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The Week That Will Be: Back in the Saddle

Time to ride.

Baylor v Texas Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Last Week: 3-3 ATS 6-0 SU

For the Year: 17-30-1 (.362) (-$1,480) ATS 33-15 (.688) SU

We learned last week…

· The Michigan Wolverines held Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke to 5/25 passing and 66 putrid yards as they won their first true road game against a ranked opponent since 2006. The next thing you know Gnarls Barkley will be releasing another song.

· Colorado was missing half of their receiving corps yet Washington still couldn’t cover. Gambling is fun.

· Trevor Lawrence threw for 308 yards (a career high), while Ryan Finley threw for 156 yards and two interceptions. Not hard to assess which one was the quarterback of the winning team in a blowout.

· LSU had to hire extra ushers to wake up the sleeping crowd after LSU & Mississippi State treated us to a game in which Bulldogs quarterback Nick Fitzgerald was 8/24 for 59 yards and 4 (!) interceptions, while LSU totaled 239 yards of offense and had a stretch of 7 possessions in which they gained 22 yards over 15 plays. LSU fans were surprised to learn that the only targeting call in the history of college football occurred against them…spoiler alert, it won’t matter when Alabama wins by 20.

· Washington State rushed out to a 27-0 halftime lead and managed to hold on, as Mike Leach was too busy texting Pac-12 officials to coach the second half.

· Defensive mastermind Gary Patterson has now given up 131 points to Oklahoma in their last three meetings as the Sooners rolled up 536 yards and 52 points against the Horned Frogs. Might want to swallow the ego and watch that Todd Orlando tape, Gary.

The second half of the 2018 season starts Saturday night in Stillwater, Oklahoma as the Texas Longhorns look to achieve some goals they haven’t reached in quite some time.

The Big 12 Championship game has gone and come back in the time period since the Longhorns were any good. The “BCS” bowls are now called the “New Years 6” bowls and there is that little thing called the College Football Playoff.

Not many expected all of those goals to be intact seven weeks ago when the Longhorns went wheels up from Washington DC, and even less expected it when the Horns slept through the second half of a lackluster home opener against Tulsa.

But here we are.

The computers and analytics and calculus gurus hate the Longhorns, and that is okay, win all of the rest of them and dare the playoff committee to keep a one-loss Texas team out of the playoff.

Or if you are the type that wants to leave less to chance, root for Notre Dame and LSU or Clemson to falter while rooting for Alabama to keep winning.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

There are those out there that say the Longhorns are a year away, and they are probably correct. Even a Big 12 title game appearance would be a wonderful outcome for this program from where it has been. These Longhorns are showing a glint of promise with the expectation that the momentum will carry over to another important recruiting period and roll right into next season.

None of the remaining games are a gimme. Road games at Stillwater and Lubbock would scare a former coach to death, while West Virginia and Iowa State are both dangerous for vastly different reasons. And yes, the five-year rule on declaring Kansas an easy win hasn’t passed yet.

If the Horns are going to to the next level, they will definitely earn it.

My goal for this season was to be back in the conversation, and the Longhorns certainly have done that.

Next comes the opportunity to change the conversation.

Iowa @ Penn State -6.5

The next three weeks will determine the fate of the Iowa Hawkeyes, who have won three in a row and now find themselves in a tie for first in the Big 10 West (remember when they had those funny names for their divisions? What a disaster). Win this one, next week at Purdue and against Northwestern the week after that, and they will be sitting right there if Wisconsin (who holds the tiebreaker) loses another one.

Iowa has outscored their opponents 113-47 during that winning streak, relying on a defense that ranks #9 in the country in S&P+ and the solid play of quarterback Nate Stanley, who has a 16/6 touchdown to interception ratio.

What they can’t do is run the football, as their leading rusher has 403 yards, which would be 200 yards behind Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley. McSorley would have more Heisman hype if Penn State didn’t have two losses, as he has more than 2,000 total yards and 19 touchdowns.

Penn State lost those two games to Ohio State and Michigan State by a total of 5 points. While Iowa is certainly a tough opponent, I’m not sure they have the offense to win in State College.

Penn State 28 Iowa 23

ATS – Iowa

SU – Penn State

South Florida @ Houston -7.5

South Florida is 7-0 but finds themselves a more than a touchdown underdog against a Houston team that managed to give up 27 points to Rice and 63 points to Texas Tech earlier in the season.

Why? Perhaps it is because four of those victories are against teams ranked 100th or higher in the S&P+ rankings. A fifth win was against Elon (quick, name which state that is in without Googling…hell tell me if it is east or west of the Mississippi), and yet another was against Tulsa, which you best believe is clearly the best 99th ranked team there ever was.

Meanwhile Houston hasn’t exactly taken down a murder’s row, as they have three victories over 100+ teams, and one against….Tulsa.

Houston quarterback D’Eriq King has a remarkable 23-3 touchdown to interception ratio this season, in addition to his 9 rushing touchdowns. South Florida started 7-0 before losing to Houston last season, history repeats itself.

Houston 37 South Florida 24

ATS – Houston

SU – Houston

Florida vs. Georgia -6.5

The winner in this game has the inside track to the SEC East title, which means they get drilled by Alabama in the SEC Championship Game instead of getting a head start on their Christmas shopping. But still, it just means more.

The Gators have won three of four in this series, which seems a bit odd considering the downturn of the Florida program lately, but did suffer a 42-7 defeat last year in a game that saw Gators quarterback Feleipe Franks complete 7/19 passes for 30 yards, an astounding 1.6 yards per attempt.

Florida has won five in a row since their loss to Kentucky. Those wins include unwatchable wins over ranked opponents Mississippi State and LSU (I sense a trend here), but their streak ends here.

Georgia 31 Florida 21

ATS – Georgia

SU – Georgia

Texas Tech @ Iowa State -3.5

Alan Bowman has been cleared to travel by airplane after traveling via car to Texas Tech’s game against TCU a couple weeks ago. Bowman returned to action last week against Kansas, throwing for 408 yards and three touchdowns (and an interception).

This offense seems a bit different from previous iterations of the Tech offense, as the Red Raiders have a streak of 100 yards rushing in four straight games. They did have a streak of 150 yards rushing going before only reaching 112 last week against the Jayhawks.

Perhaps the bigger story is the return of the improved Texas Tech defense that we saw at points last season. The defense that gave up a zillion yards and 47 points to Ole Miss in the season opener has now held three of their last four opponents to less than 20 points, which equates to ’85 Bears comparisons in the Big 12.

Speaking of defense, Iowa State has held four of their six opponents this year to 17 points or less, and I don’t see why that can’t continue against the Red Raiders, who did defeat Oklahoma State in Stillwater earlier this year but fell here 66-10 two years ago.

You can’t go against Iowa State in Ames until they show you otherwise.

Iowa State 31 Texas Tech 27

ATS – Iowa State

SU – Iowa State

Baylor @ West Virginia -14

It was this game in Waco last season that Charlie Brewer burst onto the scene, as the Lake Travis product (did Texas offer him? Anyone have Rod Gilmore’s number?) checked in on the very last play of the third quarter with the Bears down by 25 points.

Brewer proceeded to throw for 109 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for an additional 48 yards as he nearly led the comeback, scoring 23 straight points before eventually falling 38-36.

All of that is apropos of exactly nothing, but it does show you the danger of the back door cover.

Will Grier fell out of the Heisman race in his last outing against Iowa State, as West Virginia only tallied 152 total yards. While Baylor’s defense is improved (at least Texas fans hope it is), they are nowhere near that level, so expect Grier to bounce back.

West Virginia 28 Baylor 20

ATS – Baylor

SU – West Virginia

Texas -3.5 @ Oklahoma State

When Texas fell off starting in 2010, it was Oklahoma State who seemed to fill their void in the Big 12, as the Cowboys won more than 10 games six times during that span and won six bowl games.

Perhaps the universe is correcting itself, as the Longhorns stand at 6-1 with a realistic shot at the College Football Playoff, while Oklahoma State finds themselves at 4-3 but have lost two in a row and three out of their last four (they were double digit favorites in two of those losses). Their only conference win comes against Kansas in a game that saw the Jayhawks score 28 points, the most they have scored in conference play.

The issue with the Cowboys has been their defense, which has allowed 148 points in their last four games. They gave up more than 600 yards to Texas Tech, nearly 500 to an Iowa State team led by a true freshman quarterback and 291 yards rushing to Kansas State. The improved Oklahoma State defense of the recent past is no more. The one thing they do well is get after the quarterback, as they lead the nation in sacks with 30, so a priority must be protecting Sam Ehlinger.

Offensively, the Cowboys on the surface seem as prolific as they were in recent years, ranking 15th in the country in S&P+ offense. However there has been loud rumbling over the play of Senior quarterback Taylor Cornelius, who commits the crime of not being Mason Rudolph or Zach Robinson. Cornelius does show a propensity of throwing interceptions, as he has thrown eight in seven games.

This is a game that Texas can ill afford to drop, and as long as they bring their “A” game, which, let’s be honest, has been few and far between this season despite the record, they win going away.

Be physical, be smart and be efficient and the Longhorns can return home with a victory. Show rust and let the Cowboys gain some lost confidence, and all bets are off.

Texas 28 Oklahoma State 21

ATS – Texas

SU – Texas

For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for lots of Halloween candy that you hope goes unclaimed.