the results would largely be the same.

As I sat and watched Texas muddle through somehow and finally defeat Kansas on Saturday afternoon, idling there wondering why Shawn Watson decided at some point last week that Tyrone Swoopes was Tommie Frazier, I couldn’t help but think…the best player on the Texas offense right now is Swoopes, and I’m not sure it is even close.

We can eliminate anyone on the offensive line and running back due to the fact that it is hard to make plays while laying on the turf, and sure, there is an argument for Jaxon Shipley or John Harris, two bright spots at skill positions for this team.

Swoopes makes his share of mistakes. He’s too quick to put his head down when pressured in the pocket. He has a maddening tendency to tuck the ball in and run out of bounds three or four yards short of the line of scrimmage instead of throwing the ball away. His running style is more likely to evoke memories of Bo Scaife than Vince Young.

But I see a quarterback that can make that NFL-type throw on the out pattern to the sidelines that we always hear separates the nice story "really hard worker" types from the guys that earn paychecks on Sunday. He has yet to kill a meaningful Texas drive with an interception. He can make decisions on the run, zipping darts into tight windows to extend drives. A couple of deep balls off the mark against Kansas will turn into long gains or scores when he gets the timing and the feel down.

Swoopes was an Army All-American in high school who lettered in four sports. You’ve heard the criticism, his high school team went 2-8 his senior year (Troy Aikman also had a 2-8 season at Henryetta, Oklahoma). A good number of Longhorn fans feel that he is another in a string of bridge players from the Vince Young/Colt McCoy era to the Jerrod Heard era.

But consider this. Swoopes has thrown for more yards in his first three starts than Vince Young and Colt McCoy did in theirs. Swoopes has one less touchdown than McCoy in that time period. Is this to suggest that he is on par with those two legends? Of course not. But it is to suggest that the notion isn’t as ludicrous as it might have sounded four weeks ago.

In his third start at Texas, Young led a Longhorn defeat of #12 Nebraska, 31-7 in Austin. It took six starts for Colt McCoy to get his first signature win, a 28-10 defeat of #14 Oklahoma.

Is it Swoopes’s turn to get his first signature win early in his career? Probably not, Texas has a lot of other holes at other places other than quarterback and Baylor isn’t a team that you fix things against.

But he certainly gives them the best chance.

Stanford -2 @ Notre Dame:

As noted above, the Cardinal have been able to move the ball in most games this year, ranking 22nd in the country in rushing the football, but they have been terrible in the red zone, ranking 113th in the country in red zone touchdown percentage, including last in the Pac-12.

They’ll need to capitalize on any opportunity on Saturday as Everett Golson has been a man on a mission in his comeback. Stanford hasn’t allowed 30 points or more in 27 straight ballgames, but at some point they’re going to need more than a pedestrian effort on offense in order to win a game.

Notre Dame 24 Stanford 17
ATS – Notre Dame
SU – Notre Dame

Alabama -6 @ Ole Miss:

Ole Miss is 4-0 first time since 1970, but this isn’t (a below average) Boise State, Vanderbilt, Louisiana-Lafayette or Memphis coming into Oxford, it is an Alabama team that might have an offense just as scary as their always scary defense.

The Rebels haven’t won a game in this series since 2003, and although they look much improved on defense and Bo Wallace is playing really well, you have to ride with an Alabama team that had the week off and just has more experience in games like these.

Alabama 27 Ole Miss 14
ATS – Alabama
SU – Alabama

LSU @ Auburn -8:

True freshman Brandon Harris gets the start at quarterback for LSU, and while he has been more successful moving the football, Les Miles does him no favors by throwing him into this environment. Harris accounted for five touchdowns in Saturday’s blowout win over New Mexico State, and will likely need a similar performance to come away with the win against Auburn.

This game was Auburn’s one loss before the title match-up last season, but I’m not sure I see it happening again. The question is how good is LSU? They need some Les Miles Magic to beat Wisconsin, and then got their doors blown off of them by Mississippi State for most of the ballgame in Baton Rouge.

Auburn rolls.

Auburn 38 LSU 21
ATS – Auburn
SU – Auburn

Texas A&M @ Mississippi State -2:

The Aggies are 5-0 for the first time since 2001, when RC Slocum was still a legendary figure and Kevin Sumlin was just the offensive coordinator. The Aggies finished that year 8-4 with a rousing 28-9 victory over TCU in the Bowl at the lovely Houston Astrodome.

It has been a while.

The question I have here is, how much do the Aggies have left in the tank? They had to rally back against Arkansas in an emotional game that had to feel a bit like pulling a rabbit out of a hat, will they be ready to get up and do it again at 11:00 AM on the road against a Mississippi State team that might not quite get their attention like another SEC West rival would?

The Bulldogs were able to run up 556 total yards last year in College Station, and will likely need another big game from Dak Prescott (154 yards rushing last year in MSU’s 51-41 loss) to pull off this one. The concern for the Bulldogs (and it is a major one), is that their secondary has been torched at times, giving up 435 yards against UAB through the air and more than 300 against LSU.

And we know what A&M does best.

Texas A&M 34 Mississippi State 31
ATS – Texas A&M
SU – Texas A&M

Oklahoma -6 @ TCU:

If you have seen two minutes of a TCU football game this year you are doing better than I am…but of course that is my loss after riveting matchups against Samford, Minnesota (sorry Michigan) and SMU.

So how good are the Horned Frogs? Your guess is as good as mine when you are playing that competition. They rank 2nd in the country in total defense and scoring defense, and usually play Oklahoma very tough (one score losses in two straight seasons), and Trevone Boykin has been very good (averaging 286 yards passing and 61 rushing a game), but Oklahoma is playing for a playoff spot and surely they won’t trip up in Fort Worth…right?

Oklahoma 31 TCU 21
ATS – Oklahoma
SU – Oklahoma

Baylor -16.5 @ Texas:

You have heard all week about Baylor’s offense, and rightfully so, they’re great, they can run the ball, they can pass the ball, they probably even do the Statue of Liberty better than anyone else in the country.

Texas might have the defense to contain the Bears, but they’re still going to get theirs at some point. You just have to make them work for it…none of those one or two play drives that we talked about earlier. Maybe they get impatient and make a mistake, although it is unlikely, as Bryce Petty has been sacked zero times on the year and has only one interception in 101 pass attempts. But you can hope.

The story of this game will be told when Texas has the ball. Can they put some life into an offense that was downright awful against Kansas after showing a bit of promise against UCLA? Can Baylor continue their defensive dominance against Texas like they did against Northeastern Oklahoma Community Baptist College? Can the Longhorns’ offensive line show some sort of progress?

Unfortunately I think we all know that if Baylor scores 24 points this game is over. Baylor and next week’s opponent Oklahoma aren’t the kind of teams that you want to see on the schedule when you are trying to find your sea legs.

Texas had some memorable games as large underdogs in the two previous regimes (the infamous James Brown game at the Big 12 championship and 1999 Nebraska come to mind), but those teams had more talent and were in a better place than this one is.

Baylor 38 Texas 17
ATS – Baylor
SU – Baylor

For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for a new pair of skinny jeans to wear to ACL.