Last Week: 4-1-1 ATS 5-1 SU
For the Year: 19-16-1 (.543) ($100) ATS 23-13 (.639) SU
Quick Thoughts From Last Week…
Michigan and Iowa Bores the Nation, Wolverines Don’t Care: Neither one of these teams managed 300 yards of offense (Iowa was held to one rushing yard) and there were 15 punts as Michigan outlasted Iowa. The Hawkeyes’ Nate Stanley hadn’t thrown an interception all year – but then threw three in Ann Arbor, effectively ruining any chance Iowa had of winning the game.
You Take This Game, No You Take This Game: Auburn and Florida combined for eight turnovers and the teams combined to go 6 for 29 on third down…but it just means more. Oh and Florida won.
Good Iowa State, Bad TCU Shows Up: Iowa State jumped out to a 28-3 halftime lead and sat on that as Cyclones quarterback Brock Purdy had four total touchdowns and even chipped in 102 rushing yards.
OSU’s Mike Gundy Misses Game to Style Mullet: That is about the only explanation I have for how Oklahoma State can get walloped by a Texas Tech team that has looked below average thus far this season. Red Raiders quarterback Jett Duffey had five total touchdowns and 424 passing yards and the Cowboys had five turnovers, all contributing to the decisive win.
Baylor Has the Audacity to Play Defense in the Big 12: Not many picked Baylor to go into Manhattan and hand a very solid Wildcats squad a 19-point loss, but that is exactly what they did. The Bears did it with defense, sacking KSU quarterbacks six times, forcing two turnovers and holding KSU to 3.1 yards per carry and 6.4 yards per pass attempt.
Horns Muddle Through, Still Manage Easy Win: The game felt like a slugfest, and somehow the final score made it look closer than it actually was and easier than it actually was all at the same time. Sam Ehlinger was not his best but the Texas defense clamped down after a slow start and forced four Austin Kendall interceptions, on which the Horns scored 21 points. The game was ugly, but this is a game they lose in years past, and it never really felt like they were going to do that at any point on Saturday.
”When we lost the opener, I said this game will not define us. How we respond to it will. I told the team after the OU game this will not define us either.” – Tom Herman, after the 2018 TX/OU game.
Despite what he says above, Tom Herman knows that this game is all about definition.
The only trophy given out after the game on Saturday will be the Golden Hat, so Herman was absolutely correct in that a win in this game means nothing if you give away all that progress the following week. But a Texas win on Saturday gives them the inside path to the Big 12 Championship game (where they would likely meet OU again), it would give them a nice feather in the recruiting cap, and would also launch them into the conversation about the contenders for the college football playoff.
Lose, and well, there is always next year.
This game won’t define this season, but it sure as hell can shape it.
The oddsmakers don’t give Texas much of a chance in this one, but then, we’ve been there before. Case certainly meant to cause a big scene in 2013, D’Onta did the same in 2015 and Sam sure as hell did last year when Kyler took his L.
Everyone is mightily impressed by those wins over a Houston team that already has shown they are willing to quit, one of those Dakota teams that I’m not even going to waste the bandwidth Googling, and UCLA, who lost to lowly Oregon State last week.
They started conference play two weeks ago and drew perhaps the two most hapless teams in the conference, Texas Tech and Kansas, to start with and proceeded to stomp a disinterested Red Raiders team and struggled for about 20 minutes of game against the Jayhawks.
Recent history says they are good. Damn good. Lincoln Riley is, after all, the second coming of Bill Belichick and Bill Walsh and Jimmy Johnson all rolled into one. But we really don’t know how good yet this season.
Recently I read an article on Collin Johnson (welcome back, by the way) in The Athletic.
This passage really stuck out to me:
Time slows for Johnson as he stands on the sideline and watches Oklahoma line up in victory formation. After a kneel down, the Sooners swarm the area near midfield. As Johnson stews, he sees Oklahoma players don the Big 12 championship hats and jerseys that have appeared seemingly from nowhere. Johnson shifts his gaze to Sooners quarterback Kyler Murray, who is a week away from winning the Heisman Trophy. Within a second, a camera- and notepad-toting horde swallows Murray. He disappears, lost somewhere in the middle of that pulsating blob of humanity answering questions about the Big 12 title that Johnson so badly wanted to bring to Texas during his time there.
Minutes later, Johnson and Longhorns quarterback Sam Ehlinger sit on a golf cart in the bowels of AT&T Stadium as they wait to be shuttled from the locker room to postgame interviews. Sam looks at Collin and speaks.
“Bro, it’s my sole goal not to have this feeling again,” he said.
Some days it doesn’t matter what the guys in the desert or Sal on his mom’s couch in Philadelphia or Shannon Sharpe or your mom’s cousin think about what should happen.
Sometimes, you have to make the unthinkable happen.
Go win it, Sam.
USC @ Notre Dame -11:
The Irish have won two in a row and three out of the last four in this storied series, but it isn’t always easy, as last year a 5-6 USC team was narrowly defeated by 11-0 Notre Dame by a score of 24-17.
The Trojans have been a tale of two (or three) cities this year, racking up a 3-0 record at home while slipping to 0-2 on the road two weeks ago with an ugly road loss at Washington. Meanwhile, the Irish have won 14 straight home games by an average margin of victory of 22 points.
USC’s receivers might make a play or two, but Notre Dame is just too explosive (they lead the country in percentage of passing plays going for 20 or more yards at 19.7%) for USC to keep up with at this time.
Notre Dame 37 USC 23
ATS – Notre Dame
SU – Notre Dame
Alabama -17 @ Texas A&M:
If you are like me, you very much enjoyed the crew for ESPN’s College Gameday absolutely railing on Texas A&M and their supposed home field advantage at Kyle Field.
With their loss to Auburn a couple of weeks ago, the Aggies are now 5-11 at Kyle Field against ranked teams since their move to the SEC in 2012. But it isn’t just ranked teams the Aggies lose to, they’ve also lost five games to unranked teams in that timeframe.
Their record against ranked opponents won’t improve this week, either, as the #1 ranked Crimson Tide of Alabama roll into town. Alabama’s offense is currently ranked #2 in S&P+, but their defense has slipped this year, falling all the way to (gasp) 11th as injuries have forced some youthful players to get prominent roles.
The Crimson Tide have won six in a row in this series since the famous Johnny Manziel victory in Tuscaloosa, and most of them have not been close, with an average margin of defeat of 25 points.
I don’t see much of that changing.
Alabama 45 Texas A&M 24
ATS – Alabama
SU – Alabama
Florida @ LSU -13:
The Gators have searched high and low for national respect, and finally thought they achieved it last week with their win over fellow Top 10 opponent Auburn, but then Sunday morning they woke up to the news that they were going to be two touchdown underdogs at LSU.
LSU quarterback Joe Burrow has 22 touchdowns in five games as the Tigers have scored at least 42 points in each contest this season. But if there is a defense out there than can stop the LSU offense it very well could be Florida, who ranks #5 in S&P+ defense and have only allowed 7 points in the fourth quarter all season.
A little closer than most think, but LSU gets the victory.
LSU 27 Florida 21
ATS – Florida
SU – LSU
Iowa State –10 @ West Virginia:
Two things stick out to me here. One, Iowa State might be rounding into the team we thought they might be with their dismantling of TCU last week. Two, it remains to be seen if West Virginia can rebound after such a devasting loss in their one-sided rivalry game with Texas.
The Cyclones, who are 8-0 in October the last three seasons, defeated the Mountaineers handedly in Ames, 30-14. ISU had nearly 500 yards of offense while West Virginia had 152. That doesn’t have much to do with Saturday’s contest as multiple stakeholders are gone on both sides, but Iowa State is the better team here.
Iowa State 24 West Virginia 17
ATS – West Virginia
SU – Iowa State
Texas Tech @ Baylor -10.5:
Insert “who knows” emoji here.
Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer should be good to go after taking a shot to the head against Kansas State last week. Brewer has thrown for 1,200 yards, 11 touchdowns and has no interceptions this year, so that is obviously huge for him to be able to return.
This series has been crazy in recent years, with Baylor winning six of the last eight, including last year’s 35-24 victory at AT&T Stadium. The scoring totals in that time period: 108, 97, 97, 94, 98, 87, 62, 59
However, as stated earlier in the column Baylor has the nation’s 20th ranked S&P+ defense. Now most of those stats were earned against six-man Texas high schools that Baylor schedules, but they were able to shut down Iowa State (for three quarters) and Kansas State the last two weeks.
Baylor 31 Texas Tech 28
ATS – Texas Tech
SU – Baylor
Texas vs. Oklahoma -11 (Dallas, TX)
In the games played in the Cotton Bowl in this series (that’s how we must qualify it now), it has been even the last six years, which is remarkable considering that Oklahoma has a yearly invitation to the College Football Playoff and Texas has been, well, let’s just say we were celebrating bowl eligibility two Novembers ago.
The last five games in this series have been decided by a touchdown or less, and neither team has won by two scores since 2012.
While Texas was in a dogfight with LSU (possibly the best team in the country if they defeat LSU Saturday night) and going on the road in the always hostile environment of West Virginia, Oklahoma was defeating opponents who had a combined win/loss record of 10-17.
I’m not faulting the Sooners for their schedule making, after all Houston did defeat them a couple years back and UCLA usually isn’t a cellar dweller, but there are serious questions about how well tested this team is, especially with the injuries they have sustained on the offensive line. What is their conditioning like? They haven’t had to play more than half a game of football all season…and of course we are well familiar with their Strength and Conditioning coach Bennie Wylie.
Then there is the fact that the Sooners are averaging 91 penalty yards per game, the third highest total in the FBS. Those penalties might not matter against North/South Dakota, but they will be huge in a one score game in the fourth quarter.
And I’m just going to throw this out there – and you are free to bring it up next week and for years to come if it turns out to be a premonition, but if it turns into a big fail it will be deleted at 2:30 CDT Saturday afternoon – take a look at Jalen Hurts’s stats in big games.
It’s not that good, buddy.
In three appearances in Iron Bowls, he averaged 5.3 yards per pass attempt, throwing four touchdowns to two interceptions. In SEC Championship Games, he threw for 220 yards in two appearances and a 7.6 ypa. And in playoff games and national title game appearances, he averaged a paltry 4.3 ypa and of course was pulled at halftime against Georgia two years ago.
Obviously we’re talking about a Lincoln Riley offense versus a Lane Kiffin/Brian Daboll/Michael Locksley offense, but until you see it against a formidable opponent, it is a valid question.
That having been said, Texas has been porous on defense this season, and that was before half of the secondary was injured – this offense must come to play, and they must be the better unit on the field Saturday, or this team doesn’t stand a chance.
They simply can’t blink like they did against LSU.
And they won’t.
Sam Ehlinger was made for this game. He has thrown for 941 yards (8.6 ypa) in three career games against Oklahoma, in this stadium and the other one, while tossing five touchdown passes and rushing for six more (he has a rushing touchdown in every game against Oklahoma in his career).
Go win it, Sam? Of course he will.
Texas 41 Oklahoma 37
ATS – Texas
SU – Texas
For entertainment purposes only. Do me a favor and save your money for a beer in a wax paper cup for my dad, a huge Longhorn fan who would have been 72 on Saturday. He died in 2013 and I’ll go to my grave believing that he delivered the win in the fabled Cotton Bowl that year.