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The Week That Will Be: Give Me Liberty or give me...Houston

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The lesser known college football playoff features Texas and Oklahoma State vying for the right to go bowling.

Erich Schlegel

Last Week: 4-2 ATS 3-3 SU
For the Year: 31-34-1 (.477) ATS 46-20 (.697) SU


We learned last week…

• Ohio State’s first win over a Top 25 all year, as they racked up 332 yards in the first half against a Michigan State team that was only giving up 279 per game all year. Incredibly that was also Urban Meyer’s first win over a Top 15 team in his Buckeye tenure.

• The only loyal sons marching on to victory in Tempe on Saturday were Sun Devils, who managed to sack Everett Golson 7 times and force him into 4 interceptions, including two that went for touchdowns the other way. Oh, and Golson added a fumble and also mixed in more than 400 yards passing and nearly led his team to an incredible comeback for a real roller coaster of an afternoon.

• Alabama and LSU treated us to another snore fest, that is if you like offensive football that doesn’t set the game back 60 years. It got exciting in the last two minutes and overtime, as it always does with these two teams, as the Crimson Tide got their fourth straight win over the Tigers due to the late game heroics of Blake Sims.

• Baylor has their first win over a ranked opponent since 1991 as they scored 45 unanswered points in what was Bob Stoops’ worst ever home loss. The other six home losses in the Stoops era only add up to 36 points, barely beating the 34-point margin Baylor put on him.

• People, myself included, keep trying to write off TCU, but all they do is go put up 338 yards rushing without All-Big 12 candidate B.J. Catalon en route to a rout of well coached, well disciplined, well everything Kansas State.

• I’m not sure I want to go as far as calling that a signature win, but Texas’s first win over a ranked opponent in Austin since 2008 sure felt damn good, and we can only hope that it felt damn good for the myriad of recruits that the Longhorns had in the building.

What a difference a year makes. In this space, after the spanking that Oklahoma State laid upon the Longhorns in Austin:

All we heard in July and August was how good this team is going to be, that this season will be culmination of three years of hard work. We didn’t believe it. Then we heard about how we can still win the Big 12 despite the two out of conference losses. We didn’t believe it. Then we heard that we were the Big12 front-runner after beating Oklahoma. We didn’t believe it.

And now we’re a lesser program than Baylor and Oklahoma State.

I don’t believe it.


Perhaps we are better than Oklahoma State now?

But that isn’t what I’m talking about. Instead it is the change in tone coming from that ivory tower that is Bellmont Hall, a desperate coach that had to be dragged out of here kicking and screaming. The Longhorns are not a good football team this season, but they don’t have anybody telling you that they are any good…and that is quite refreshing.

Saturday’s contest in Stillwater isn’t about trying to keep alive in the Big 12 race (although still mathematically possible). It isn’t about trying to back into a Tier 2 bowl game and telling everyone that will listen how the kids are having fun.

Instead, you have Charlie Strong telling his players, after lifting him in the air in celebration, "we only have a two game winning streak." And "we have no reason to get full of ourselves." Coaches have openly talked about opening up the competition at quarterback and punter and other positions this season and in the coming off-season.

This season is about program rebuilding and repairing a reputation, not about false hope and empty expectations. A bowl game is about the extra practices, not the fun and excitement of Memphis or Houston in December.

And if the Horns get that golden egg on Saturday night, it will be that much more rewarding.

Believe that.

On to the games…

Nebraska @ Wisconsin -6.5:


Nebraska is the quietest 8-1 team in the country, with a five point loss at Michigan State all that is between them and a really awkward conversation about how they weren’t invited to the playoff party.

Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon averages more rushing yards than 43 FBS teams, but he’s also the entire Wisconsin offense as the Badgers are only throwing the football for about 150 yards a game.

There is a good chance Ameer Abdullah misses this game, but I like for this one to go to the wire.

Wisconsin 24 Nebraska 21
ATS – Nebraska
SU – Wisconsin


Florida State -1.5 @ Miami:


At some point you have to wonder if Florida State is going to wake up and start playing like a national champion defending their crown, but Vegas obviously doesn’t think it will be this week.

The Seminoles have won five straight in what used to be a must see game, but Miami is hot, entering this ballgame having won four out of their last five games…which of course pales in comparison to Florida State’s 25 straight wins.

Jameis Winston hasn’t been good lately (six turnovers in his last three games), and Miami running back Duke Johnson has been (100 yards in each of his last five games), but the Hurricanes have wilted on the big stage as of late…I’m not sure they have what it takes to take down a playoff caliber team.

Florida State 27 Miami 24
ATS – Florida State
SU – Florida State


Auburn @ Georgia -2.5:


When are people going to start calling "Clemsoning", "Georgiaing"? I guess it doesn’t roll off the tongue as well.

Todd Gurley is back for the Bulldogs as they’ll face Auburn, who is trying to put an embarrassing loss behind them, last week’s defeat at the hands of Texas A&M, which didn’t even get a mention in this column because it was supposed to be a shellacking when a freshman quarterback plays against a team looking to make the playoff.

Whoops.

Georgia has somehow managed to give up 632 yards rushing in their last two ballgames…which isn’t good when you have Auburn coming to town.

Auburn 38 Georgia 28
ATS – Auburn
SU – Auburn


Mississippi State @ Alabama -8.5:


The winner of this game takes control of the SEC West, and likely has the inside track for a playoff spot. Alabama has won six in a row in this series, including every contest in Tuscaloosa since 2006.

Alabama as a whole has been much more dangerous at home than on the road. They throttled Texas A&M and Florida at Bryant Denny, but struggled with Arkansas and LSU and lost to Mississippi on the road. The Tide follow their quarterback, as Blake Sims’s passer rating is a whopping 80 points higher at home.

On the other side, Heisman Trophy candidate Dak Prescott missed this game last year with an injury but should make a difference this time. The Tide have somewhat struggled in pass defense going on a couple of years now, and could find themselves down in a hurry if Prescott is on his game.

With wins over LSU and Auburn you can’t say that the Bulldogs haven’t been under this pressure. I think they still fall here, but it should be a great game.

Alabama 28 Mississippi State 24
ATS – Mississippi State
SU – Alabama


Oklahoma @ Texas Tech NL:


The question mark here is whether or not Trevor Knight will be healthy enough to go. Texas Tech’s Davis Webb appears to be back for this one.

But it likely won’t matter. Oklahoma has the rushing attack to keep this one at their pace all game, and the Red Raiders shouldn’t be much of a problem for them this year no matter who is under center.

Bob Stoops doesn’t make a habit of losing twice in a row.

Oklahoma 41 Texas Tech 21
ATS – No Line at time of publishing
SU – Oklahoma


Texas -2.5 @ Oklahoma State:

Forget North Texas, the college playoff goes through Stillwater this Saturday as one team will be bowl eligible (and going to likely the Liberty Bowl or Texas Bowl), and the other has to go through a really good team to get there.

For all their recent troubles against Oklahoma State (losing three out of the last four), the Longhorns still have only lost one game in Stillwater in their program’s history, the 42-16 drubbing in 1997 with Les Miles calling the offensive plays and Rob Ryan calling the defensive plays.

Yeah. A long time ago.

Much like every other game this season this one starts with the defense. Former Oklahoma State assistant Vance Bedford’s defense has been outstanding of late, not allowing a passing touchdown in the last three ballgames.

The Cowboys are a bit of a mess on offense since J.W. Walsh went down with an injury. They start Daxx Garman under center, who comes to Oklahoma State after playing his high school ball in Oklahoma, then leaving for Southlake Carroll, where he was ruled ineligible, then he did a stint on the International Space Station, then did an episode of Naked and Afraid, then pitched a few innings of relief for the Chicago Cubs (2.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER), went to Arizona, and finally transferred to Oklahoma State.

Some of that is completely made up.

For all the hype surrounding Garman, he’s been rather ordinary for the Cowboys, failing to reach 250 passing yards in five of his eight starts and throwing just as many interceptions as he has touchdowns this season. He’s been even worse lately, throwing for 161 yards or less in three of his last four starts.

The player you have to worry about on offense (and special teams) is Tyreek Hill, who leads the conference in all-purpose yards. His 108 yards rushing against Kansas State were the first time all season that the Wildcats allowed a 100-yard rusher.

Offensively you have to worry not only about the Texas offense, but also defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, who leads the conference in sacks (9), and tackles for loss (14.5). For an offense that desperately needs to win the battle in the front, he could be a one man wrecking crew on the way to the yellow brick road.

With the exception of the Florida State game, the Cowboys have had their toughest games facing physical defenses that force them to try to win the game with Garman. TCU, West Virginia and Kansas State were all able keep them at 14 points or below, and I expect Texas to keep them in that ballpark.

You’re going bowling, Charlie.

Texas 24 Oklahoma State 16
ATS – Texas
SU – Texas


For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for beers at the fanciest pool halls in all of Oklahoma.