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The Week That Will Be : Business Trip

Weekday jaunt to Iowa action plan: Get in, get a win, get out.

Texas v USC Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Last Week: 4-2 ATS 4-2 SU

For the Year: 12-12 (.500) (-$120) ATS 17-7 (.708) SU

We learned last week…

  • After Maryland’s no-show against Central Florida, Texas fans turned their lonely eyes to USC to keep up their robust reputation, and while they were tied at 13 going to the fourth quarter, Cal’s 6 turnovers finally caught up to them and the Trojans survived without running back Ronald Jones and wide receiver Steven Mitchell.

  • Texas A&M completed their third overtime win over Arkansas in the past four years. While Kevin Sumlin might have bought a few hours worth of breathing room, Arkansas’s Bret Bielema is now 10-23 in SEC play. Not a recipe for getting another year.

  • At the beginning of the year we thought LSU was our best hope of Anyone But Alabama winning the SEC, but then they got walloped by Mississippi State last week, who got walloped by Georgia on Saturday. A 59-yard flea flicker for a touchdown on Georgia’s first offensive play let Mississippi State fans know it was going to be a long day.

  • In their 92nd year of existence, the Texas Tech football program might have finally realized they need to play a modicum of defense, as the Red Raiders held Houston to 427 total offensive yards (most of those gained late in the game) and forced 5 turnovers. Tech is halfway to bowl eligibility at 3-0.

  • Baylor gave Oklahoma quite the scare, but Trey Sermon’s 157 yards rushing and two fourth quarter touchdowns put the game away for the Sooners. After Oklahoma fell behind 31-28 late in the third quarter, Oklahoma reeled off 21 straight points and held on at the end.

  • Mason Rudolph threw for 398 empty yards, as TCU held the ball for nearly 40 minutes and put on a clinic on how to contain the Cowboys offense. In addition, the Horned Frogs scored 14 points off Oklahoma State turnovers, they didn’t have a penalty called on them until the 4th quarter and only punted once. Perfect diagram on how to beat a Top-10 team in their own house.

In this space approximately 365 days ago, I wrote, “why not us” in regard to Texas and their chances to win the Big 12 conference.

Texas proceeded to finish 3-6 in the conference, losing to 2-10 Kansas along the way.

It turns out there were plenty of reasons for it not to be Texas.

But as we saw TCU completely destroy Oklahoma State last week in the Mullet Den, and later that night saw Oklahoma struggle to put away 0-3 Baylor in the House That Chip & JoJo Built, it certainly gave an indication that the Big 12 might be wide open again.

At this point, Oklahoma and TCU have to be the favorites, as the Sooners have possibly the best quarterback in the country while the Horned Frogs have the best coach in the conference. The two teams don’t play until November 11 in Norman, but until then they will both be favored in every game they play. The Sooners have the toughest schedule up until then, as they have to travel to Manhattan and Stillwater and play Texas in Dallas.

If you read this column last week, you know that I not only thought Oklahoma State was the best team in the conference, I thought they were one of the best in the country, and they might still be, as that offense could certainly beat anyone on any given day, and their defense is underrated as well. But with trips to Lubbock, Austin and Morgantown and a home date with Oklahoma mixed in there, if there are any holes in the program they will certainly be exposed in the next several weeks.

This is where things diverge.

I wasn’t very high on West Virginia coming into the season as I felt they had too much to replace from last year, and let’s face it, when you have to go get an ex Florida quarterback to be your signal caller you had better have a good back-up plan. But Will Grier has been outstanding for the Mountaineers, but when you give up 34 points and 367 rushing yards to Kansas, you begin to lose confidence they can make it through the schedule.

I am convinced that Bill Snyder could take a 6A Texas school and make them a Big 12 contender, and actually I have no idea how good Kansas State is this year since they beat up on Central Arkansas and Charlotte before losing to Vanderbilt, who was obliterated from the Earth by Lord Saban and Alabama last weekend.

Next up has to be the Texas Tech and Iowa State duo, who would need some help to beat the best teams in the conference but certainly could beat anyone else.

Bringing up the rear are Baylor and Kansas, as both look good enough to score on most (at least Baylor did this past weekend), but ultimately just aren’t good enough to last a full four quarters.

So where does Texas fit in?

Would anything shock you at this point? A loss to Iowa State wouldn’t surprise me this week, nor would a win over Oklahoma two weeks from now in Dallas.

Ask me again after Thursday night, but if I had to guess, I would think Texas fits in right there below the TCU, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State triumvirate, with the game at West Virginia later in the year deciding the difference between which mid-tier bowl game either attend.

Why not us?

I’ll defer to the second half.

Georgia -7.5 @ Tennessee:

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones is “accidentally replying all to an email” away from getting fired, as the Volunteers gave up a trip to a moon equivalent rushing yards to Georgia Tech in a win in their season opener, and were very close to losing to Massachusetts (without Marcus Camby) at home last week.

Meanwhile, Georgia is the flavor of the week in the SEC as they knocked off Mississippi State in convincing fashion last week. Get past this one, and the Bulldogs have a very favorable schedule with road trips to Vanderbilt, Auburn and Georgia Tech along with Missouri, Florida, South Carolina and Kentucky between the hedges.

The Volunteers have had a rough go of it on offense, only scoring 4 touchdowns in their last 27 possessions, and oh yes did I mention they played Massachusetts last week?

Tennessee has won shootouts over the Bulldogs the past two years (including last year’s last second Hail Mary finish in Athens), and this could very well be one of those stupid games that everyone is expecting one thing so of course the opposite happens, but Georgia is playing too well to stumble against a struggling Volunteers team…right?

Georgia 27 Tennessee 16

ATS – Georgia

SU – Georgia

Mississippi State @ Auburn -9.5:

The road team has won the last two games in this series, including last year’s 38-14 Auburn win in Starkville last October. The Bulldogs are coming off that bitter loss to Georgia last week, while Auburn drubbed Missouri in Columbia.

The big question here is how Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald bounces back from last week’s disappointment in Athens, as Auburn is just as formidable of a defense (currently ranked 5th in the country in S&P+ overall defense). That was on display in their 14-7 loss to Clemson, as they held Kelly Bryant to 181 passing yards on 29 attempts with zero touchdown passes.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, they have to possess the ball on offense, and the only team they have played with a pulse (Clemson) held them to 117 total yards. The Bulldogs don’t have Clemson’s defense, but they are solid (27th in S&P+).

Auburn 24 Mississippi State 17

ATS – Mississippi State

SU – Auburn

USC -3.5 @ Washington State:

The last time USC traveled to Pullman was 2014, where they handed the Cougars a 44-17 loss that night, as Cody Kessler threw for 400 yards and 5 touchdowns. The Cougars leading passer that night? Freshman Luke Falk, who threw for 346 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

Senior (and former walk-on) Luke Falk will step onto the field Friday as Washington State’s most productive quarterback, and will likely become the Pac-12’s all-time passing leader later this year. In fact, if Falk averages about 341 yards per game the rest of the regular season (not unheard of in the Air Raid offense), he’ll reach 15,000 yards, which only 5 other passers have reached.

Of course these days it is the quarterback on the other sideline that gets all the headlines, as sophomore Sam Darnold is the anointed one in the eyes of NFL scouts. However, if he keeps failing to protect the football (he’s thrown 7 interceptions in 4 games), then the Trojans won’t get out of Pullman with a victory.

The Cougars are 4-0 for the first time since 2001, and while their schedule hasn’t been difficult, USC comes into this game facing their 5th testy opponent in a row – can they keep up the valiant effort, especially when they might be without Darnold’s top two targets due to injury?

Washington State 42 USC 37

ATS – Washington State

SU – Washington State

Clemson -7 @ Virginia Tech:

These two teams played a thriller in last year’s ACC Championship game, where the Tigers prevailed 42-35 on their way to the national championship. The Hokies had a outstanding effort, but ultimately just fell short.

This year Virginia Tech is winning games (4-0 thus far) the way they always have – with tough defense (11th in S&P+) and efficient offense (freshman quarterback Josh Jackson has completed 65% of his passes and has an 11:1 touchdown to interception ratio), but will it be enough against a Clemson squad that hasn’t missed much of a beat since last year?

Clemson 27 Virginia Tech 24

ATS – Virginia Tech

SU – Clemson

Oklahoma State -9.5 @ Texas Tech:

You want to hear a shocking stat? Mike Gundy is 10-2 against the Red Raiders as head coach at Oklahoma State, and the Cowboys have won the last nine in a row. As dangerous as their offense has been through the years, and as dangerous as we know Lubbock can be, Oklahoma State hasn’t stumbled there in quite some time.

As solid as Texas Tech’s defense looked last week, they still rank 119th in the country in S&P+ defense, and still gave up 45 points to Arizona State two weeks ago in Lubbock, so let’s hold off on the coronation quite yet.

As good as Oklahoma State’s offense is, their defense is serviceable enough, ranking 61st in the country in S&P+, or good enough to beat Texas Tech.

Oklahoma State 51 Texas Tech 35

ATS – Oklahoma State

SU – Oklahoma State

Texas -5.5 @ Iowa State:

Tom Herman was hired to not lose these games.

Losses to Iowa State helped sink the ship of both Mack Brown and Charlie Strong, as Texas’s recent struggles with the Cyclones have been well documented this week, from the 31-30 narrow win on a Thursday night in 2013 to the horrific shutout loss on Halloween two years ago.

The importance of this game cannot be overstated. If Texas is going to get anywhere they want to go this year, they simply must win this game.

If I sound a bit triggered, it is because while this team might ultimately not end up being a very good football team, they can be a dangerous one as junior quarterback Jacob Park has shown, throwing for more than 300 yards in four of their last six contests dating back to last year (as a team they have averaged 500 yards over their last five games).

In those same four of six games, sophomore running back David Montgomery has eclipsed the 100 yard mark. Senior wide receiver Allen Lazard is good enough to start for most teams in this conference, as he has an NCAA high 38 straight games with a reception.

And of course Texas fans remember running back Mike Warren running all over them in 2015. He’s still around, too.

Oh and they have only given up one sack all year, so forget about getting to Park.

So that’s their offense.

What about their defense? Hey, did I tell you about their offense?

It can’t be good news when the quarterback that Texas lost to in 2015 is now a linebacker, but even worse news is that of 20 bullet points on the front of Iowa State’s media notes this week, it took until item number 18 to even mention the defense, and then it was some note about holding Akron to 38 rushing yards.

They do have 26 tackles for loss, which is good enough for 6th in FBS and first in the Big 12, so that is great news for the Texas beleaguered offensive line.

Iowa State has the conference’s third largest stadium, and it should be electric Thursday night but ultimately if the defense plays anywhere near like they did against USC, and if the offense lets more than 4 plays decide a trend, the Longhorns get out alive.

Texas 31 Iowa State 21

ATS – Texas

SU – Texas

For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for beers at the Tip Top Lounge.