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The Week That Will Be: Back to the Future

The Horns took their 2019 defense to Lubbock, but when in doubt, trust in Sam.

Texas v Texas Tech
What every Longhorn fan wanted to do Saturday afternoon.
Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images

Last Week: 5-0-1 ATS 4-2 SU

For the Year: 13-4-1 (.765) ($760) ATS 13-5 (.722) SU

Quick Thoughts From Last Week:

The Pirate Is the Captain Now We thought it would take some time for Mike Leach’s offense to get going in the SEC this year, as the Bulldogs didn’t have a spring practice, it takes time to go from a run-based offense to the Air Raid, etc. And then K.J. Costello stepped on the field against the defending national champions (well, at least the three returning starters are) and set the SEC record with 623 passing yards, the most against LSU since 2005. Those 623 yards included an astounding 15 passing plays of 20 or more yards, as Bo Pelini’s defense had no answers. The Bulldogs win wasn’t all offense, however, as the defense held the Tigers to 1 run of 12 or more yards in 31 attempts and racked up 7 sacks.

Man, Florida State is Terrible The 52 points that Miami scored Saturday night were the most against the Seminoles in Miami history. Florida State contributed to the mess with 12 penalties and three interceptions, but Miami has now scored more than 30 points in all three games after achieving that the same number of times in 13 games last season.

Oklahoma State Sleeps Through Another Win The Cowboys weren’t much better on Saturday than they were the previous week against Tulsa, escaping West Virginia with a two-touchdown victory made to look better when Chuba Hubbard scored from 23 yards out with 1:17 remaining in the game. As expected, Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders did not play due to an ankle injury, and his fill-in Shane Illingworth didn’t make anyone feel better, throwing for 139 yards at a 6.6 yards per attempt clip.

Gary Patterson Doesn’t Care About Your Betting Line Iowa State pulled out a much needed win in Fort Worth despite another iffy game from Brock Purdy, who was outplayed by Max Duggan (241 yards, 3 touchdowns), but the most interesting part of this game was when Iowa State was leading 37-28 with seconds left and TCU scores on a 31-yard pass as time runs out. Gary Patterson declined to attempt the extra point, sending those holding Iowa State tickets of -2.5 to the celebratory champagne and rendering those with Iowa State -3 to the Alonzo Mourning GIF.

Kansas State out Oklahomas Oklahoma Skylar Thompson has 31 career starts and never before had he thrown for as much as 300 yards before throwing for 334 yards against the Sooners on Saturday (his previous high was 299 yards). The story of the day was the four turnovers for the Sooners and the ineffectiveness of Spencer Rattler in the fourth quarter, when he completed just 4 of 12 passes and threw an interception to seal the loss. It was Oklahoma’s first home loss since 2017.

If You Don’t Like the Weather in Texas The “weird things happen in Lubbock” cliche is eye roll inducing, but it certainly was true as Texas rallied from 15 down with 3:31 remaining to win in overtime. Texas was far from perfect on Saturday, but they were perfect when they needed to be.

On a day that saw two participants from last season’s College Football Playoff suffer demoralizing defeats, the Longhorns nearly succumbed to the same fate.

But remember my words from the first column of the year:

Sam Ehlinger is a Jedi.

They needed every bit of his powers on Saturday afternoon.

“Really proud of our team, obviously, to go on the road, to have the mistakes that we made continually, especially defensively and special teams, and to find a way to gut it out at the end, just extremely proud,” Herman said. “We know we got a lot of work to do.”

That they do, but there is an adage as old as time. If you have a great quarterback, it hides a lot of faults.

Take the 2016 Oklahoma Sooners, who traveled to Lubbock and saw an electric show from Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield. The two teams combined for 1,700 yards as Oklahoma outlasted the Red Raiders 66-59.

A ridiculous game for the then ranked #16 Sooners against unranked Texas Tech, but they went on to win out, defeating four ranked teams along the way, including Auburn in the Sugar Bowl.

And they didn’t allow more than 28 points in any one game the rest of the way.

Saturday’s game was a ridiculous effort that left many frustrated that the Longhorns had learned nothing from 2019, and that the coaching changes were for naught.

The offensive game plan was questionable at best. Tackling, the base fundamental of the game, was lacking yet again. The special teams were a disaster. It took a near miracle on-side kick for this column to have a different tone (maybe Cameron Dicker is a Jedi too).

But they got the win, and in a year where there are little fans attending games and we’re holding our collective breath until Friday afternoon that the game will even occur, maybe that is good enough.

TCU is next, and while not much is expected of them this season, they too have a gamer at quarterback. And after that, it is the annual trip to Dallas.

Win these next two and you’re sitting at 3-0 in the Big 12 going into a bye week, and because of the tie-breaker, Oklahoma would likely need three Texas losses in their remaining six games to jump them in the conference standings with trips to Fort Worth and Lubbock of their own still left on the schedule.

And then I promise nobody would be thinking of Texas Tech anymore.

Just win.

And in future games, leave it up to your Jedi quarterback in the first 57 minutes of the game, too.

“(Ehlinger) looked at me (after Tech scored to go ahead 56-41 with 3:31 remaining) and said, ‘They left us too much time. We’re going to tie this thing up and win in overtime,” Tom Herman said after the game.

“And I believed him.”

Somebody has to save our skins.

South Carolina @ Florida -18:

Some are picking Florida to represent the SEC East in the SEC Championship game, and last week’s win over Ole Miss provided both good news and bad news for that prognostication: The good news is that Florida racked up 642 yards in the win. The bad news is that they allowed 613 in the 51-35 Gator win.

Florida has won 4 of 5 in this series (and 15 of 17 in Gainesville in the series), but this hasn’t been the traditional ground and pound SEC match-up — two years ago these teams scored a combined 66 points, and last year they scored 65.

Florida’s defense will show up after a slow week last week — and South Carolina won’t have the offense to keep up.

Florida 38 South Carolina 16

ATS – Florida

SU – Florida

Auburn @ Georgia -7:

It was somewhat surprising to me that Georgia has dominated this series of late — they have won 3 in a row (including the 2017 SEC Championship game), 6 of the last 7 and 12 of the last 15. It isn’t always pretty, as last year they only had 250 yards of offense at a 3.9 yards per play clip and converted only 3 of 15 third down attempts.

But they won.

The biggest question in this game is who will be the quarterback for Georgia? Transfer USC quarterback J.T. Daniels was just cleared this week, but do the Bulldogs throw him right into the fray in an important SEC game when Daniels hasn’t played a game in 12 months?

D’Wan Mathis started at quarterback for Georgia last week and was largely ineffective. Former walk-on Stetson Bennett replaced him and trailed a 7-5 losing effort until Georgia finally pulled away in the fourth quarter. Bennett finished with 211 yards and 2 touchdowns — will that be enough to get him another start?

Auburn quarterback Bo Nix has been declared the “next big thing” for a while in Auburn — and he was certainly serviceable in last week’s win over Kentucky (16/27 233 yards 3 TDs), but he’s going to have to be more than that to beat Georgia, Florida or Alabama.

I’m not sure he is there yet, but the team with no quarterback is.

Georgia 31 Auburn 21

ATS – Georgia

SU – Georgia

Texas A&M @ Alabama -18:

Surely you remember the pinnacle of Texas A&M football in the post-WWII era when the Aggies went into Tuscaloosa in 2012 and defeated the #1 ranked Crimson Tide behind the legs and arm of Johnny Manziel. Your Aggie friends likely remind you of it twice a week.

Since then, the Crimson Tide have won each of the 7 games played, with a cumulative score of 301-149. In the last six games of this series, A&M was shut out once and scored less than 24 points an additional four times.

They have Nick Saban’s attention. Which is good...and bad.

Kellen Mond enters his fourth year under center for the Aggies — shouldn’t he be A LOT further along than he is? Just by mistake maybe?

The guy has thrown more than 400 passes the last two years but is only averaging 7.2 yards per pass in that time. He limits the turnovers — 9 interceptions the last two years certainly isn’t terrible — but unless the Wrecking Crew is indeed back after a hiatus of 25 years, that isn’t going to get the job done in the SEC.

The Aggies were favored by 31 over Vanderbilt and slept walked through most of that game, winning 17-12, with five fumbles (losing three of them). Mond, again, was sub-par, throwing for 189 yards on 6.7 yards per attempt.

Against Vanderbilt.

A lot of the luster is off of Alabama the last couple of years, but they still dominate games like this.

Alabama 37 Texas A&M 16

ATS – Alabama

SU – Alabama

Texas Tech @ Kansas State -2.5:

I’m looking at both of these teams with a side eye right now.

Kansas State seemingly knocks off an Oklahoma or Texas every year, but at the end of the year you look up and they are going to the Shoe Shine Bowl in Birmingham.

And then Texas Tech….blech. You know why crazy things happen in Lubbock? Because everyone gets so drunk they can’t see straight and go out and yell their ass off for the one must win home game a year and they win that or come close— and then score about 6 points on the road the next week against Shoe Polish State.

In 2019 they were 1-5 on the road. In 2018 they had four losses lost to Texas by a touchdown in Lubbock. The next week they went to Manhattan and lost 21-6. In 2016 they gave up 68 points to Arizona State and 66 to Iowa State on the road.

I don’t trust them.

Kansas State has won 8 of 9 in this series since Mike Leach was fired...Texas Tech is on their third head coach since then and Mike Leach just knocked off the defending champs.

Kansas State 31 Texas Tech 17

ATS – Kansas State

SU – Kansas State

Oklahoma -7 @ Iowa State:

This is one of those fun historical series where Iowa State has won only two games against Oklahoma going back to 1982 — and haven’t been the Sooners in Ames since the Saturday before John F. Kennedy was elected as the 35th President of the United States.

But of course history hasn’t meant much recently in this series, as the last four games have been by an average score of Oklahoma 36, Iowa State 33. That includes last year’s game where OU was ahead 35-14 at halftime in Norman before the Cyclones came storming back behind Brock Purdy’s 5 touchdowns. Iowa State scored 20 unanswered points but the game ended with a controversial non-call in the endzone as the Cyclones were going for the win on a two-point conversion.

When the Sooners lose a regular season game, that is bad news for their next opponent, as they are 34-0 after a regular season loss in recent history — and more importantly, perhaps, 23-10-1 against the betting spread.

Iowa State has the pass rush to keep Spencer Rattler uneasy, and Oklahoma’s offensive line was more than inviting last week, allowing Rattler to be pressured by Kansas State on 38% of his dropbacks. As the Wildcats proved last week, Rattler can be rattled (no pun intended), but don’t let him out of the pocket.

Brock Purdy came into this year with some calling him the Big 12’s best, and with some sleeper Heisman Trophy talk. He’s responded by starting out the year averaging a paltry 6.1 yards per pass attempt and only has 1 touchdown toss in 58 attempts. His receivers haven’t helped him, as they haven’t found much separation.

I have a feeling this is not going to go well for the Cyclones.

Oklahoma 38 Iowa State 23

ATS – Oklahoma

SU – Oklahoma

TCU @ Texas -11.5:

First of all I would like to say how great it was to see Max Duggan out there competing again last week. That was a really scary situation this summer and it seems he has come out of it on the other side just fine.

TCU week has not been kind for the Longhorns since the Horned Frogs joined the Big 12 conference, as TCU has won 6 of 8, including last year’s 37-27 TCU win in Fort Worth behind Duggan’s 273 yards passing with a touchdown. Sam Ehlinger had his worst game as a Longhorn, throwing a career high 4 interceptions. That game hung over the Longhorns much of the rest of the season as they failed to score more than 27 points in a game in a month-long stretch.

This is, however, new year, one that saw the Horned Frogs debut last week against Iowa State losing in a shoot-out. The biggest concern in that game was the TCU offensive line, which didn’t figure to be a strong unit this year, but allowed several three-man rushes (perhaps we shouldn’t throw stones) for 7 sacks and only totaled 99 yards on 44 carries, a 2.3 yards per carry clip.

In fact, it is kind of amazing that TCU ended up scoring as well as they did (34 points) considering they averaged 10.4 yards to go on third down last week. Yikes.

On defense, it was all about the big play as Iowa State struck 12 times for 10 or more yards and 4 times for 40 or more yards — this continues a trend where last year they were 83rd in the country in explosive play defense and 95th in explosive pass defense — they feature an awesome set of safeties — but they are susceptible to the big play.

Don’t just run into a stacked box on first and second down.

This is a tough one, because Gary Patterson teams are always ready to play against Texas, so much so that you almost have to throw out what they do against other teams. Duggan is a gamer, but he also hasn’t had much practice time or reps, so he might be limited in the amount of time he can even play on Saturday.

I think the Horns get back on track here, with Ehlinger leading the way and Roschon Johnson/Keaontay Ingram hitting on a few runs. It might be close late, but the Horns pull away.

Texas 41 TCU 27

ATS – Texas

SU – Texas

For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for Ehlinger for Heisman t-shirts.