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The Week That Will Be: On the Road Again

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The Longhorns hit the road mining for a win. Prepare accordingly.

Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

Last Week: 2-4 ATS 5-1 SU

For the Year: 37-21-2 (.638) ($1210) ATS 46-14 (.767) SU

We learned last week...

  • 2/12 on third down conversions and 0/2 on fourth down conversions in the fourth quarter is not the way Florida State planned on beating Clemson.
  • Total rushing yards for Leonard Fournette against Alabama: 31 Yards after contact for Fournette against Alabama: 30 yards
  • Texas Tech is a different animal away from Lubbock, but West Virginia held them to just under 200 yards passing (214 yards below their season average entering the contest) and 378 total yards (226 yards below average). Impressive.

  • Joe Hubener rushing yards per attempt against Texas: 1.2 Hubener rushing yards per attempt against Baylor: 5.3

  • TCU outgained Oklahoma State by more than 200 yards, but four interceptions will kill you. A week after four catches for 200 yards, OSU's James Washington caught 5 balls for 184 yards and three touchdowns.
  • The 93-yard run for D'Onta Foreman was the longest for the Longhorns since 1967, and it felt that long for Texas fans since they had a win like that.

So it comes down to this.

The Texas Longhorns' 2015 season will very likely be decided by what happens in Morgantown on Saturday morning.

Win, and you have a home game against a Texas Tech team that hasn't won in Austin since 1997 between you and bowl eligibility.

Lose, and well, you have that same Texas Tech team and a Baylor team that could very well be undefeated and needing style points to get into the playoff tournament.

We'll discuss this later in the column, but West Virginia certainly isn't a world beater. They're not even a feisty bunch that gave the big boys trouble. They've been blown out by Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma in the past six weeks.

They're just like you, a below average to average team that is fighting to get to bowl eligibility.

Charlie Strong has beaten tougher opponents. Oklahoma. West Virginia last year. But a victory here would be perhaps his most important win at Texas.


Because if you haven't noticed, this team needs the practice.

With a young team like this, especially with a freshman quarterback, you never know when things are going to click, when that message is finally going to stick, so why not get a few more chances to hammer it into their head?

Look at Oklahoma State.

The Cowboys this time last year were a middling bunch meandering bunch that lost their fourth game in a row to Texas, and would lose their fifth in a row the next week against Baylor. They were having awful quarterback problems, they had scored 68 points in 5 games and went to Norman, Oklahoma to play the Sooners looking to just get through the season.

Then they won. A 14-point fourth quarter deficit was erased by a Tyreek Hill punt return, and Mason Rudolph, in his second start, threw for 273 yards and a touchdown.

Boom. The Cowboys were bowl eligible. Then they went and won the Cactus Bowl against Washington, using those bowl practices to get Mason Rudolph all the snaps he could get. He threw for 299 yards and two scores.

Mike Gundy praised those bowl practices, saying that it equaled another spring to them, and that the energy and attitude that they showed there carried over to the spring practices.

And you know how this season is going for them.

So no, Texas fans won't fill Sun Devil Stadium or the Liberty Bowl or wherever they might end up if they go to a bowl, but if utilized correctly, it will be a work trip where invaluable work is done.

On to the games...

Memphis @ Houston -7:

For the longest it appeared this was going to be a game between unbeatens, but then Memphis was literally run over by Navy to the tune of 374 rushing yards. But this is still a hot matchup between hot coaching commodities, as Memphis's Justin Fuente and Houston's Tom Herman (the first UH coach to win his first 9 games) figure to be involved in a lot of rumors in the coming weeks.

Quarterback Greg Ward, Jr. is everything for the Cougars, as he is the team's leading rusher (7.8 ypc; 16 TD) and completes 70% of his passes while throwing three times as many touchdowns as interceptions. Memphis's Paxton Lynch (3,014 yards, 19 TD, 2 INT) is no slouch himself, but the Tigers were finally bitten by a porous defense last week, and I think it happens again here.

Houston 35 Memphis 31

ATS - Memphis

SU - Houston

Alabama -8 @ Mississippi State:

Win out and Alabama is back in the College Football Playoff, while Mississippi State has a good shot at a 10 win season. This was a great game last year as the Bulldogs came roaring back from a 19-0 deficit only to eventually fall 25-20.

Alabama's Derek Henry has stepped it up against ranked teams this year, rushing for 173.6 ypg and 10 TDs in 5 games, but only managed 36 yards on 11 carries against this team last year.

Last year was last year, but Alabama is coming off an emotional game while the Bulldogs had 10 days to prepare for this.

Alabama 24 Mississippi State 17

ATS - Mississippi State

SU - Alabama

Oregon @ Stanford -9.5:

Kevin Hogan is now the all-time leader in quarterback wins at Stanford, and if they win this one they clinch the Pac-12 North. Oregon was written off for dead weeks ago, but after three straight conference wins they still have a chance, however slight, of clinching it themselves.

Oregon has won 10 of 13 in this series, but this isn't the same Oregon team.

Stanford 41 Oregon 28

ATS - Stanford

SU - Stanford

Oklahoma State -14 @ Iowa State:

Oklahoma State gets a breather (for most competent teams) before facing off with Baylor and Oklahoma to state their case for the playoff committee. Everyone remembers 2011 when the Cowboys' national championship hopes were dashed on a Thursday night in Ames when they were 26 point favorites, but Oklahoma State has won five of six in this series by an average of 27 points per win.

This one shouldn't be a problem, either.

Oklahoma State 45 Iowa State 17

ATS - Oklahoma State

SU - Oklahoma State

Oklahoma @ Baylor -3:

11/8/2014: BAYLOR 48 OKLAHOMA 14

11/7/2013: BAYLOR 41 OKLAHOMA 12

I think a few of us called it back after Oklahoma lost to Texas, that they would beat up on a few terrible teams and then the national media would be falling all over themselves to fawn over Oklahoma again. The Sooners did their part, beating their last four opponents (Kansas State, Texas Tech, Kansas and Iowa State) by a combined 182 points.

But this isn't Kansas.

Simply put, any team that lost to Texas isn't going to beat Baylor. While everyone likes to talk about the improved Sooners defense, Tulsa (who you know, got their head coach from Baylor) put up 600 yards on them, Texas ran all over them, West Virginia put up 200 yards rushing on them and Texas Tech had 5.1 yards per play.

And Art Briles tends to coach the pants off of Bob Stoops when the teams' talent level is close. See above.

Baylor 48 Oklahoma 34

ATS - Baylor

SU - Baylor

Texas @ West Virginia -8.5:

West Virginia is coming out of a grinder of a schedule, having faced Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor and TCU four out of their last five, and had to chase around Texas Tech last week in the other game.

They're a solid football team, but what is the state of their team right now? You get the feeling that last week's win against Texas Tech might have saved Dana Holgersen's job (for now), so you know how bad things were if home wins against Texas Tech are looked at as monumental moments.

On the field they are a team that has transitioned to more of a Rich Rodriguez coached team than a Holgersen one, as they are running the ball 60% of the time at a 220 yards per game clip. Running back Wendell Smallwood is the feature back, ranking 10th in the country in yards per carry at 6.7, so that is certainly a concern for a team that had its struggles in recent weeks in stopping the run.

Of course the reason they might be passing the ball isn't for philosophical reasons but reasons of necessity, as quarterback Skyler Howard is only completing 48% of his passes, the worst percentage in the Big 12. When Howard does drop back to pass, he's getting sacked at an average of 2.88 times a game (111th in the country), so if Texas must continue getting to the quarterback (6th in the country at 3.33 sacks per game; 4.33 per game in conference play) in order to force them into more passing situations.

On defense they are a lot like Texas, as they like to be aggressive in their 3-3-5 sets (which is susceptible to the power running game), like to intercept the football (6th in the country with 14) and shut you down on third down (19th in the country in defensive 3rd down percentage at 31%).

The question here is...and it is a valid question, is when is Texas going to show up for a game in an opponent's stadium this year? They have played three "true" road games this year and have been absolutely dreadful, averaging 3.3 points per game in three losses.

All of that game planning and preparation will be for naught if the Longhorns don't find a quick answer as to why they have been so flat on the road this season.

If this was a game at DKR, or played in a vacuum, I like Texas's chances, but you simply can't pick them to win a road game at the moment.

West Virginia 31 Texas 23

ATS - Texas

SU - West Virginia

For entertainment purposes only.  Save your money for raccoon hats.