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The Week That Will Be: Stranger Things

Weird things happen when the Longhorns and Cowboys get together; The Horns hope this one goes as scripted.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 14 Texas v Rice Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last Week: 4-2 ATS 3-3 SU

For the Year: 11-7 (.611) ($290) ATS 10-8 (.556) SU

Quick Thoughts From Last Week…

Central Florida To Annoy America Longer: It isn’t their fault, of course, they keep defeating those on the schedule. This week it was Stanford, who looks dreadful early on this season, but they are still a perennial contender for post-season accolades, and UCF made them look silly. True freshman Gabriel Dillon got the start and threw for 347 yards and four touchdowns while the Knights ran up 547 total yards. Central Florida travels to Pitt next week while Stanford just tries to lick its wounds (between last week’s loss to USC and this week’s loss, the Cardinal were outscored 80-10 in a four quarter stretch).

TCU Suffocates Moore, Purdue: The Horn Frogs held superstar Purdue wideout Rondale Moore to 25 yards on four touches on Saturday night on their way to a 34-13 victory. Moore had entered the game averaging 174 yards per game.

Speaking of Suffocating: Kansas State held Mississippi State to 0 fourth-quarter passing yards in their first Power Five non-conference road win since 2011.

Iowa State Waits Out Three Hours of Rain Delays to Lose Again to Iowa: Saturday marked the fifth straight victory for Iowa, with the very Iowa/Iowa State score of 18-17. The Cyclones made it into Iowa territory on 8 of 9 drives, but couldn’t finish the job. It was the proverbial take that game to your grave game.

Oklahoma Racks up Video Game Numbers, Wins Again: Jalen Hurts did this and that really wonderfully as Chip Kelly falls to 3-12 at UCLA. Hurts now has 12 incompletions and 13 touchdowns.

The Longhorns Take Care of Business: For the second time in three weeks, the Longhorns had a very efficient, business like performance against a mis-matched opponent. The Horns jumped out to a 31-0 halftime lead, at one point leading in total yards by 300. Nobody would have blamed them if they came out a bit lackluster after last week and ahead of next week, and the fact that they didn’t tells you a lot about the makeup of the leadership of this team. Well done.

The temperatures aren’t even out of the 100s in Central Texas but non-conference play is over for 2019 – it is time that we turn our attention towards conference play as the Longhorns try to make a return trip to Arlington in early December. Let’s take a look at how the Big 12 is shaping up.

It feels like old times again, doesn’t it? It would likely be a big upset if Texas and Oklahoma don’t play twice again this year – once in Dallas in mid-October and again in early December about 20 miles westward. After the last snap in the Cotton Bowl they might as well cue up We’ll Meet Again as everyone filters out (let’s hope Texas is El throwing Oklahoma’s Billy through the wall in this reboot).

The next tier is unclear. While the early results are good from Oklahoma State, they did go 7-6 last season and are breaking in a new offensive coordinator. They showed some cracks against Tulsa last week, this week should tell us a lot more.

The conference’s best win to date this season probably belongs to Kansas State, who went 5-7 last season and underwent a coaching change, bringing in Chris Klieman from North Dakota State. This was supposed to be a rebuilding season for the Wildcats but then they went on the road last week and defeated a solid SEC squad in their own stadium. Time will tell if they can keep up that momentum, but the early results are good.

TCU and Iowa State have the coaching situations to always be in contention, but the Cyclones looked dreadful in their season opener against Northern Iowa and much the same last week against Iowa, despite having a week off to prepare. There were serious questions about their ability to replace David Montgomery and Hakeem Butler, and so far it is fair to say those questions were valid.

The Horn Frogs will always be a contender when Gary Patterson is still cashing checks, and they likely have the best defense in the conference, but to win the Big 12 to have to be able to move the football forward at times and there are some serious questions in Fort Worth if they can keep up if that defense starts to slip.

Baylor ascended to near the top of the college football world before an embarrassing scandal took down that house of cards, but Matt Rhule appears to have things headed in the right direction in Waco. Of course it is hard to evaluate how good they are this season when their non-conference schedule consisted of Stephen F. Austin, UTSA and Rice, but time will tell.

West Virginia and Texas Tech look destined for the spoiler role this year, especially with the latest injury to Alan Bowman in Lubbock. Oklahoma transfer Austin Kendall has yet to get his bearings in the Mountaineers offense. If these teams don’t have offense, they’re going to struggle.

And last, and certainly least, is Kansas, who did manage to put up 567 yards of offense on Boston College, who was expected to finish smack dab in the middle of the ACC, so they’ll have that until basketball starts way too soon.

SMU @ TCU -9.5:

Shane Buechele continues to play well on the Hilltop, completing 66% of his passes for a 8.9 yards per attempt average, a full yard better than his best year at Texas. Unfortunately for Buechele, those numbers are not correlating to end zone production (for himself, at least) as he has only thrown for 5 touchdowns in three games along with 3 interceptions.

Running back Xavier Jones is the beneficiary of all those red zone opportunities, totaling 7 touchdowns thus far this season.

TCU went into Purdue’s home stadium, a place where Ohio State couldn’t win last season, and soundly defeated the Boilermakers. This was despite only completing 33% (!) of their passes for a meager 75 yards. Of course who needs to pass when you can rush for 346 yards at 6 yards per carry?

This series has been dominated by TCU of late, having won 17 of the last 19 in the series, including the last 7 by an average score of 45-17.

TCU’s defense is going to be too much for SMU to overcome.

TCU 30 SMU 17



Utah -3.5 @ USC (Fri):

The winner in this one is the early leader in the Pac-12 South. With the change at athletic director last week, Clay Helton couldn’t have picked a worse time for his first loss of the year last week against BYU in a game where the Trojans had trouble moving the ball for most of the game.

This is the first of six scheduled games against ranked opponents for USC, with four of those on the road.

Time to polish up that resume, Mr. Helton.

Utah hasn’t beaten USC in Los Angeles since 1916 (the Coliseum was completed in 1923), but they have the more experienced quarterback, better defense and seemingly have it more together than USC does at the moment.

Utah 34 USC 28

ATS – Utah

SU – Utah

Auburn @ Texas A&M -3.5:

This is almost a must-win game for the Aggies, who have #2 Alabama coming to town on October 12th and road games against #3 Georgia and #4 LSU to finish the year. They need to make some hay now.

Auburn ran the ball for 467 yards and 6 touchdowns against Kent State last weekend, but they’re having to rely on the running game because it doesn’t appear true freshman quarterback Bo Nix is as polished early in the season as they obviously were hoping he would be.

This is usually an entertaining game when these two teams meet up, including last year’s 28-24 Auburn victory at Jordan-Hare Stadium, a game in which the Aggies had a 10-point lead going to the final quarter. That game featured the “Mr. Hyde” version of Kellen Mond, who completed only 50% of his passes for 6.9 yards per attempt and a touchdown and interception.

I expect this one to be a close, minimal possessions type of game. These teams are very similar, with the Tigers coming into this one ranking 9th in S&P+ overall and 31st/4th offensive/defensive splits while the Aggies come in at 11th with 32nd/14th splits.

If it comes down to a battle of field position, Auburn is ranked 127th in the country in punting while A&M has one of the nation’s best in Braden Mann.

Texas A&M 24 Auburn 17

ATS – Texas A&M

SU – Texas A&M

Michigan @ Wisconsin -3.5:

Michigan travels to Madison, Wisconsin this week, a place where they are winless in their last four attempts there, dating back to 2001. Those games have rarely been close, either, with three of those contests a final deficit of 14 points or more.

Wisconsin has yet to allow a point this season (hell, they haven’t allowed a team to reach the red zone this season), shutting out South Florida and Central Michigan in the process. Charlie Strong’s Bulls’ struggles are well documented around here, but the Chippewas of Central Michigan scored 83 points in their other two games this season, so they are certainly no slouch.

The Badgers offense is led by running back Jonathan Taylor, who has rushed for more than 100 yards in both appearances against Michigan in his career. The Wolverines, meanwhile, are still smarting from a double overtime near disaster against Army, a game in which they had more fumbles than touchdowns. Michigan still has a defense, however, as they did manage to hold Army to 3.3 yards per carry.

Michigan won last year 38-13 in Ann Arbor as they rushed for 320 yards, but they’ll need Shea Patterson to be at his best in this one, and he just hasn’t looked healthy thus far this season. The Wolverines have only one win against a ranked opponent on the road since 2006, and I’m not sure they make it two here.

Wisconsin 28 Michigan 24

ATS – Wisconsin

SU – Wisconsin

Notre Dame @ Georgia -14.5:

First of all, kudos to the Georgia faithful for their show of support last week for Arkansas State coach Blake Anderson’s wife Wendy, who died last month after a two-year battle against breast cancer. That was awesome.

The Bulldogs ran up 656 yards against Arkansas State, but of course Kirby Smart is all about defense, and their defense has been outstanding (albeit against weak competition), only allowing 2 yards per carry and haven’t allowed a rushing touchdown yet this season.

The Irish don’t really care about running the ball, they are content with letting quarterback Ian Book try to win the game for them, and he has been largely successful, as Notre Dame carries a 14-game regular season winning streak into this game.

But something has to give here, as Georgia has won 15 straight at home. The key matchup to look at here, and why this line is so big with a matchup against ranked teams, is the Georgia rushing offense against the Notre Dame rush defense. The Irish have allowed 21% of the rushing attempts against them this year go for 10 yards or more, while Georgia is converting 26% of their attempts so far this young season.

They might still be running as I write next week’s column.

These two teams met in South Bend in 2017 in Jake Fromm’s first collegiate start. Georgia won 20-19…this CBS primetime affair won’t be as close.

Georgia 38 Notre Dame 28

ATS – Notre Dame

SU – Georgia

Oklahoma State @ Texas -5.5:

The Longhorns haven’t beaten Oklahoma State in Austin since 2008, dropping four games in that span. Overall the Horns have lost 7 out of 9 to the Cowboys, including last year’s tilt in Stillwater that saw about half of the defense suspended and featured a near-brawl at mid-field at the end of the game.

But all of that doesn’t have much impact on the field Saturday night at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium. The Horns come into this one running at a blistering pace on offense, scoring touchdowns on 10 of 12 drives during a 4-5 quarter stretch against LSU and Rice.

In fact, Texas has scored 38 points or more in all three of their games this season, already matching their total in that statistic from all of last season.

There is some room for improvement for that Texas offense – they’re currently 8th in the conference in rushing yards per attempt at 4.3 yards per carry. That is understandable given the state of the running back depth chart and with Keaontay Ingram struggling against LSU, but the Cowboys have some serious questions on the defensive line and they have to be able to take advantage of it. The DL was already an iffy position coming into the season, and they have since suffered some injuries with multiple players missing the Tulsa game last week. Might Texas be able to lean on the expertise of current game analyst Andre Coleman, who was offensive coordinator last year at Kansas State when they were able to rack up 291 yards against the Cowboys in a 31-12 upset in Manhattan?

The Texas offense has been good. They just might need to be better in order to win these shootout type games that this one could be.

Oklahoma State has a new offensive coordinator this year, as Mike Yurcich has moved on to Ohio State. The Cowboys brought in Sean Gleeson, who spent the last six seasons at Princeton, where his offense (averaged a FCS high 47 points per game in 2018) helped the Tigers win three Ivy League championships when he was there. The early results have been good, as he has the nation’s leading rusher (Chuba Hubbard, who had 163 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns against Tulsa in the first quarter) and leading receiver (Tylan Wallace).

Spencer Sanders is the new signal caller for the Cowboys. The redshirt freshman is a product of Denton Ryan High School, and no, the Longhorns didn’t recruit him, so expect to hear that the first time he completes an 8-yard pass on Saturday night. Sanders has been sufficient thus far this season, passing for 622 yards with 7 touchdowns to only 1 interception, but when you did a little deeper you see that 90 yards of his 169 yards passing against Tulsa came on one pass to Wallace, and similarly 75 of his 250 against McNeese came on one play as well.

He’s been what you would expect from a talented redshirt freshman – inconsistent with flashes of brilliance.

If you haven’t read the excellent read by Pete Thamel, who was embedded with the Longhorns the week leading up to LSU, correct that and read it today. It refers to a ritual that the Horns coaching staff holds on Saturday mornings to keep players loose, and afterwards the players met in a conference room yelling out the lyrics to the Geto Boys song Still.

I can’t repeat the lyrics in this family publication, but there is a reference in the song to every dog having its day and not realizing it until you get yours. The Cowboys have had their fun against the Horns the past few years…that ends Saturday night.

Texas 41 Oklahoma State 31

ATS – Texas

SU – Texas

For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for celebratory White Claws.