Last Week: 3-3 ATS 4-2 SU
For the Year: 30-16-2 (.652) ($1,080) ATS 36-12 (.750) SU
What we learned last week:
- The computers and Vegas win again, as USC trounced Utah, led by Cameron Smith picking off Travis Wilson three times (returning one for a touchdown).
- The roller coaster of UCLA continues...
- Alabama's Derrick Henry now has a touchdown in 13 straight games, the longest streak in the country, but it would have been really interesting to see how the College Football Playoff committee would have done with a two loss Alabama and a one or two loss LSU.
- Texas A&M didn't get past the Ole Miss 24-yard line, Kyle Allen was a mess and the locker room also appears to be a mess. It is nice to see that no matter how much things change, they still remain the same.
- It is same ol' Texas Tech, as they allow Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon to combine for 355 yards rushing and allow Oklahoma as a team to rush for more than 400. But they score a lot of points, y'all!
- And finally, we learned that yes, it is possible for Texas to defeat Kansas State, no matter how "ugly" a victory might be.
The, ahem, announced crowd of 88,283 filled Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium with that monstrous chorus between rain drops as Tyrone Swoopes trotted on the field.
The clock read 3:02 to go in the fourth quarter with the Longhorns holding on to a perilous seven point advantage. Even though the Kansas State Wildcats had showed about as much interest in scoring a touchdown as I do in cutting bacon out of my diet, it is still Kansas State, the Texas nemesis since the Big 12 actually had 12 teams, and they still have Bill Snyder, who produces touchdowns against Texas like no other.
First and 10 at their own 48. Swoopes rush over right tackle for 13 yards. First down Texas.
First and 10 at the KSU 39. Swoopes rush over right tackle for 29 yards. First down Texas.
First and 10 at the Wildcats 10. Swoopes rush over right guard for 10 yards.
3 plays, 52 yards, 1:15 off the clock.
But a huge burden off the back of these Longhorns.
And a huge smile on the face of Swoopes and Charlie Strong.
The road has been a rocky one for the 6'4" 243 lb. junior in Austin, as a promising beginning to a career (655 yards passing/145 yards rushing/5 touchdowns in the Oklahoma and Iowa State games in 2014) dovetailed into a disastrous end (two straight non-competitive losses to TCU and Arkansas).
After the 2015 season opener was much the same, the choice was made by the Longhorn coaching staff to turn to redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard, and Swoopes, many thought, was left to sit on the bench.
The former Army All-American was left with a choice, to sit and sulk, or to accept his role and find other means to contribute.
"Tyrone is such a solid person," Strong said earlier this week. "When we were going to make the change, I sat down with him and I said, 'We're still going to have a package for you. It's not like you're going to go stand over there and hold a clipboard. ... I want you to stay engaged. He's done a great job."
Since the "18 Wheeler" package was introduced against Oklahoma State in September, the formation has been a huge success for the Longhorns, so much so that Swoopes leads the team in touchdowns with 7 (5 rushing, 2 passing) and is averaging 5.2 yards per rush in the package.
"It's been really good for us. I've enjoyed it," said sophomore fullback Alex De La Torre earlier this week. "I know Tyrone, he's earned that. He's been busting his butt, being a really good team player. I think the benefits he's getting from it has been awesome, well-deserved. I guess within the past few weeks we've kind of created this identity that we can run the ball. I take a lot of pride in that."
And run the football the Longhorns have done. Texas is averaging 5.3 rushing yards per play over the past two games as new offensive playcaller Jay Norvell (and wildly speculated, his helpful aide Jeff Traylor) has implemented a power spread attack mid-season.
As a result, for the first time in the Charlie Strong era, and perhaps the first time since Colt McCoy roamed the 40 acres, the Longhorns have an offensive identity.
In a quarterback friendly era, it is refreshing to be able to line up and knock the opponent off the ball, control the pace and demoralize your opponent. In order to run the football, several parts need to work in order, showing a team cohesion that didn't appear to be there as recently as three weeks ago.
There are five games left in the 2015 season, and if you are the sort that thinks extra practice time is important leading into the next season, the Longhorns need to win three of those in order to achieve bowl eligible status.
In order to get there, Heard will need to win a game in a true road environment, and Swoopes will have to be there to help him.
"I love it when the 18 Wheeler gets out there," Heard said this week.
And so do Texas fans.
On to the games...
Notre Dame -10.5 @ Temple:
Temple is ranked for the first time since 1979 with a record of 7-0, the first time in school history (dating back to 1894) they have achieved that feat. This is also the first time they have appeared in this column, so they have that going for them, too.
The turnaround is remarkable for the Owls, who were booted from their own conference in 2004 and now have a legit chance at a New Year's bowl. They do it the old fashioned way, with a defense that ranks 6th in the country in S&P+. But they haven't seen a team as good and as complete as Notre Dame, and with an offense that is 108th in the country in total offense, I don't see them keeping up with the Irish.
Notre Dame 31 Temple 17
ATS - Notre Dame
SU - Notre Dame
Stanford -11.5 @ Washington State:
Mike Leach has the Cougars back on track with a record of 5-2 (although one of those two losses was to Portland State), but Washington State is looking for their first win of a Top 10 opponent since....Texas in the 2003 Holiday Bowl.
Stanford has won each game since their season opening defeat by an average of 22 points per game, mainly on the strength of quarterback Kevin Hogan's conference high 174.0 passing efficiency rating, Christian McCaffrey's breakout season and a defense that is once again near the top of the conference rankings.
The Cardinal have only allowed 9 touchdown passes all year, but they'll have their hands full with Cougars quarterback Luke Falk, who has thrown only 4 interceptions in 387 attempts.
Stanford 34 Washington State 28
ATS - Washington State
SU - Stanford
Florida -2.5 vs. Georgia:
The World's Largest Cocktail Party has lately morphed into the Work Happy Hour You Really Don't Want To Go To And Then You Get Stuck Talking To the Annoying Guy in Acquisitions The Whole Time, but this year Florida can all but wrap up a trip to the SEC Championship game while Georgia can put themselves in the driver's seat with a victory.
Georgia's offense has been putrid in two of their last three games, the 38-10 loss to Alabama and the 9-6 victory over Missouri. Nick Chubb is lost for the season, so that doesn't help matters.
Florida has looked better all year, they shouldn't have much resistance here.
Florida 27 Georgia 17
ATS - Florida
SU - Florida
Oklahoma State -3 @ Texas Tech:
For what usually seems to be a fun game, Oklahoma State has dominated this series lately, winning 6 in a row and 8 of the last 10. The Cowboys enter this game 7-0, and with games against TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma still left on the schedule, they can't afford a slip-up here.
It is indeed same ol' Texas Tech, as they average 46 points per game but give up nearly that much at 40 points per game. The Cowboys are begging to be knocked off after playing close games against Texas, Kansas State and West Virginia, but their defense is light years ahead of the Red Raider squad.
Oklahoma State 42 Texas Tech 31
ATS - Oklahoma State
SU - Oklahoma State
West Virginia @ TCU -14.5:
These two teams have played three times since they joined the Big 12, and the games have been decided by a grand total of 5 points. The Horned Frogs won by one point in both trips to Morgantown, while West Virginia beat the Frogs by a field goal back in 2013.
None of that really matters, of course, as TCU is hoping to keep their national championship hopes alive against a West Virginia team that has lost three in a row to sink to 3-3.
They simply look outmatched against both Oklahoma and Baylor, and I would expect much the same here against a TCU team that doesn't mess around at home.
TCU 45 West Virginia 24
ATS - TCU
SU - TCU
Texas -7 @ Iowa State:
As alluded to above, Jerrod Heard will need to win a road game in an opponent's stadium if the Longhorns are to become bowl eligible, and lucky for him, this one isn't second ranked TCU, it is the 2-5 Cyclones.
Texas leads the all-time series 11-1 (they've never lost in Ames), however the last two were decided by total of 4 points. The 2013 contest in Ames was the highly controversial affair where Johnathan Gray might have fumbled (you can certainly argue his forward progress was stopped), while 2014 brought the shootout in Austin, where 17 points were scored in the final 79 seconds of the ballgame.
So yes, even though the Cyclones are breaking in a new quarterback (Joel Lanning) and a new offensive coordinator (Todd Sturdy), the Longhorns had better be ready for a heck of a fight.
No, the record isn't too good for the Cyclones, but one of those losses was a game were they were tied with undefeated Iowa with a little over two minutes to go in the game, while another was an overtime loss to undefeated (and ranked #20) Toledo.
They scored 21 points in each of their three conference losses (to Texas Tech, TCU and Baylor), so the Texas offense had better be able to keep up and the defense cannot fall back to their early season habits (4.1 average yards given up the last two games versus 6.2 the first five games).
The scouting report on new signal caller Lanning says that the former three-star recruit is athletic enough to be able to escape the pocket, so it is imperative that the secondary keep their coverage and the linebackers make their tackles in space.
On defense, Dale Pierson is the name to remember, as the defensive end has 6.5 sacks on the year, good enough for 2nd in the country in sacks per game. His 10 tackles for loss also rank him in the Top 25 in the country.
All in all, this is a game Texas should win, this is a game Texas needs to win and this is a game that good teams do win.
It might be dicey for a while, but the Longhorns keep the line.
Texas 27 Iowa State 21
ATS - Iowa State
SU - Texas
For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for Mark Mangino's going away cake.