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The Week That Will Be: Through the Looking Glass

It’s time to ask the right questions, Texas.

Texas v Rice
Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Last Week: 3-3 ATS 4-2 SU

For the Year: 34-36-2 (.486) (-$560) ATS 49-23 (.681) SU

Quick Thoughts From Last Week:

Minnesota: All This Winning is Weirding Us Out: The Golden Gophers magical run ended last week in Iowa City, as they fell behind 20-3 before mounting a comeback that came up just short. Minnesota will now have to beat Wisconsin next week if they want to play in the Big Ten Championship game, instead of man it would be really nice to beat Wisconsin.

Michigan State is Broken: The Spartans were outscored 144-27 this season against Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin after their worst loss since 2002 to Michigan on Saturday. Spartans coach Mark Dantonio had four career losses to Michigan by a total of 29 points – Saturday’s defeat was by 34 points. With their decline on the field and the scandals off of it, it might be time to move on from Dantonio.

Georgia is Texas With a Better Defense: According to Bud Elliott at Banner Society, the Bulldogs gained 230 yards on its three scoring drives against Auburn, but only gained 20 yards on its other 12 drives. Georgia jumped out to a 21-0 lead and that was all they needed, as Auburn could only muster 84 rushing yards on the day. The Tigers did manage to score the first rushing touchdown of the season on the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter.

TCU Wants That Cheez-It Bowl Rematch, Dammit: The Horned Frogs held the ball for 43 minutes and had a +2 turnover margin but still had to hold on for dear life to get the victory in Lubbock. TCU rushed out to a 24-3 lead on the heroics of Max Duggan, who ended with a career-high 323 yards passing and two touchdowns, but Texas Tech’s Jett Duffey nearly led the comeback, throwing for 333 yards and four touchdowns. TCU needs one more victory to get bowl eligibility, and with Oklahoma coming up this week that isn’t going to be it, (spoiler alert for my picks this week) but West Virginia visits Fort Worth for the final game of the year.

Speaking of Big Comebacks: Oh, Baylor. The Bears were up 28-3 and had dreams of making a big splash into the College Football Playoff rankings this week, however while they were dreaming, Oklahoma was the tortoise to Baylor’s hare and pulled off drives of 14, 13 and 13 plays in the second half to pull off the victory. The Bears only ran 16 plays for 69 yards in the second half (two of those resulted in turnovers), while Oklahoma ran 58 plays. And this one final fun note: teams were 0-162 since 2014 (the first year of the CFP), when trailing a CFP-ranked team by at least 25 points. They’re now 1-162.

Texas is Georgia Without a Defense: Despite Georgia’s lofty ranking, that isn’t a compliment.

There are many weeks where it is fun to write this column.

And then there is this week.

When everyone and their grandmother is calling your team the worst thing since unsliced bread.

Of course, if you read my column last week, I called this, except that I shorted Texas a point, I figured they would lose by three, not two. I said right here in this space that Texas would have to play their most “complete” game of the season. Not best. The most well-rounded.

And they fell well short of that.

I also said they needed to establish the run and keep the ball away from Brock Purdy, and for that, I apologize. But when it is obvious less than a quarter into the football game that you can’t run the football, you move on to Plan B. The Longhorns never moved on to Plan B, C or D as they were still trying to establish the run on their final offensive series of the game.

That stubbornness cost them a shot at the Big 12 Championship game and quite frankly, labeled this season a regression. And by that definition, a failure.

Perhaps our expectations were too high after coming off a season that saw them win 10 games and defeat an outstanding Georgia team in the Sugar Bowl, but also saw them finish with a 7-3 record in one score games.

This year that record is 3-3.

Perhaps we should have expected a regression with the loss of multiple upperclassmen starters on defense. And certainly, those expectations could have been adjusted when the team lost several more starters to injury in the first quarter of the season.

But c’mon, this program cannot lose to TCU and Iowa State in the same season.

The defense was going to have its challenges this season. But the Longhorns scored a combined 48 points in those two losses. Oklahoma scored 42 on Iowa State alone. Oklahoma State scored 34 points on Iowa State. SMU put up 41 on TCU. Iowa State scored 49 on TCU. Oklahoma State scored 34 on TCU.

But Texas, with a Junior quarterback who was a very legit Heisman candidate two weeks into this season put up 48 stinking points in 120 minutes of football.

Of course, Sam Ehlinger isn’t playing to a Heisman level anymore, and when he doesn’t, apparently Texas can’t win football games.

And that is ludicrous.

I’m not one of those that has given up on Tom Herman. It seems silly at this point to throw out the baby, the body wash, the nice loofahs (not the ones you buy for $2 in the bin at the grocery store), the tile, the bathtub fixtures and luxurious towels with the bath water.

As lucky as it is to go 7-3 in one-score games in one season, the fact of the matter is that Texas did win 10 games last season and they did win the Sugar Bowl against a formidable opponent that many thought should have been in the playoff. I doubt Baylor is apologizing to anyone for their 5-1 record in one-score games this year, and every single one of you would take that record in a heartbeat right now.

But, much like Charlie Strong before him, Herman relied on old connections and pretty much brought a Group of 5 coaching staff to the richest athletic department in the country, and when attrition and graduation and injuries occur and talent gaps start to show as the recruiting classes mature, the coaching staff can’t put these guys in a good enough position to win games against the TCUs and Iowa States of the world, and that’s a problem.

The recruiting is there. But the player development and the game day adjustments are not, and for that in year three, somebody has to pay.

That isn’t to say that Texas needs to go out and go get Bill Belichick to coach defense and Kyle Shanahan to coach the offense. It simply means that perhaps it is our turn to go out and pluck a Joe Brady from a professional sports franchise or find the next Lincoln Riley at a lower level school. Perhaps it is time to go find a defensive coordinator who has experience in this conference or at this level of football. We’re not facing Tulane and Tulsa in-conference.

Or we can continue to act like the smartest man in the room and just ignore the problems that have shown themselves.

Oklahoma has three four-loss seasons this century. Texas has a 10-year streak of four-loss seasons. Ohio State has finished in the Top-5 twelve times this century. Texas has done it five times and hasn’t since 2009. Clemson has a 10-year streak of at least 10 wins. Texas won 10 last year for the first time in a decade.

Oregon had a two-year downturn but now sit at 9-1 with a real shot at the playoff and have won 11 or more games six times this century and will probably do it this year. Texas has done that as well but hasn’t done it since 2009. Wisconsin has one losing season this century. Texas has four.

What advantages do those schools have over Texas? Why are they always good, and Texas is lost, wandering the desert for ten years now?

Because they know how to get out of their own way.

Oklahoma went 8-5 in 2014, their first four-loss season in five years. They could have written it off as an aberration. Instead, they went out and got a guy that had a pretty good offense at East Carolina.

LSU won 10 games last season, only lost three and defeated Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl last season. They hadn’t won less than 8 games in a season since 1999. Ed Orgeron was just finishing year three. They could have easily used the excuse, “oh, we’re still getting our feet under us”, or “oh, 10 wins is a hell of a season.”

But nope, they realized they were broken, and that they can’t keep beating their heads into a wall against Alabama (especially after losing 29-0 last season), so they went out and fixed the problem.

Now they have the #1 offense in the land and are ranked #1 in the College Football Playoff Rankings. And they beat the hell out of Alabama last week.

The “We’re Texas” mentality hasn’t worked in more than a decade around here, and you can argue that Mack Brown’s teams largely underachieved because of that mentality.

Fix the issues, Texas. Don’t rely on being the smartest or the richest person in the room anymore. Be the most calculated.

Put down the play sheet and concentrate on being a head coach.

Is it but a dream?

Oregon -14 @ Arizona State:

The Oregon Ducks locked up the Pac-12 North last week, and sitting at #6 in the College Football Playoff rankings, they stand to benefit if they can win out and the battle of attrition takes out two of the SEC teams ahead of them.

This week, however, they face an Arizona State team that at one point earlier in the season stood at 5-1 but have now lost four in a row while allowing 36 points per game over the last three of those losses. The Ducks are on the other end of the spectrum as they strive for their tenth victory in a row.

While the Oregon defense lately hasn’t been as good as they were earlier in the season when they had a five-game streak of allowing less than 10 points, the Sun Devils might be what the doctor ordered as they scored a combined 10 points against the two best defenses on their schedule (Michigan State and Utah).

Oregon has won 11 of 12 in this series, but their last loss was two years ago in Tempe, a game in which they were also favored by two touchdowns.

Oregon 31 Arizona State 20

ATS – Arizona State

SU – Oregon

Texas A&M @ Georgia -13.5:

Texas A&M enters this game with a four-game winning streak (you don’t want to know the opponents, roll with me here), but we’re about to get a good barometer reading on them as they close the regular season with #4 Georgia and #1 LSU.

Kellen Mond has been efficient during this streak, completing 66% of his passes with 6 TDs and 2 interceptions, but hasn’t been spectacular, as he’s only thrown for an average of 210 yards per game during that time period. The running game has picked up for the Aggies lately (Isiah Spiller is averaging 129 ypg over these games), but given that Georgia doesn’t allow anyone to run against them (see Thoughts From Last Week), the Aggies are going to need to see the Mond from the Auburn game (335 yards passing, 2 TD) in order to defeat the Bulldogs.

The Georgia defense has carried the offense, which has failed to reach 30 points in five straight games. Frankly they should be further along than they are, considering they ran Justin Fields out of town in favor of Jake Fromm, but here we are.

The Texas A&M defense has been sneaky good this year, only allowing 24 points to Clemson and allowing less than 300 offensive yards against Auburn. They have the means to keep this close.

Due to the putrid scheduling methods of the SEC, this is the first meeting of these teams since the Aggies joined the SEC in 2012, and I think it will be a closer one than most think.

Georgia 27 Texas A&M 21

ATS – Texas A&M

SU – Georgia

Penn State @ Ohio State -18:

The winner of this one will be the Big Ten East champion…congratulations Ohio State.

Why not Penn State? The Nittany Lions gave up 371 passing yards to Indiana last week in a narrow, seven point victory. This coming the week after they had their doors blown off by Minnesota. You can definitely argue that the Penn State defense got fat on the likes of bad offenses like Pittsburgh, Purdue, Iowa and Michigan State earlier in the season.

Penn State sophomore quarterback Sean Clifford has had his struggles against good defenses, averaging only 163 yards per game against Michigan State, Michigan and Iowa. He only had 179 yards passing against Indiana last week. Against Minnesota, he threw for 340 yards but it took him 43 attempts to get there.

Meanwhile, in Columbus, Ohio State last week become the second team in the last 100 years to win its first 10 games by at least 24 points and surpassed 50 points for the fifth time this season.

They’ve done this largely on excellent quarterback play (Justin Fields has an incredible 31/1 TD/INT ratio this season) and stingy defense (they allowed 21 points in the season opener to Florida Atlantic and 21 last week against Rutgers – in the eight games in between, only 7 points per game).

Ohio State has won 10 of 11 in this series, including last season’s 27-26 victory in State College. In fact the last three have been decided by a margin of five points. This one won’t be near as close.

Ohio State 45 Penn State 24

ATS – Ohio State

SU – Ohio State

Oklahoma State –7 @ West Virginia:

There are some weeks where it is easy to pick six attractive games to pick.

And then there is this week.

West Virginia lost four more in a row after the Texas loss, giving up 36 points per game in that time period, and then they went to Manhattan last week and defeated Kansas State.

Insert shrug emoji here.

The Cowboys are surging, winning three in a row. Win this one and they would have quite the momentum going into Bedlam next week. They’ve done this by riding the back of Chuba Hubbard, who has rushed for 1,725 yards and 20 touchdowns this season. With the loss of wide receiver Tylan Wallace to season-ending injury, quarterback Spencer Sanders’ attempts have gone down, attempting only 18 passes against Kansas last week, 15 against TCU the game prior and 24 against Iowa State the week before that.

The Cowboys shocked West Virginia last year around this time of year, propelling Texas to the Big 12 Championship game. This one won’t have quite the impact, but the result will be the same.

Oklahoma State 41 West Virginia 28

ATS – Oklahoma State

SU – Oklahoma State

TCU @ Oklahoma -19:

TCU seems like the type of team that would give Oklahoma all the fits, and they have given them trouble a few times in recent memory, but the Sooners have now won five in a row in the series, with the last three coming by an average margin of 22 points.

The Horned Frogs’ chances might hinge on the availability of Oklahoma wide receiver Cee Dee Lamb, because Oklahoma’s offense looked quite ordinary for large stretches of the game last week against Baylor when Lamb was out. TCU’s defense doesn’t need much help, as they have held all ten of their opponents to less than their season average in yards, but they don’t have the explosiveness that Oklahoma does.

TCU quarterback Max Duggan has been up and down, as you might expect from a true freshman. He was a world beater against Texas and then threw three interceptions against Oklahoma State the week after. He threw for only 140 yards passing against Baylor two weeks ago but 323 yards against Texas Tech last week.

Perhaps this is the game they get Jalen Reagor involved, because they aren’t running the football, as they haven’t had a 100-yard rusher since September.

With the exception of Iowa State, the Horned Frogs have not been getting blown out in their losses, as their four other losses have been by a combined 23 points.

They don’t have much of a chance of defeating Oklahoma, but I think they can keep it close.

Oklahoma 42 TCU 27


SU – Oklahoma

Texas @ Baylor -5.5:

This is like one of those old DirecTv commercials.

Which Baylor do will Texas get this weekend? Do we get first half against Oklahoma Baylor, who had Justin Fields wanting to transfer there, or do we get second half against Oklahoma Baylor, which more resembled the Baylor teams of yore with Odell James under center?

Will the Longhorns get the Baylor that beat Rice by 8 points, defeated West Virginia by 3 at home, went to overtime with Texas Tech at home, or do they get the Baylor that routed Oklahoma State and Kansas State?

This is a team that very much plays to the level of the competition – well the joke is on them because we never know which Texas team is going to show up, either.

The Bears might have been able to sustain their lead last week had they been able to run the football. Quarterback Charlie Brewer has been their leading rusher the last two games, and he’s not exactly RGIII. This follows a trend, though, as their best running back, Jamycal Hasty, who only had three carries against Oklahoma (and fumbled on one) only had 9 the week prior against TCU. In fact, Brewer leads the team in rushing attempts by 26 attempts.

Not ideal.

Brewer was okay against Oklahoma, as he only averaged 7 yards per attempt but was able to move the ball in the first half and was able to connect on big plays. There were some questions about whether Brewer was healthy going into the game, and he appeared to be able to make all the throws he needed to, but it might be something to keep an eye on Saturday afternoon.

The first priority on offense will be to protect Sam Ehlinger. Baylor leads the conference in sacks with 33, and Texas is tied for last in the conference (with Baylor) in sacks given up. If Ehlinger isn’t able to stand up the whole game, the Longhorns might as well not even start the bus.

And when you are able to protect the quarterback, the Bears also lead the conference in scoring defense and pass efficiency defense. Oklahoma was able to grind away in the second half, Texas will look to do the same.

Texas is going for their fifth straight victory over Baylor, including last year’s 23-17 win that saw Ehlinger go down with an injury on the first drive of the game. Brewer was able to drive the Bears (by the way did you know that Brewer’s dad played at Texas and Texas didn’t recruit him?) down the field, but an incomplete pass in the end zone as time expired cut the comeback short.

I have a feeling that this is one of those games where we all wonder where that has been for Texas all year, but when a team is struggling for consistency on offense (and defense), you pick games based on trends rather than feelings.

Baylor 34 Texas 27

ATS – Baylor

SU – Baylor

For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for George’s.