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The Week That Will Be: Strike Up the Band

Not every loss has to be met with Fire "Insert Coach Here" t-shirts.

Ladies and Gentlemen...The Eyes of Texas.
Ladies and Gentlemen...The Eyes of Texas.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Last Week: 2-4 ATS 4-2 SU
For the Year: 7-11 (.389) ATS 13-5 (.722) SU

Last week we learned…

• Rice’s best friend was the torrential downpour on Friday night that left Kyle Field useless, but they managed to outgain Texas A&M (481-477), managed more first downs (28-23), dominated time of possession (43:17 vs. 16:43) and still lost by four touchdowns. Stats…

• Will Muschamp was seen working on his resume during the fourth quarter of their triple overtime win over Kentucky. Probably not a good sign.

• Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan extended his made field goals streak to 20 early against South Carolina, then started a new streak of missing two in a row at the worst time as Mark Richt finds a way to lose yet again.

• If Kliff Kingsbury gets to the office at 4:30 AM, he must not spend that time looking at defensive game film. The Red Raiders managed to make the Razorbacks, predicted to finish last in the SEC West, look like the 1960’s Arkansas rushing attack…

Trevor Knight has thrown for 300 yards twice in his college career, both times against SEC SEC SEC defenses. Weird.

• And finally, all that practice kicking off and Nick Rose kicks it out of bounds?

As the clock hit triple zeroes on Saturday night at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, a feeling struck me that I probably have not felt after a Texas loss in nearly two decades…


Not angry, as others on Twitter and other social media appeared to be. Not discouraged, as others on those same platforms appeared to be. But as upbeat as you can probably be after a loss like that. Perhaps a 41-7 drubbing at home at the hands of a school that is at least one tier below yours puts you in a catatonic state, but to me, this was progress.

In the post-Colt McCoy world prior to this year, losses mounted up and became common place, and were just part of being a part of a program on the downturn with a coach that stopped caring. In the Colt McCoy and Vince Young eras, losses were devastating setbacks on the road to a national championship. In the Chris Simms/Major Applewhite era, losses were further proof that this team just didn’t have the mental capacity to get it done.

Even the early years of the Mack Brown era were filled with blowout losses to UCLA and Kansas State, followed by three blocked punts against North Carolina State, mixed in with a lackluster Big 12 Championship performance against Nebraska and a disastrous bowl game against Arkansas.

In fact, you probably have to go back to a 1996 game against Notre Dame to find an "encouraging loss", if you believe in that sort of thing. And of course I believe it is the number one rule of Longhorn bloggers to never mention the John Mackovic era, so I’ll move on.

Of course moral victories don’t happen at Texas. But the discourse around Austin and national circles last week was that Texas simply didn’t stand a chance against mighty UCLA, and the Longhorns had the ball with four minutes and seventeen seconds with a chance to put the game on ice and with three minutes to go to mount a comeback.

Neither happened, of course, and at the end of the day a loss is still a loss when the program is fighting recruiting fires on all fronts, but for a team searching for an identity, a coaching staff searching for a learning mechanism, and for a Longhorn fan base looking for a light at the end of the tunnel, this could possibly be a sign of good times to come.

Skeptics will no doubt point to the loss of UCLA quarterback Brent Hundley in the first quarter, and yes, the Bruins have hardly looked like a top ten caliber team early on this season.

But what I saw on Saturday night was a young quarterback that many didn’t even want to see play make some plays after the original play call had broken down. I saw that quarterback make some absolute money throws in traffic. I saw that quarterback make it through a nationally televised, neutral site game looking poised and collected, showing the pocket presence of an upperclassman. And I didn’t see a hint of turning the ball over.

I saw a defense that once again played lights out for a half only to give in the second half, but these first halves show that the talent and the execution can be there to be a dominating force once again.

There were crucial mistakes all over the field on Saturday, starting with the coin toss and blocking assignments and missed tackles and kicking errors. But when a program is starting over, things like that are going to happen. The trick is to make them be an outlier and not an epidemic.

As I told myself again after the game, and as I have been telling myself since January, this year is about program change, cutting off the fat and establishing fundamental base line changes, not about wins and losses. Be competitive in every game and get better each week.

We certainly didn’t see that in the loss to BYU, but we did against UCLA, and for this week and this year, I’ll take it.

On to the games...

Miami @ Nebraska -7.5:

These two used to meet all the time in the Orange Bowl in big stakes games, now they meet as an also-ran game on ESPN2. Nebraska had that weird one against McNeese State, but other than that, they have been more impressive than Miami going back to last season.

Nebraska 34 Miami 21
ATS – Nebraska
SU – Nebraska

Florida @ Alabama -14.5:

Since these two teams met in back to back SEC championship games in 2008 and 2009, Alabama has outscored Florida 69-16 in their two meetings.

It is the Blake Sims show at Alabama now, or perhaps The Guy That Throws to Amari Cooper Show, as Cooper has 33 catches for 454 yards already this season.

So which was it last week? Is Florida not that good, or is Kentucky better than we thought, or was Florida looking ahead? Maybe all three.

Alabama 27 Florida 17
ATS – Florida
SU – Alabama

Clemson @ Florida State -16.5:

This was supposed to be one of the best games of the year last year, but Florida State put a damper on that quickly in a 51-14 drubbing at Clemson.

The Seminoles looked beatable against Oklahoma State earlier in the season, and with Jameis Winston suspended for half of the game, the test certainly gets tougher, but there is a reason they are still favored by more than two touchdowns here.

The Tigers have some nice pieces on defense, but they have to do better than the 88 rushing yards on 43 attempts they managed against Georgia.

The Seminoles don’t have much trouble here.

Florida State 34 Clemson 24
ATS – Clemson
SU – Florida State

Mississippi State @ LSU -9:

LSU has won 21 of the last 22 in this series, but with Mississippi State getting a few of those "good" losses against Auburn, Texas A&M and Alabama last season along with a win over Mississippi, the Bulldogs certainly look to be on the rise.

The reason for that rise is quarterback Dak Prescott, who now twice in his career has thrown for a touchdown, run for a touchdown and caught a touchdown pass all in the same game. Prescott ran for 103 yards in this game last year…but only threw for 106.

This one should be close in the fourth quarter, but I think LSU scores late to pull away.

LSU 31 Mississippi State 21

Oklahoma -7.5 @ West Virginia:

You want to like West Virginia here. Clint Trickett is completing 75 percent of his passes, has thrown for more than 1,200 yards and has a touchdown to interception ratio of 7 to 1. The Mountaineers put up nearly 700 yards of offense on Maryland last week, and put up more than 400 yards on Alabama (including Trickett’s 365 yards passing).

You also look at Oklahoma running back Keith Ford being out for this game, the fact that last time the Sooners went up there Tavon Austin had the Million Yard March, it is at night in a tough venue…

But then you notice that they gave up 37 points to Maryland.

The Sooners will struggle here, but they should be able to put it away late.

Oklahoma 38 West Virginia 28
ATS – Oklahoma
SU – Oklahoma

Auburn -9.5 @ Kansas State:

This is a sneaky delicious game.

First of all, can we all recognize the greatness of Bill Snyder at Kansas State? We saw the note this week that 58 players on the current roster…58…are current or former walk-ons. Seven of those start for the Wildcats. Perhaps they should come up with something like the 12th Man moniker…

Which is all to say that Kansas State can flat out coach up their players. And what does it take to beat Auburn? Discipline and talent.

The Wildcats certainly have the discipline to stay in their lanes defensively and swarm the Auburn attack. And with Tyler Lockett, they have the player makers to stretch this Auburn defense.

Then you throw in the Thursday night home underdog deal…and this one could be very interesting.

Auburn 28 Kansas State 24
ATS – Kansas State
SU – Auburn

For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for Texas/Michigan 2027 tickets.