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The Week That Will Be: High Plains Drifter

Texas might have righted the ship in West Virginia, while Texas Tech is just drifting.

NCAA Football: Texas at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Last Week: 4-2 ATS 4-2 SU

For the Year: 35-36-1 (.493) (-$460) ATS 52-20 (.722) SU

We learned last week…

  • Kevin Sumlin is now 51-25 since being hired by the Aggies (fourth best in the conference in that stretch) – and with a win at LSU this week, the Aggies would once again be 8-4 (for the third straight season), but is there a chance that it saves his job? Reports say no. Is the damage so much at this point that a fresh start is needed? Either way, if I am say….Texas Tech, wouldn’t he be your first phone call?

  • UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen threw for 421 yards and three touchdowns – and might have passed him on the NFL draft board – but Sam Darnold threw for 264 yards and got the win…again.

  • Wisconsin got a bit of a scare against Michigan as they trailed in the third quarter, but then they remembered they were playing Michigan and went on a 21-0 run to get the win. Quarterback Alex Hornibrook only completed 9 passes on the day, but that was more than enough.

  • First reports broke last week that Bill Snyder turned down an opportunity for Jim Leavitt to be the coach in waiting in favor of his son (who broke that story, by the way?). That only served to piss off the 78-yard old Snyder, as Kansas State took a 42-13 lead against Oklahoma State before holding on to win by five. Byron Pringle had 4 touchdowns (3 receiving and a return).

  • The last time Texas Tech was held to three points at home was 2000 against Eric Crouch and Nebraska. Kliff Kingsbury was the signal caller for the Red Raiders that day.

  • And finally…finally, Texas is going bowling again. Say what you will about the state of the program in recent years that this is a big accomplishment, in the moment it is, so let’s enjoy it.

It is hard to believe that we are sitting here near the end of yet another college football season, but here we are. As is tradition around these parts, we like to give thanks.

To Lane Kiffin, thank you for being an entertaining troll. Far too often college head coaches take themselves way too seriously.

To Kevin Sumlin, no, thank you…for making the Aggies just good enough to still get our blood boiling but not good enough to make my head hurt.

To the Turnover Chain, thank you for making Miami football relevant again. See above.

To Baker Mayfield, thank you for…the entertainment factor these last few years. Certainly fits into the rivalry better than Jason White or Josh Heupel. But dude, if Kansas gets under your skin, what happens next year against Pittsburgh or Baltimore or Philadelphia?

To Florida and UCLA, thank you for the reminder that I don’t want to go through a coaching search again for a long, long time.

To the referees of the Big 12, thank you for using Texas games as a means of practicing your offensive pass interference reviews. Just love it.

To Kaleb Smith and Kendall Moore, thank you for deciding for Austin to be your new home this season. Every program needs guys like that, and your contributions are appreciated.

To Garrett Graf and Robert Willis, thank you for your hard work and dedication to the cause.

To Poona Ford, thank you for your tenacity and dedication to this program. I have literally never heard a back word about you, and that is an indication of not only how good of a football player you are, but the kind of person you are.

To Armanti Foreman, thank you for your hard work and always coming to play on Saturdays. I thought you were going to be a part of Longhorn lore in Los Angeles, but Sam Darnold had another idea.

To Jason Hall, Lorenzo Joe, Dorian Leonard and Tristan Nickelson, thank you for being a significant piece of this transition season. It probably wasn’t easy transitioning to a new coach for your last season, but you made it.

To Antwuan Davis, Naashon Hughes and Mitchell Becker, thank you for sticking with this program. I wrote about you guys in the first column this year, and for your sake, I hope that Texas can pick up one more win. It would be a fitting bookend.

To Connor Williams, this is probably it, so thank you for your contributions not only the last two years, but for working your ass off to come back from injury this year to deliver a win in Morgantown. A lot of guys might have said that’s ok and shut it down with only a couple games left, but you ran in the other direction. Good luck at the next level.

To DeShon Elliott, Charles Omenihu, Holton Hill and Michael Dickson, if this is it, thank you for your hard work on the field this season. The steps that the defense made this year was incredible, and the first three guys were a big reason for it. And Michael Dickson, you honestly are the first punter that I have ever been excited to see on the field again.

To Malik Jefferson, if this is it, thank you for being the trailblazer. It was a cool December morning three years ago that I fist pumped in my car on my way to work because you had committed, and we saw what happened afterwards. Your Texas career wasn’t always the smoothest, but this year has been special. I hope we get another year, but if not, good luck at the next level.

To my tailgate crew, we’ve been doing this for nearly 20 years now, and win or lose, no matter who is coaching or who isn’t, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else for those six Saturdays a year.

To my wife & son, thank you for your support, and giving me a life where I can focus so much energy on this silly column each and every week.

To my Barking Carnival family, thank you for letting me on this website for another year, and thank you for taking the time each and every week to read this silly column. The interaction and feedback make this a hell of a lot of fun.

And this year we get to do it for even longer.

South Florida @ Central Florida -10.5:

This one acts as a de facto Group of Five playoff for the New Years 6 bowl slot, as both teams would have a victory to get after this, but essentially they would be in the driver’s seat.

The Central Florida passing game has propelled them to an undefeated record – they are currently ranked 2nd in the S&P+ offensive rankings – as they have not scored less than 31 points in a game all season.

The key matchup here will be that UCF offense against South Florida’s pass rush (they have 14 sacks in their last three games). Quarterback McKenzie Milton has only been sacked on 3% of his dropbacks this season, but he hasn’t played Charlie Strong’s Bulls.

Three USF players have rushed for more than 600 yards, including quarterback Quinton Flowers, but you wonder if they get behind if they’ll have the firepower to keep up.

Central Florida 38 South Florida 31

ATS – South Florida

SU – Central Florida

Washington State @ Washington -9.5:

Washington might be the near double digit favorite, but it is Washington State that is still alive for the Pac-12 North title, as a win here would send them to play USC in the title game, while a loss would send Stanford.

When you think of a big Pac-12 game you might think shootout, but Washington’s defense is currently ranked 3rd in the country in S&P+ defense, while Washington State’s is ranked 15th.

Of course the Huskies enter this one struggling, with a loss to Stanford two weeks ago and needed a last second field goal to beat Utah at home last week. Both of those teams put up 30 points on the Huskies.

Luke Falk and Mike Leach form quite a duo – but if there is anywhere Washington State has been vulnerable has been to pressure – they have given up 39 sacks on the year. That plays right into the strength of Washington, a pass rush that has tallied 33 sacks.

The Huskies have won 4 in a row in this series – and 7 of 8 – with an average margin of victory in those games of 21 points. The Cougars simply have not been competitive in this game.

Washington 41 Washington State 31

ATS – Washington

SU – Washington

Ohio State -11.5 @ Michigan:

Oh yes – the rivalry that the national media shoves down our throat at every opportunity – but it is hard to call it a rivalry when Ohio State has now won five in a row in this series, 12 of the last 13 and 14 of 17 this century (!).

Oh, and Jim Harbaugh is now 1-4 against Michigan State and Ohio State in his tenure at Ann Arbor – not exactly what he was paid to do.

The Buckeyes have to be looking back and kicking themselves over the Iowa game, but let’s be real, if form holds and they beat Wisconsin next week in Indianapolis, they will be in the college football playoff.

The Michigan quarterback carousel likely lands again on John O’Korn after Brandon Peters sustained a concussion last week. O’Korn, who already had his chance earlier this season, was 2 of 8 for 19 yards against Wisconsin. He now has one touchdown and five interceptions on the year – and has been sacked an astounding 11% of the time he drops back.

Although he owns a 3-0 record against the Wolverines, JT Barrett has not been good throwing the football against Michigan, completing only 54% of his passes for 413 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception in those three games. The difference Barrett has made is on the ground, however, as he has rushed for 353 yards and 6 touchdowns in three games.

Michigan is a year away – again – and honestly doesn’t even belong on the same field as Ohio State.

Ohio State 31 Michigan 13

ATS – Ohio State

SU – Ohio State

Alabama -4 @ Auburn:

This is another rivalry game that is threatening not to be a rivalry anymore. The Crimson Tide have won three in a row and 7 of 9 in this series – with Auburn’s two wins coming because of Cam Newton heroics and a ridiculous missed field goal return.

Auburn has had a nice run – but Alabama tends to eat green quarterbacks for breakfast, having only lost to DeShaun Watson in the last 34 games – so don’t look for Jarrett Stidham’s success to continue.

Both of these defenses are outstanding, so this might be a very low scoring game, but it is always hard to pick against Alabama.

Alabama 27 Auburn 16

ATS – Alabama

SU – Alabama

West Virginia @ Oklahoma -22:

Baker Mayfield won’t start this game, but Lincoln Riley refuses to state how long his suspension will last – so look for Mayfield to enter the game quickly if Kyler Murray gets sacked on the first play of the game.

Will Grier is definitely out, and as anyone who was brave enough to look at that finger last weekend could attest to, it is a well deserved break. Chris Chugunov gets the start for West Virginia, and while he started to look more comfortable the longer the game went against Texas last week, he doesn’t have the 34 touchdown passes that Grier has.

Oklahoma has won every matchup between these two teams since the Mountaineers joined the Big 12, and there is certainly nothing to suggest that trend ends here.

Oklahoma 45 West Virginia 20

ATS – Oklahoma

SU – Oklahoma

Texas Tech @ Texas -9.5:

Well this one has a lot different vibe than I thought it might this time last week.

Texas enters this game with bowl eligibility secured, but now they are working on bigger picture concerns such as finishing the season on a strong note by guaranteeing themselves a winning record in the first season of the Tom Herman era.

Texas Tech, meanwhile, needs a win here to be bowl eligible, and may or may not need a win to possibly save Kliff Kingsbury’s job. The Red Raiders started the season with promising results (again), getting out to a 4-1 record, but have since lost 5 of 6, giving up an average of 39 points per game in their losses in that stretch.

Or, you know, same ol’ Texas Tech.

Texas has struggled in this position before. In fact, they are 1-6 in their last 7 senior night games going back to 2010, with that one win coming in 2013 against Texas Tech, led on the field by quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Overall Texas has won 6 of the last 7 in this series, with the Red Raiders of course winning the last game in Austin, despite Chris Warren’s 276 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns.

We talked about Tech’s defensive struggles of late, but they only managed 3 points last week in Lubbock, and totaled only 327 offensive yards in the process. Nic Shimonek was only 17/33 passing the football, with zero touchdowns or interceptions.

Shimonek is certainly no Patrick Mahomes, but Tech has fallen to 25th in offensive S&P+ offense after finishing the last two years in the Top 6, and a lot of that falls on the shoulders of Shimonek, who has thrown for 3,451 yards thus far this season, well short of the 4,600 Mahomes threw for in 2015 and 5,000 he threw for last season.

Texas certainly has the momentum, and should come out on top of this one. If the rushing game carries over from the West Virginia game, even better.

Texas 38 Texas Tech 24

ATS – Texas

SU – Texas

For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for bowl trip money.