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The Week That Will Be: Coming Home

With the Big 12 Championship still in sight, the Horns return home for a big one.

Texas v Oklahoma State Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Last Week: 4-2 ATS 5-1 SU

For the Year: 21-32-1 (.396) (-$1,320) ATS 38-16 (.704) SU

We learned last week…

  • In a game that featured a defensive end scoring on a touchdown pass and the home team giving up four points while punting, like clockwork Penn State beats Iowa in a close game.

  • Houston quarterback D’Eriq King’s day in their win over South Florida: 551 total yards, 7 touchdowns.

  • Georgia ended up running away with the World’s Largest Cocktail Party, but it could have been worse as they ended up settling for three field goals of 22 yards or less.

  • In another weird game, Texas Tech’s loss to Iowa State featured a block punt for a touchdown, a fumble recovery for a touchdown, a weird safety from Red Raiders quarterback Alan Bowman to go with a pick six and 10 penalties committed by Texas Tech. Weird things happen in Lubbock Ames.

  • If you happened to miss the West Virginia/Baylor game, you might get the gist of the game by learning that Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer started the game completing 1 of 8 passes for 22 yards and three interceptions.

  • And finally, again, if somehow you missed the Texas/Oklahoma State game and happen to have it on DVR, waiting for a rainy night, just know that the Cowboys had 378 yards in the first half to the Longhorns’ 174. Watch at your own risk.

There has been one repeating theme of Tom Herman’s press gathering this season: Our best is good enough.

Unfortunately for Herman and the Longhorns, the first half in Stillwater was as far from their best as they can get.

And that thirty minutes of football cost them a shot at a national championship.

Was Texas going to run the table, defeat Oklahoma again and upset Alabama and Clemson or Notre Dame or Georgia to win the title? I don’t think even the most optimistic Texas fan thought that was a possibility.

But it was possible. Until Saturday night.

The Longhorns didn’t lose their most realistic goals in Stillwater – a Big 12 title appearance is still in the mix – but the road became a lot more weathered, the margin for error became razor thin.

Three teams (Texas, Oklahoma and Saturday’s opponent West Virginia) are now tied for first place in the conference with one loss each. Iowa State can make the title game if they win the remainder of their games. Texas Tech can get in by winning out and getting some help (namely an Iowa State loss).

Texas could possibly even get in with another loss – but that loss had better not be this Saturday. If they should finish tied with West Virginia at the end of the regular season, the easiest tiebreaker is always head-to-head, so of course the easiest solution is just to take care of that when you can – especially at home, where you haven’t dropped a game all year.

So what happened on Saturday? A few different reasons come to mind.

A shocking lack of focus from upperclassman leaders. For three guys to be suspended the week of a huge conference matchup shows that some complacency had set in – I highly doubt this was the first that these guys had been late to team functions – Tom Herman was forced to act, and you can certainly argue that it was the leading reason why the Horns came up short.

This team is good, and has much more talent that in recent years – but the talent isn’t there to simply plug and play like some other major programs can do right now. Next year and the year after? Sure. But when you go from senior to true freshman – there is going to be a drop-off.

Every player that plays at the University of Texas has to learn when they step on campus – and far too many learn it the hard way – that everyone brings their A game against Texas.

The same team that two weeks ago slept through a game in Manhattan, only gaining 311 total yards all game, showed up Saturday night with a purpose – to knock Texas off their pedestal. And they did.

Everyone, from Kansas to Maryland to Oklahoma to Baylor to Oklahoma State to Kansas State, circles this game on the calendar when it becomes available, and if you don’t bring the same intensity, if you don’t bring the same fight, then you are going to be scrambling to come out on top.

This program was good enough to win games like that when Colt and Vince were here.

Not so much right now.

But much like we said after the Oklahoma game, last week was last week, and now the Horns must focus on the more attainable goal – their first conference championship in 9 years.

It will not be an easy road at all – but play your best and we’ve already seen what can happen.

Texas A&M @ Auburn -4

The Aggies were rolling along in Jimbo Fisher’s first year, winning games against ranked opponents (Kentucky), and losing respectable games (two points against Clemson, the closest game against Alabama all year), then came last week in Starkville, Mississippi, where they made Nick Fitzgerald look good again (241 yards passing and two touchdowns). That loss drops them to 5-3, with games against Auburn (15th in S&P rankings), Ole Miss (46), an underrated matchup with UAB (45) and LSU (13).

They could be staring at 7-5 or worse.

Worse than that record is their 8-17 record against the SEC West going back to 2014, which includes two losses against Auburn, including 42-27 last year in College Station.

Auburn has problems of their own, as they sit at 5-3 with games against Georgia and Alabama still left on their schedule and a coach they probably want to fire but he did too well in the past and now has an unbelievable buyout (isn’t America grand).

With home-field advantage (by the way this is Texas A&M’s last road game of the year), and a defense that still plays very well against a suddenly declining Kellen Mond, I don’t see the Aggies getting out there with a win.

Auburn 24 Texas A&M 21

ATS – Texas A&M

SU – Auburn

Penn State @ Michigan -10.5

You have to wonder what Penn State has in the tank for this one, as they have been in a dog fight three straight weeks, winning against Iowa and Indiana and dropping one to Michigan State. Before that, they also had tight games against Ohio State (a loss) and Appalachian State (an overtime win), so either they are battle-tested, worn out, not very good or all of these things.

Meanwhile Michigan is coming off a bye week, but before that it was week five since they were in a tight game, winning by three at Northwestern.

The Nitanny Lions haven’t won in Ann Arbor since 2009, but they did hand Michigan a beating last year, 42-13 in State College. Trace McSorley had four touchdowns in that game, and now this season has 21 total touchdowns on the year.

But Michigan certainly has the defense to contain McSorley and force the rest of the Penn State squad to beat them. The Wolverines have astoundingly held half of their opponents to less than 100 yards passing and haven’t allowed more than 21 points in more than two months.

You don’t hear much about them, but Penn State has a solid defense themselves, as their 15th S&P pass defense ranking shows that they have a defense capable of slowing down Shea Patterson and make it a ball game.

Michigan 28 Penn State 23

ATS – Penn State

SU – Michigan

Georgia -9.5 @ Kentucky

This will be the 72nd meeting between these two teams, and this is only the third time that both teams will be ranked (1946 & 2007), as Kentucky is off to their best start since 1977.

They are doing it the old fashioned way, with stout defense (They have yet to give up more than 20 points in any game this year) and the running game (averaging 214 yards per game).

They will have their hands full with a Georgia team that is averaging 38 points per game. Jacob Fromm had a bounce back game last week against Florida, but he now faces a Kentucky defense that has only given up 6 touchdown passes all season.

The Bulldogs get to 20 points and beyond.

Georgia 31 Kentucky 20

ATS – Georgia

SU – Georgia

Alabama -14.5 @ LSU

For all the hype that this game gets, Alabama has won the last seven in a row in this series. LSU last win was that 9-6 debacle way back in 2011, and since then have only scored 73 total points in this series.

In fact, LSU hasn’t scored more than 24 points in a game against Alabama 2007, Nick Saban’s first year in Tuscaloosa.

In really unfair news, the fact that Alabama now has the second best offense in the country seems unfair, but this is the world we live in. The Tide have failed to score 50 points in game only twice, against Missouri (when they scored 49) and against Texas A&M, when they put up 45. Their defense isn’t as strong as it was in recent years, but the still only give up 16 points per game, just slightly behind LSU’s 15 points per game.

The Tigers will hang around a bit, but they generally don’t have the firepower to keep up with the new & improved Tide.

Alabama 38 LSU 17

ATS – Alabama

SU – Alabama

Oklahoma -13.5 @ Texas Tech

These two like to play some high scoring games, as they have combined for 571 points in the last 8 meetings, including last year’s 49-27 Oklahoma victory in Norman.

Leading the Oklahoma Sooners onto the field will be Kyler Murray, who is averaging more than a yard and a half more yards per attempt than last year’s Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield. Murray has also accounted for seven more touchdowns.

This will be a battle of trends, however, as Texas Tech is 1-11 SU in their last 12 games at home against teams with a winning record but Oklahoma is 0-6 AST as at least a 10.5 point favorite on the road since 2016.

Tech gives them a battle.

Oklahoma 45 Texas Tech 38

ATS – Texas Tech

SU – Oklahoma

West Virginia @ Texas -1.5

Much has been made this week about the West Virginia defense, which leads the Big 12 in scoring defense (19.6 points per game), and rightfully so after totaling 12 tackles for loss and five sacks against Baylor last week.

While it is true that they rank in the top third of the conference in most defensive categories, it is also important to point out that they have yet to face Texas, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, three teams that can score on any given Saturday. The best offense they faced has been Texas Tech, and while they held them in check for much of the afternoon, they also faced third-string quarterback Jett Duffey for most of the game after Alan Bowman was injured.

Tech also put up 24 points in the second half of that game.

Solid, but not great defense.

On offense, it is the Will Grier Experience, guest starring a talented receiving corps that can run laps around the crew at Oklahoma State. Texas must get better quickly on that side of the ball or they’ll be staring at their second straight loss.

With TCU, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma remaining on the schedule, West Virginia looks at this game as a must win as much as the Longhorns.

But they won’t get it here. The home crowd puts Texas over the top.

Texas 31 West Virginia 24

ATS – Texas

SU – Texas

For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for post-Halloween candy sales.