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The Week That Will Be: Fortress of Solitude

The Horns go into the bye week needing to find themselves before the stretch run.

NCAA Football: Texas at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Last Week: 1-5 ATS 3-3 SU

For the Year: 26-27-1 (.491) (-$370) ATS 36-18 (.667) SU

Quick Thoughts From Last Week…

Notre Dame to Remove “Fighting” From Name After Michigan Game: The Wolverines rushed for 303 yards and enjoyed thrashing the Irish with a flair, still throwing into the endzone up by multiple scores in the fourth quarter. Notre Dame, who didn’t even manage 100 yards of offense until the game was well in hand, probably finds itself out of the New Year’s Six bowl selections now, which is just as well as they are 0-6 in those bowl games in recent history.

LSU Keeps Going: Another week, another impressive win for LSU as Joe Burrow threw for 321 yards and accounted for two touchdowns, but this one can be credited to a LSU defense that held Auburn to less than 300 total yards and just five first downs. LSU will be seeking their fourth victory over a Top-10 opponent in Tuscaloosa in two weeks after a much-needed bye week for the Tigers.

Ohio State Bludgeons Wisconsin: Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins outrushed Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor 167 yards to 52 yards (6.7 yards per carry vs. 2.6 ypc) as the Buckeyes won their eighth game of the season by at least 24 points. The Badgers were held to less than 200 total offensive yards in the game.

Weird Big12 Weekend Exhibit A: Oklahoma State intercepted Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy three times on their last four drives as the Cowboys pulled off the upset in Ames. How Oklahoma State gets its doors blown off by Texas Tech and looks largely uncompetitive against Baylor and then defeats the Cyclones in one of the Big 12’s toughest venues I do not know, but Mike Gundy and the Cowboys are now 8-3 in their last 11 games against ranked teams.

Weird Big12 Weekend Exhibit B: Kansas State quarterback Skylar Thompson rushed for four touchdowns as the Wildcats held on for dear life and pulled out a victory after nearly surrendering a 25-point fourth quarter lead against Oklahoma, their first win over a Top-5 team since their defeat of Texas in 2006. The 48 points put up by Kansas State were the most given up by Oklahoma in the AP Poll era to an unranked team. The loss dealt Oklahoma’s playoff hopes a huge blow, but it is the Sooners so you know things will work out for them like they always do.

Weird Big12 Weekend Exhibit C: It isn’t so weird that Texas lost to TCU (after all the spread was less than two points), it was weird that Max Duggan looked like the Junior (former) Heisman candidate (273 yards passing, 10.1 yards per attempt, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception) and Sam Ehlinger looked like the true freshman (321 yards but 6.7 yards per attempt, 2 touchdowns, 4 interceptions).

After the final whistle blew and the wheels officially came off the bus that is the 2019 Texas Longhorns season, after TCU students inexplicably rushed the field after beating a three-loss team, but before Gary Patterson inexplicably tried to play the “Us Against the World” card in the press room afterwards when his team entered the game as just a shade over 1 point underdogs, Texas players filed off the field at Amon Carter Stadium with long faces and longer stares.

Fort Worth might as well have been on the other side of the world from New Orleans, the site where Texas declared themselves “back” (whatever that means).

The Longhorns took a 17-13 lead to the halftime break, but seemingly they were in control of the game. They had some crucial mistakes in the first half that prevented them from scoring despite outstanding field position, but you felt like that would balance itself out in the second half.

The second half line out of Vegas was a pick ‘em. Easy money, right?

The Horned Frogs proceeded to score 24 points in the second half. They had scored 41 points in the last two games combined.

And now the Longhorns’ season hangs on the precipice of disaster.

Or has already fallen down that pit depending on your definition of disaster.

It has become quite apparent over the last two seasons that this team goes as Sam Ehlinger goes – when he is on, they can beat Oklahoma and Georgia – but if he’s not, they can get drilled by Oklahoma (twice), lose to a 4-3 Oklahoma State team as the #6 team in the country and lose to one of the worst Gary Patterson squads in his tenure at TCU.

Is it fair? Of course not. Ehlinger shouldn’t have to be Superman for a team of 3, 4, 5-star recruits to win games against teams with a pulse. But, as I have said many times over the past decade, great quarterback play covers up a lot of inefficiencies, and when you don’t get it, those inefficiencies tend to show themselves like a bad case of acne on prom night.

It is hard to label this season anything other than a regression at this point. Perhaps our expectations were too high of a defense that lost eight starters and lost about eight more to injury in the first month of the season.

But how many of those defenders on the other side of the ball Saturday afternoon were even recruited by Texas? How many TCU defenders are ever recruited by Texas?

And they consistently have the best defense in the conference, year after year.

It is the bye week and then the home stretch for Texas. It is expected that most of the defensive players that have missed some time will be back for the Kansas State game in 10 days, so that side of the ball will be the healthiest it has been in two months – it will be time to put up or shut up.

Because despite the loss, there is still a path back to the Big 12 Championship Game for Texas, and it really isn’t that far-fetched.

Texas needs to win out. For this scenario and for our sanity.

Baylor and TCU both need to drop another one. Both still have Oklahoma to play, and they play each other next weekend.

Of course, there is always the possibility of three or four-way ties, but those make my head hurt so let’s cross that bridge when we get to it.

So snap out of your depression and buckle up, Texas fans. You have already had enough liquor in the last week to make a country music singer jealous, so enjoy the bye week, and prepare to get sucked back in next week, because we are sports fans and we actually kind of enjoy the pain.

We can only hope that we will see more Superman and less Clark Kent.

And wouldn’t it be great if the rest of the Justice League would show up as well.

Utah -3.5 @ Washington:

We can only hope that this is a better game than last year’s Pac-12 Championship, a game in which Washington emerged a 10-3 victor, a game that only Frank Beamer could enjoy.

Utah lost to USC on September 20th by a score of 30-23 in Los Angeles. Since then the Utes are 4-0 and are outscoring their opponents 146-23 in that time period. Last week they held Cal to 83 total yards, and held Arizona State to 136 two weeks ago.

In fact, Utah has only given up 82 points all year. Pull out that victory against USC and they would be forcing themselves into playoff consideration.

Meanwhile Washington has been inconsistent on offense, ringing up only 63 points in their three losses. Jacob Eason hasn’t thrown for as much as 300 yards since the season opener, and I’m not sure they are going to get better against this defense.

Utah 31 Washington 21

ATS – Utah

SU – Utah

Oregon -5 @ USC:

Oregon is 7-0 since their season opening loss to Auburn, and if they get past this one, only the Arizona schools and Oregon State stand in their way of a 11-1 regular season, where they would have a date with either USC or Utah.

The Trojans are 4-0 home this season and 23-3 in their last 26 games in the Coliseum but are coming off a comeback win over Colorado last Friday night, a game in which Kedon Slovis threw for more than 400 yards and 4 touchdowns.

This figures to be a showcase for Slovis and Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert, who hasn’t been throwing up big yardage games but owns a 21/1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. That will work any day of the week.

Oregon has looked a bit shaky the past couple of weeks, needing a double digit comeback against Washington two weeks ago and then needing a last-second field goal against a down Washington State team last week. USC, meanwhile, did have to come back against Colorado, but drilled Arizona the week before that and took Notre Dame down to the wire in South Bend earlier this month.

I think the Trojans end the Ducks win streak in a mild upset.

USC 34 Oregon 27



SMU @ Memphis -6:

American Athletic Conference football goes primetime this week as SMU visits Memphis with College Gameday in attendance and ABC broadcasting nationally. SMU comes into this game with an 8-0 mark and ranked 15th in the country, while Memphis is a two-point loss to Temple from being undefeated and ranked 24th in the country.

These two teams are very similar.

SMU is riding the arm of Shane Buechele, who has thrown for 2,325 yards and 20 touchdowns to 7 interceptions, but Memphis quarterback Brady White has put up similar numbers, throwing for 2,161 yards with 20 touchdowns to 4 interceptions.

The Mustangs feature senior running back Xavier Jones, who has rushed for 100 yards in four straight games and has accumulated 884 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on the season. Memphis has the country’s leader in yards from scrimmage, freshman Kenneth Gainwell (what a name), who has rushed for 979 yards and 11 touchdowns but has also added 34 receptions for 440 yards and 3 touchdowns to his ledger thus far this season.

Both feature decent defenses, as the Tigers had yet to give up more than 33 points in a single game this season until Tulsa (!?) rang up 41 last week. Meanwhile, SMU’s 36 sacks rank second in the nation and yet to give up more than 31 points to a Group of Five in regulation play this year.

Memphis has won the last five in this series, including 28-18 last year in Dallas. While SMU has enjoyed a magical ride, Memphis hasn’t lost to an opponent not named Central Florida at home since 2016 – I think the Tigers will be too much for the Mustangs here.

Memphis 34 SMU 24

ATS – Memphis

SU – Memphis

Florida vs. Georgia -6.5 (Jacksonville, FL):

Unless you consider the Missouri Tigers an actual threat, the winner of this game takes a commanding lead in the SEC East. This game hasn’t been easy for Florida in recent memory, as the Bulldogs have won two straight by a cumulative score of 78-24.

Florida enjoyed a bye week last week after a stretch that included Auburn, LSU and a scrappy South Carolina squad (just ask Georgia). Manvel’s Kyle Trask replaced Feleipe Franks, who was lost to injury early in the season, and has done an admirable job, completing passes at a 8.2 yards per attempt rate with 14 touchdown passes.

Meanwhile if you gave Kirby Smart some truth serum and asked him if he made the right decision in keeping Jake Fromm over Justin Fields, I think we all know the answer to that. Fromm has been very pedestrian all season, throwing for only 1,406 yards in 7 games and a miniscule 9 touchdowns. As always, Fromm can lean on the Georgia running game, as running back D’Andre Swift is coming off a 179-yard, two touchdown performance against Kentucky in his last outing.

Something has to give while Georgia is on offense, as the Bulldogs offensive line has only allowed four sacks all season, tying them with Air Force for the fewest allowed, while Florida is 9th in the country in sacks with 29.

There has to be some question as to how good Georgia actually is, as their best victory this year is over Notre Dame, a win that is looking much less impressive after the Irish’s meltdown in Ann Arbor last week. That is the lone ranked opponent they have faced this season.

Both of these teams have great defenses and suspect offenses, so I would expect a low scoring, close ballgame.

Georgia 24 Florida 20

ATS – Florida

SU – Georgia

TCU @ Oklahoma State -3:

Both of these teams are not quite out of the running for the Big 12 Championship game after their wins in the conference last week.

This is a very evenly matched game, as Oklahoma State ranked 27th in the overall S&P+ rankings while TCU ranks 28th. In some ways they have been very similar, taking their lumps with a freshman quarterback in hopes that it pays off down the line.

Insert “shrug” emoji here, but when teams are this even, I’ll take the home team with the best player on the field (Chuba Hubbard).

Oklahoma State 35 TCU 28

ATS – Oklahoma State

SU – Oklahoma State

West Virginia @ Baylor -18 (Thursday):

It is a tale of two seasons for the West Virginia Mountaineers, who defeated these Baylor Bears 58-14 in Morgantown a year ago, rolling up 568 yards in the process (outgaining Baylor by 300 yards in the process. But this season, they enter the game with a three-game losing streak and it might take them 2-3 games to roll up 568 yards.

These Baylor Bears are a lot different as well, as they bring the nation’s 25th best defense into this one (according to S&P+). In accordance with that, they lead the Big 12 in sacks (25) and turnover margin (+6).

Charlie Brewer has enjoyed a fine junior season for Baylor, racking up 18 total touchdowns and only tossing three interceptions.

I just haven’t seen enough fight out of West Virginia to think they’ll be much more than a speed bump in Baylor’s way.

Baylor 38 West Virginia 17

ATS – Baylor

SU – Baylor

For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for Cheez-It Bowl tickets.