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The Week That Will Be: One Last Time

It’s Senior Night at DKR with a Big 12 title on the line. Are you not entertained?

Texas v Texas Tech Photo by John Weast/Getty Images

Last Week: 4-1-1 ATS 6-0 SU

For the Year: 28-35-3 (.444) (-$1,010) ATS 49-16 (.754) SU

We learned last week…

  • No Ian Book, no problem for Notre Dame, who proceeded to rush for 365 yards in a rout of Florida State, who was allowing just 2.8 yards per rush coming into the game. The Seminoles’ 36-year bowl streak is in serious jeopardy.

  • Tua Tagovailoa had his worst game as starting quarterback for the Crimson Tide (14-of-21 for 164 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception) and was sacked four times, but it didn’t matter a bit as Alabama notched another shutout, the first time since 1980 that they shut out an opponent in successive weeks.

  • Boston College quarterback Anthony Brown left six snaps into the game and that was it for the Eagles against Clemson. The Tigers defense held them to 113 total yards (2 yards per play) and allowed them to convert only 3 of 16 third downs.

  • Iowa State won their fifth straight Big 12 contest for the first time in school history. Baylor has to be kicking themselves, however, as they only scored on two of seven trips into the red zone.

  • Everyone liked to say that Mike Stoops was the only obstacle between Oklahoma and the ’85 Chicago Bears defense, but the Sooners allowed 1,113 total yards and 93 points in their last contests, both victories, against Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. The Bedlam game saw a total of 1,342 yards (850 of those through the air) for both teams.

  • And NOW Sam Ehlinger holds the Big 12 record for consecutive passes without an interception. And Texas fans are being reminded of an old adage this season – a good quarterback covers up a lot of warts.

Saturday night will be the final home game for a number of seniors – most of them members of Charlie Strong’s first complete recruiting class, the ones that started their own Longhorn meme.

We’re getting errrbody.

I remember driving to work one December morning when Malik Jefferson announced his commitment to Texas, and immediately unleashing a flurry of Tiger Woods-esque fist pumps that no doubt entertained the fellow denizens making their way on the same roadways.

The 2015 signing class included some stars (Jefferson, DeShon Elliott), some busts (DeAndre McNeal, Ryan Newsome), some bowl game MVPs (Michael Dickson), some NFL draft picks (Elliott, Connor Williams, Dickson), some guys who didn’t make it through a week of practices (Cecil Cherry), a guy who led his UTEP Miners to their first victory in 20 games a couple weeks back (Kai Locksley), some undrafted NFL starters (Holton Hill), a guy from Last Chance U before there was a Last Chance U (Brandon Hodges) and almost included a Michigan tight end as a quarterback (Zach Gentry).

But in all seriousness, what that recruiting class did provide is a bridge to the next era of greatness at Texas.

They won’t be remembered for the trophies to be delivered to Texas (although that one is still in the air), nor will they be remembered fondly for the winning tradition. But what they will be remembered for is surviving administrative chaos – multiple Athletic Directors, multiple head coaches, multiple coordinators, too many position coaches to count – to contribute to a team that expects to contend again.

Many of them started from day one in South Bend or forced their way onto the depth chart soon thereafter. Some of that was a freshman making a quick impact, while some of that was necessity due to attrition.

But they played nonetheless.

For that, and because of the losing that permeated the program, some of these guys likely won’t hold fond memories in the minds of Longhorn fans. But we should remember that these guys could have transferred out – or been forced out by two head coaches trying to instill winning discipline into the program – but they stuck it out and chose to be a Longhorn for life – and for that, I salute them.

With that, I issue one more challenge to the 2015 Texas Longhorns recruiting class: go out winners.

For most of this decade, Senior Night has encapsulated a Longhorn program that has meandered through the college football abyss for several years now.

Take a look at this:

2017: Texas Tech L 27-23

2016: TCU L 31-9

2015: Texas Tech L 48-45

2014: TCU L 48-10

2013: Texas Tech W 41-16

2012: TCU L 20-13

2011: Kansas St. L 17-13

2010: Texas A&M L 24-17

That’s not Texas football.

Play for the championship – if Oklahoma State beats West Virginia on Saturday afternoon, the winner of this game is in the Big 12 championship, providing that they take care of business the last week of the season against some of the conference’s worst teams.

Play for the program, a program that extended you the opportunity to play the best game in the world for four years and get a world class education all at the same time.

Play for your brothers, a band that has stuck together through thick and thin, through blowouts in South Bend to exhilarating victories in Morgantown.

But most of all, play for yourself. Go out and prove to yourself that you can do what you came to Texas to do – win.

One more time at DKR.

Be humble. Be hungry. And let’s bring it home.

Cincinnati @ Central Florida -7.5

Central Florida has now won 22 ball games in a row by an average margin of victory of 23 points, and even if you think their claim to a title last year was somewhat ridiculous, you can’t deny the impressiveness of that event in this day and age.

ESPN’s College Gameday is coming to town for this one, which tells you about the gravitas that the Knights hold these days, although Cincinnati is having quite the impressive season themselves, with a lone loss to Temple the only blemish on their record.

The Bearcats have the defense (19th in defensive S&P+) to contain Central Florida’s potent offense (4th in S&P+ offense). They’ve held every opponent since week 4 to 24 points or less, but that will certainly be tested against a Knights offense that hasn’t scored less than 31 points all season.

If Cincinnati is going to pull off the upset, running back Michael Warren will have to be the man. He’s rushed for more than 1,000 yards already this season and has tallied 17 touchdowns.

But when a team has won 22 in a row, you have to roll with them until they crap out.

Central Florida 41 Cincinnati 23

ATS – Central Florida

SU – Central Florida

Stanford -2 @ Cal

Cal has had an uprising this year under second-year head coach Justin Wilcox, who has given the Golden Bears a shot at eight wins, a mark that they have only reached once this decade.

Eight also happens to be the amount of games Stanford has won in a row in this series. The Cardinal sit at an identical 6-4 record on the season, but they are quite disappointed in their season that started at 13th in the pre-season rankings.

While injuries have pretty much quashed the season of pre-season Heisman favorite Bryce Love (580 yards and 5 touchdowns this season), quarterback K.J. Costello has helped pick up the slack, throwing for 2,854 yards and 23 touchdowns and leading the conference in passing efficiency.

Cal has been getting it done on defense (they’ve only allowed an astounding 12.5 points per game their last four), but that offense…woof. They’ve scored less than 20 points in 5 of their last games, that usually doesn’t get it done against Stanford.

Stanford 28 Cal 17

ATS – Stanford

SU – Stanford

Syracuse vs. Notre Dame -10.5 (Yankee Stadium)

After consecutive 4-8 seasons, year three of the Dino Babers era at Syracuse finds the Orange sitting at 8-2 and currently sitting 12th in the polls. Syracuse hasn’t been to a bowl game since 2013, haven’t won as many as 8 games since 2012 and haven’t won more than 8 games since 2001 under Paul Pasqualoni since they won 10, including a 26-3 victory in the Insight Bowl over Ell Roberson, Josh Scobey and the Kansas State Wildcats.

The Cuse have won four games in a row, mainly due to the play of senior dual-threat quarterback Eric Dungey, who has thrown for more than 2,000 yards and rushed for nearly 700 while adding 26 total touchdowns.

Last week’s game against Florida State felt like a blast to the past for Notre Dame, who pulled out their 10th victory of the season. They now have consecutive 10-win seasons for the first time since they did it three times in a row from 1991-1993, when Lou Holtz strolled the sidelines and they regularly beat the Aggies in the Cotton Bowl.

This is probably Notre Dame’s last chance to trip up before the college football playoff, as they travel west next week to face fading USC. They’ll be focused.

Notre Dame 41 Syracuse 28

ATS – Notre Dame

SU – Notre Dame

TCU @ Baylor -1.5

This game is far removed from 2014 when #5 Baylor hosted #9 TCU, or even 2015, when #15 TCU hosted #7 Baylor. In fact, Baylor still needs one more victory for bowl eligibility (a nice feat one year removed from 1-11), while TCU needs road victories in this one and next week against Oklahoma State in order to avoid missing a bowl game for the first time since 2013.

The Horned Frogs have won three in a row in this series, including 45-22 last year in Fort Worth, but the 2017 TCU team and this year’s squad is like the difference between night and day. TCU is playing their usually solid defense, but their offense has been a mess for a multitude of reasons.

Baylor has managed to scrap together a decent season, even if they rank 100th in defensive S&P+ defense and only managed to score a total of 45 points in three very big conference games at Texas, West Virginia and Iowa State.

It certainly wouldn’t shock me if TCU came out and won a very ugly 17-14 game, but Baylor seems to have things together a little better at this point.

Baylor 30 TCU 23

ATS – Baylor

SU – Baylor

West Virginia -5.5 @ Oklahoma State

Do we really need to evaluate this one? Normally I have to research a team to see their strengths and weaknesses and random factoids and streaks and all (see the Syracuse/Notre Dame game above), but at this point of the season we know these teams.

West Virginia is a team that has a really good offense with a really good quarterback and some really good receivers, and a running back that was at least good against Texas.

Oklahoma State is a team that has a really good offense with a quarterback that was really good against Texas and Oklahoma and not very good against most other teams, so that tells you either he really likes to rise to the occasion or sample size comparisons can be really off base.

This will likely be game where both teams score 35 points or more and whichever quarterback plays the best, or whichever defense shows up for a series or two in the second half comes out on top.

Oklahoma State played spoiler against Texas and nearly did the same against Oklahoma, but they’ve now lost four out of five games despite how well they played during those two games. They’re due for a letdown after that emotional loss last weekend.

But judging by Mike Gundy, they don’t seem tight.

Oklahoma State 41 West Virginia 38

ATS – Oklahoma State

SU – Oklahoma State

Iowa State @ Texas -3

Who would have thought that this game would be a critical game in the Big 12 race when the schedule came out months ago? Not many – apparently least of all ESPN, who decided to air this game on the Longhorn Network and not the mothership network – which will instead show…Cincinnati?

As mentioned earlier, Iowa State is riding a five-game winning streak into this one, a streak that has seen them score at least 27 points in each game. This streak coincides with freshman quarterback Brock Purdy’s insertion into the starting lineup. If he had enough passing attempts on the year he would rank third in the country in passing efficiency behind only Tua Tagovailoa and Kyler Murray, completing 68% of his passes for 1,315 yards and 13 touchdowns, with an additional 311 rushing yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

His favorite target is 6’6” Hakeem Butler, who saw his streak of 100-yard games end at three against Baylor last week. He also failed to haul in a touchdown pass for the first time in four games. Butler caught five passes (two for touchdowns) and 174 yards against Oklahoma earlier this year, and racked up 148 against Texas Tech three weeks ago. He averages 22.7 yards per reception this season. He good.

They will both be missing junior running back David Montgomery, who will miss the first half on Saturday night after getting into a fight with a Baylor player. Montgomery certainly can claim to be the best running back in the conference, as he averages the second-most rushing yards this year and ran for 1,146 and 11 touchdowns last season. The dropoff from Montgomery is significant, as back-up Kene Nwangu has rushed for 121 yards on only 31 carries this season.

With Montgomery out, perhaps this is the third time in eleven games that Texas doesn’t allow an opponent to score on their opening drive.

The Cyclones are known for their defense, and for good reason as they currently sit at 26th in the S&P+ defensive rankings. They have only allowed three opponents to score more than 17 points this season – but they have had lapses (allowed 37 and 42 points to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State respectively) and did allow 500 total yards and 6 yards per play against Baylor last week, who had their trouble in the red zone, as noted above.

My question on Iowa State is how good are they away from Ames? Three of these five victories came on their home turf, and one came in Lawrence, so I’m not even sure that should count. They did manage to go into Stillwater and steal a win, but also traveled to Fort Worth and were only able to put up 17 points (pre-Purdy).

If you didn’t notice, and I am making sure you did, I picked the exact score last week, which might have been a first for this column. If the Longhorns don’t win this game, A.) they need to start scheduling their senior nights in a different stadium, and B.) they didn’t deserve the Big 12 title.

Texas 38 Iowa State 31

ATS – Texas

SU – Texas

For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for Okay Cool Hook ‘Em t-shirts.