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The Week That Will Be: Survival of the Fittest

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To beat Kansas State, Texas has to play like Kansas State

Texas v Iowa State Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images

Last Week: 3-3 ATS 6-0 SU

For the Year: 15-15 (.500) (-$150) ATS 23-7 (.767) SU

We learned last week…

  • The outcome in Knoxville was apparent really early as Tennessee threw an interception on the first play of the game on the way to the Vols’ most lopsided home loss (41-0) since a 45-0 loss to Vanderbilt in 1905. The Volunteers had one play of more than 10 yards all day – it resulted in a fumble.

  • Mississippi State looked like world beaters after their lopsided win over LSU (Happy Homecoming, Coach O), but they promptly lost their next two by a combined score of 80-13. Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen is now 2-15 in games against ranked opponents.

  • USC’s unbeaten streak ended in Pullman, as mounting injuries on the offensive line and at wide receiver finally caught up to the Trojans. Speaking to the troubles on the offensive line, Sam Darnold was sacked 6 times all of last year – he’s been sacked 9 times through USC’s first five games this season. Give Washington State credit though, as Mike Leach is now 15-5 against the Pac-12 in his last 20 conference games.

  • Ho hum, another week, another victory over a Top 15 team for Clemson. That is now three in five games for the Tigers – a new NCAA record. In those three games, quarterback Kelly Bryant accounted for six touchdowns and zero interceptions.

  • Oklahoma State held Texas Tech to 384 total yards – nearly 200 below their season average, but still had to hold on at the end for a touchdown victory.

  • And finally, the Texas defense was a shanked punt from their second shutout in three games as the Longhorns have now allowed just 4.4 yards per play and 34 total points since the Maryland game – 10 of which came in two overtime periods. That kind of effort will get you to a lot of victories.

One could argue that this schedule was designed perfectly for this Texas team, an upstart unit that wanted to take that first step in a new regime. There was a lower rung Power 5 team (Maryland), a very good measuring stick (USC), a very winnable but testy road game (Iowa State), and perhaps the most disciplined team in the conference, but at home (Kansas State).

Then of course, Texas went out and lost to Maryland, and looked awful in the process.

Anyone else get the feeling that the Longhorns are really going to regret that one at season’s end?

That game does seem like ages ago, not only in period of time passed, but also in how well the defense has progressed since that awful afternoon.

There was some justified cause for concern around these parts about whether the defense was legit after the USC game, because after all, it was one game, and there was a (misguided) feeling that the defense might be able to contain a USC offense, but the Big 12 was another ballgame entirely.

Iowa State wasn’t one of the high powered offenses that comes to mind when you think Big 12 offense, but as we went over last week, they had some great individual talent and had results on the field going all the way back to last season.

In review, Sam Darnold was headed towards a Heisman candidacy season.

Until he played Texas.

And Iowa State was charging along, averaging 40 points and 500 yards over half a season.

Until they played Texas.

The Kansas State Wildcats come into DKR Saturday night, and while they might not be as explosive as some others on their schedule, they can absolutely run you over and present a different kind of challenge for this defense.

One of the things we heard about a Tom Herman team when he was hired all those months ago was that they were going to be a physical bunch, who practiced so hard that the games would be comparably fun and easy.

This is one of those weeks we need to see that in action.

Consider recent history between these two teams. Last year Jesse Ertz ran all over Texas (we’ll revisit that later). In 2015, in the middle of an all-game rain storm Texas rushed 53 times for 274 yards in victory. Kansas State shut out Texas in 2014. Texas ran the ball 47 times for 227 yards in 2013. Ertz’s twin Collin Klein rumbled over Texas in 2012.

You get the idea.

I don’t see a scenario where Texas pulls off one of those 2015 or 2013 rushing attacks (more on that later, too), but they can absolutely shut this offense down by hitting them in the mouth.

And if they have to grind it out with efficiency on offense, well, they’d be giving Kansas State a taste of their own medicine.

On to the games...

Washington State -2.5 @ Oregon:

After losing their previous eight games against the Ducks, Washington State has won the previous two – including a 51-33 victory last year in Pullman.

Cougars quarterback Luke Falk threw for 371 yards in that one, and should have the advantage in this one, as Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert is reportedly out with a broken collarbone suffered Saturday night against Cal. Taylor Alie relieved Herbert but was also hurt, so true freshman Braxton Burmeister finished the game and could very well get the start in this one.

I’ll take the three and a half year starter.

Washington State 45 Oregon 34

ATS – Washington State

SU – Washington State

Miami -3 @ Florida State:

Florida State has won 7 in a row in this series – matching the longest winning streak ever in the series (also Florida State from 1963-1972). However, this is this year and this year FSU is struggling. Florida State’s problems seem to beyond quarterback injuries, but those never help.

Seminoles backup quarterback James Blackman is only completing 56% of his passes, and has taken 9 sacks in 59 attempts. Not good news against a Miami defense that can feast.

Miami 28 Florida State 16

ATS – Miami

SU – Miami

Michigan State @ Michigan -10.5:

In the midst of a terrible 2016 campaign in East Lansing, one of their best showings was a 32-23 loss to Michigan in which the Spartans made a furious comeback but ultimately fell.

Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight will be unavailable due to injury, so John O’Korn gets the start – neither has been that effective this season, but honestly with that defense I’m not sure that it matters who starts under center for the Wolverines.

Michigan 28 Michigan State 16

ATS – Michigan

SU – Michigan

Alabama -25.5 @ Texas A&M:

Alabama won their last two ballgames – both SEC contests – by a combined 122 points, more than 51 FBs teams have scored all year. In fact, the Tide have faced three Power 5 teams this year and outscored them 142-10.

But hey, the Aggies scored 17 unanswered against South Carolina.

Jalen Hurts looks better this year, Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough have combined for 10 touchdowns and the defense is its usual outstanding self (they only gave up 331 total yards in those last two games and allowed only one third down conversion).

The Aggies have given the Crimson Tide some troubles, including taking a lead in last year’s game in the second half, but one coach will have a statue one day while the other is likely looking for a job very soon.

Alabama 41 Texas A&M 20

ATS – Texas A&M

SU – Alabama

West Virginia @ TCU -13.5:

I think this game comes down to one simple thing. Defense.

TCU has one, while the last time we saw West Virginia they were giving up about 800 yards rushing to Kansas (don’t look that up).

And Kenny Hill has been good Kenny Hill this year. So far.

TCU 41 West Virginia 24

ATS – TCU

SU – TCU

Kansas State @ Texas -4:

The home team has won 5 in a row in this series – but some of that has to be Texas’s inability to win in Manhattan combined with the fact that they have to beat this team at some point.

This is going to shock you, but Kansas State brings to town a very solid defense (31st in the country in S&P+ defense) and an offense that doesn’t look good but somehow works (31st in the country in S&P+ offense) and very good special teams (25th in the country).

It’s like a Bruno Mars song – it might all sound the same, but you can’t help but like what you’re hearing.

Tight end playing quarterback Jesse Ertz is back, the guy who looks like your older cousin playing all-time quarterback in the annual Thanksgiving game in your backyard…and also the one that ran over Texas last year (81 rushing yards, two touchdowns) and passed, too (171 passing yards and a touchdown there, too).

And, if you remember, he did all that with an injury, leaving all of us incredulous on how this guy was reaming Charlie Strong’s defense.

Their defense hasn’t exactly faced a murder’s row (Central Arkansas, Charlotte, Vanderbilt and Baylor don’t remind anyone of a John Jenkins offense) but they’ve done what they have needed to do (9th in S&P rush defense). Baylor had two 70-yard plays against their defense, so they are susceptible to the big play but at the same time the Wildcats only gave up 375 total yards all day so a big chunk of that yardage came on those two plays.

Texas likely isn’t going to have any success running the football, but they can’t do that much anyways, so the joke is on you, KSU.

Shane Buechele has to win this game for Texas. He’ll have a lot of help from a talented group of receivers, but this isn’t a game where Collin Johnson can get lost, or the wide receivers can’t get separation. It is time to step it up. With Oklahoma and Oklahoma State the next two weeks, Texas can’t afford to drop this game.

Texas 27 Kansas State 17

ATS – Texas

SU – Texas

For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for Bill Snyder’s birthday present (he turns 78 on Saturday).