Last Week: 2-4 ATS 4-2 SU
For the Year: 32-33-1 (.492) (-$430) ATS 45-21 (.682) SU
Just a quick note. Thank you. For reading, for commenting, for retweeting, for liking, for sharing, and even if you just read and don’t do any of those things, thank you. I write because of my passion for college football, not for likes or retweets, but it does feel good that the time I spend producing this each week goes towards entertaining you, because after all, this is for entertainment only.
It hasn’t been the easiest of years, pandemic or no pandemic, but I hope you and yours are safe and healthy. And please, please, please...if you are struggling this holiday season, reach out. Reach out to friends, family, hell you can find my Twitter at the top of this article, reach out to me and I can tell you how Wright Thompson is the best sportswriter going today and how Luka Doncic is going to be the best player in the NBA and why I cried when I stood on #18 green in Augusta and how bad Texas would have beaten Alabama if Colt didn’t get hurt.
I’ve already lost someone dear to me, and I know others have too, and lord knows I need more readers, not less.
Anyhow….thank you. And this is going to be a long one, I apologize.
Quick Thoughts From Last Week:
Cincinnati Hates America The only thing you need to know about this game is that Cincinnati had a chance to put the game away (and cover) but decided to fall down at the 1-yard line with a minute left. On fourth down with three seconds remaining, an errant snap was recovered by Cincinnati, but every bettor that was on the Bearcats was rooting for that snap to be recovered by UCF and taken to the house as retribution for costing them their bet. Don’t bet on football, kids.
Justin Fields Not the Best Quarterback on the Field...s At least for this day it was the truth, as Indiana’s Michael Penix Jr. threw for 491 yards (the most on the Buckeyes since 1985) and five touchdowns while Justin Fields threw three interceptions. It didn’t matter, as Ohio State still rolled up 600 yards of offense and won out. Two red zone turnovers and a pick six sunk the Hoosiers.
Everyone Wake Up Now — Northwestern Won This game tape won’t go straight to a football museum, but Northwestern couldn’t care less as they held Wisconsin to 7 points (the Badgers had scored 92 points in their first two games), and 0 after half-time. Wisconsin is now 3-4 against Northwestern and 28-3 against everyone else in the Big Ten West since the split. The Wildcats now have a shot at the playoff.
Utes Fall in Season Opener Week Before Thanksgiving Utah finally played their season opener last weekend against USC (by contrast Texas State has already played 11 games!). It was a loss as USC decided to finally show up this season. Former Texas quarterback Cam Rising got the start for Utah and was 3/6 for 45 yards and had 2 turnovers before he was replaced for an injury. He wasn’t alone, however, as the Utes had 5 turnovers on the game.
Kansas State Decides to Save it All for Texas You know they will. 28 second-quarter points for the Cyclones buried the Wildcats, as they only managed 149 total yards and turned the ball over three times. Kansas State has now lost three in a row and scored 28 points in those three games.
Mike Gundy Too Busy Watching OAN to Prepare for OU This game was over when it was 21-0 nine minutes into the game. Mike Gundy is now 2-18 as a player and head coach against Oklahoma. Good job, Mike.
It was his first road start. True freshman.
The Longhorns were down 14-10 to #4 USC in the Los Angeles Coliseum, a cavernous arena that had hosted the Olympics, the World Series and the Super Bowl. It would have been easy to get lost in the scene.
5:14 remained on the clock. The Longhorns had the ball, first-and-ten at their own 9-yard line.
First play...a little toss jet sweep to Armani Foreman. Loss of 5.
Second play. False start.
Third play. 2nd and 16 from his own two-yard line. Sam Ehlinger, who 12 months earlier was quarterback at Westlake High School, rolled right, threaded the needle and found Lil Jordan Humphrey.
Two plays later on 3rd and 5 he rolled left, tip-toed down the sideline towards the first down marker, spun on impact….and was short.
Fourth down. 3:11 remaining. Their own 29-yard line. Today, we would know what was coming. USC did not.
QB Power left. First down.
First and ten from the 31 — 2:42 left — penalty.
A play later, he drops an absolute DIME down the left sideline for 47 yards to Collin Johnson.
First down Texas. 1:47 left.
Overthrown to Collin Johnson.
Left incomplete to Lil’ Jordan Humphrey.
Left incomplete to Collin Johnson.
Now it is fourth and ten from the USC 28-yard line. 1:19 remaining.
Snaps the ball. Looks left to Collin Johnson but he is double-teamed.
Fires a MISSLE over the middle to Armani Foreman.
First down Texas. 1:13 remaining. Ball at the USC 17-yard line.
The camera cuts to first year head coach Tom Herman, and he is trying to contain the biggest shit-eating grin you have ever seen in your life and you can just tell he is thinking, “what the hell do we have here?”
First and ten. Incomplete.
Second and ten. :54 seconds left.
The camera cuts to Vince Young on the sidelines and even HE looks nervous as hell. When Vince Young is nervous, there is no hope for the rest of us. The guy scored the most important touchdown in the last fifty years at Texas and looked like he was thinking about what to have for breakfast the next morning in the huddle.
Camera cuts to Tom Herman. His bubble gum bubble explodes on his nose. Even he can’t get it together.
And then the camera cuts back to Sam.
As the great Stuart Scott used to say, he was as cool as the other side of the pillow.
The Los Angeles Coliseum is blaring Eminem’s Til I Collapse.
“But you gotta search within you, you gotta find that inner strength
And just pull that shit out of you and get that motivation to not give up
And not be a quitter, no matter how bad you want to just fall flat on your face and collapse…”
The USC crowd is going nuts. They have designs on their first national championship since the year before this very team took snatched it away from them in 2005. It is their first sell-out since 2013.
“This is your moment and every single minute you spittin’
Trying to hold onto it ‘cause you may never get it again
So while you’re in it try to get as much shit as you can
And when your run is over just admit when it’s at its end…”
2nd and 10. Five-wide set. Collin Johnson and Armani Foreman left. Lorenzo Joe, Lil’ Jordan Humphrey and Chris Warren out wide right.
1,383 miles away from the Coliseum, on your television set in Austin, Texas:
Gus Johnson: Ehlinger, with time, Ehlinger flushed out, throws
TOUCHDOWN TEXAS! FOREMAN! WOWWWWWWW! THE FRESHMAN EHLINGER IS 45 SECONDS AWAY. TOM HERMAN 6-0 AGAINST RANKED OPPPONENTS AS A HEAD COACH...DREW BREES...MAYBE
Joel Klatt: What a play.
Camera cuts to Vince Young on the sideline. He is even showing emotion. This is the guy that scored the most important touchdown in Texas history in the past fifty years and afterwards looks like he had decided on Eggs Benedict.
Camera cuts back to Ehlinger — he’s jogging towards the sideline, Horns held high.
Because of course he is.
We don’t have to go into how that game ended — but didn’t that drive encapsulate the Sam Ehlinger era at Texas? Lowest of lows, followed by really high highs, followed by befuddling incompletions, followed by absolute greatness.
Hell, you might say that Texas ultimately losing that game also encapsulates the Sam Ehlinger experience.
Saturday afternoon at Darrell K. Royal Texas Memorial Stadium, Sam Ehlinger likely plays his last game as a member of the Texas Longhorns. The COVID ride that we are all on allows for Seniors this year to come back, but you have to think that Ehlinger has been through enough here that he is ready to see what awaits him next.
It is hard to put into words how we will look back upon the Sam Ehlinger years at Texas — there is little doubt that he is the third best quarterback to ever suit up for the Longhorns — with all due apologies to James Street.
But unless Texas defeats Iowa State on Saturday, and then travels to Kansas and defeats the Wildcats and Jayhawks on successive weekends and then comes out victorious in Arlington, he’ll leave the 40 Acres as a Sugar Bowl MVP and an Alamo Bowl MVP but he’ll leave without a Big 12 Championship and will not have even sniffed the college football playoff, which of course is the ultimate goal.
But maybe it doesn’t matter.
We’ve all heard of Ehlinger’s love for the University of Texas growing up, and have seen the countless pictures of him as a toddler with those Horns held high.
Watching that final drive against USC again this week, I’m struck about how lucky he has been to be the quarterback at the University of Texas for four years, and to have the amount of success that he has had.
The four-star recruit from Westlake had offers from the likes of SMU, McNeese State and Florida State because everyone knew he was going to be a Longhorn, and he was.
“It’s been an absolute blessing,” Ehlinger said this week. “I wouldn’t want anything to be different. I love this university. I’ve loved playing here.”
On this week of giving thanks, when many of us will be apart from friends and family on a day that is all about friends and family, I hope all of us are appreciative of what we had in Sam Ehlinger.
Far too many times we get wrapped up in cynicism and the next big thing and don’t take the time to appreciate those that brought us here, those that devote four to five years of their life to making things just a little better for us.
Ehlinger won’t go down as the greatest quarterback in UT history, and he certainly won’t be the most acclaimed, but he’ll always be remembered as the guy that brought respectability back to the program, and who is to say that he wouldn’t put up similar numbers to Colt McCoy if he were brought up in the same system and allowed a redshirt season to adjust to the college game?
There is a certain “it” factor that elite, game changing quarterbacks have, and Ehlinger certainly displayed that factor against Oklahoma and USC and Texas Tech, but also struggled in games against TCU and Baylor that would just make you shrug and wonder how that doesn’t always translate to the field.
I think I’ll always look upon the Sam Ehlinger era at Texas much like the Tony Romo era in Dallas. Both had mind numbing talent, both had a Jedi-like quality to make everything out of nothing and both ultimately came up short when it came to team success because their individual success couldn’t overcome organizational failures.
Thank you, Sam. For USC, for Georgia, for having the balls and the confidence to put yourself out there following that Georgia game, for Utah, for those battles in Dallas, for calling Kyler Murray a bitch, for Lubbock, for Stillwater, for the battle against LSU...I can go on.
But thank you, for following your dream to be the quarterback at the University of Texas, one you had since you were a young boy. I’m happy as hell you got to accomplish that.
Of course, your career isn’t over this week. Just your home slate.
It has not been a storybook career at Texas, but the ending has not been written yet.
Go write it.
Notre Dame -4.5 @ North Carolina:
Mack Brown in a big game, what could go wrong?
In all seriousness, this is a juicy game that could have been juicier without nonsensical losses by North Carolina to Florida State and Virginia, as Notre Dame is rolling right along towards a second matchup with Clemson in the ACC Championship game but must get past a North Carolina team that has put up 207 points in the four games since that loss to Florida State.
North Carolina sophomore quarterback Sam Howell will be a Heisman candidate next season after throwing for 2,631 yards to date this year with 23 touchdowns after throwing for 3,641 yards and 38 touchdowns last season. He has the Tar Heels 4th in the country in S&P+ offense.
If the Irish get past this one, only Syracuse and a trip to Wake Forest stand in their way of a trip to the ACC Championship, and get there undefeated, they might still be able to lose that game and still get into the playoff.
So the stakes are high. The Irish defense was rolling along the first six weeks of the season, only giving up 62 points in those games, but understandably struggled against Clemson and perhaps a little less understandably struggled against Boston College, giving up 71 points in those two games.
Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book is the one to follow here. He returns to the site where he made his first career start in 2017 (a 33-10 Irish win), and if he can limit the mistakes and if the Irish can pound the ball, they can keep that North Carolina offense off the field.
The Irish lead the all-time series 18-1...they’ll get another here, but it won’t be as easy as those other 18.
Notre Dame 30 North Carolina 24
ATS – Notre Dame
SU – Notre Dame
LSU @ Texas A&M -14:
We can talk about the trends (LSU has won 8 of 9 against the Aggies since A&M joined the SEC), we can talk about last year (a 50-7 LSU win), we can talk about two years ago (a 74-72 7 OT Aggie win), but anybody has watched LSU this year knows that all of that talk of the past goes out the window when talking about this year’s squad.
LSU escaped Fayetteville last week with a narrow three-point win over Arkansas last week, but was trailing in the fourth quarter. If they had lost that one, with A&M this week and Ole Miss and Florida still yet to play, the possibility of the Tigers finishing last in the SEC West was staring them in the face.
But they did come away with the victory, only their third of the year, to push their record to 3-3 on the season. They haven’t been as bad offensively as you might think, as they are averaging 450 yards per game (and 29th in offensive S&P+), but defensively they have given up 40 points three times and have suffered uneven quarterback play after an injury to starter Myles Brennan.
Kellen Mond was an abject disaster last year in Baton Rouge, only throwing for 92 yards and tossing three interceptions, but this year Mond has been efficient, throwing only one interception since the Alabama game two months ago and tossing 14 touchdowns in that span. The Aggies have also been fortified by a strong running game (Isaiah Spiller has 100 yards in 3 of 4 games), and lead the nation in third down conversions.
I just don’t see how LSU musters any sort of attack against an improved A&M defense, nothing I have seen from them this season tells me they go in here and pull off an upset.
Texas A&M 34 LSU 23
ATS – LSU
SU – Texas A&M
Auburn @ Alabama -24.5:
Auburn has been a bit of a thorn in the side of Nick Saban at Alabama (as much as any team can be for a program that has won five national championships in 12 years). The Tigers have won two of the last three in the Iron Bowl, including last year’s 48-45 win, and as a whole, Saban is only 8-5 against Auburn — but the Tigers haven’t won in Tuscaloosa since 2010.
I mean I don’t have to tell you much about Alabama if you have been paying attention for the last several years. Saban made the declaration that defense no longer wins championships, so he went out and got the best offense (literally, they are 1st in S&P+ offense), but also kept a good defense just in case (25th in the country).
Auburn got out of the gate at 2-2 this season, and the every other year chants of “Fire Malzahn” started — since then they have won three in a row (albeit against Ole Miss, LSU and Tennessee) and come into this one with the chance to play spoiler with the Crimson Tide this week and the Aggies next week.
Auburn is playing well defensively (they only gave up a combined 28 points to LSU and Tennessee) but those were those programs, this is Alabama. Saban doesn’t lose to you two years in a row.
Alabama 38 Auburn 20
ATS – Auburn
SU – Alabama
Texas Tech @ Oklahoma State -10.5:
Boy, we go from talking about the Iron Bowl to….this.
The Cowboys won 9 straight in this series from 2009 to 2017 but the Red Raiders have won the last two, 45-35 in Lubbock a year ago and 41-17 in Stillwater two years ago.
That loss in 2019 was a bit befuddling as the Cowboys came into the game ranked #21 and had only one defeat to date (to Texas) and that was only one of two conference wins Texas Tech had last season, but Spencer Sanders threw three interceptions and lost two fumbles, so it is hard to overcome that.
We can make fun of Mike Gundy for losing to Oklahoma for another year, but he didn’t get any help from his quarterbacks last Saturday, as Sanders and Shane Illingworth combined to go 15/40 for 168 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Both might play here, but will it matter?
Texas Tech is also likely to play two quarterbacks, as their two-headed dragon of mediocrity Alan Bowman and Henry Colombi rolls on for another week — Bowman “guided” them to the game-winning field goal drive against Baylor two weeks ago, but neither one is going to make defensive coordinators wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat.
Oklahoma State would benefit from the production of a back that they had last year on the roster named Chuba Hubbard. There is also a Chuba Hubbard on the roster this year, but this version of Hubbard only has 147 yards on 39 carries his last three games (3.7 yards per carry), and his high game this year is the 145 he rushed for against Kansas. In 2019, Hubbard had 7 games in which he rushed for more than that total.
This year, he has rushed for 625 yards and 5 touchdowns through 7 games, last year through 7 games he had rushed for 1,265 yards and 15 touchdowns. A perplexing loss, for sure.
Oklahoma State 38 Texas Tech 23
ATS – Oklahoma State
SU – Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State -10.5 @ West Virginia:
Without a global pandemic going on, a surging Oklahoma team going into Morgantown on a Saturday night needing a win to stay in the Big 12 hunt would be VERY juicy, this year we’re left with, “well….”
The Sooners have played like a different team since their overtime dalliance with Texas last month, reeling off four wins (five with the Texas win) in a row and looking more like the Sooners of the last few years with running back Rhamondre Stevenson (195 yards last week in Bedlam) and defensive end Ronnie Perkins back from suspensions.
The Sooners are up to 3rd in the country in offensive S&P+, while Spencer Rattler has thrown for 1,133 yards with 9 touchdowns to only one interception since the Texas game.
They will, however, have to go up against the toughest defense in the Big 12 in West Virginia, which is up to 19th in S&P+ defense. Their defense hasn’t given up more than 34 points in any game this season, and in fact they have only given up 30 points once this season, that inexplicable loss to Texas Tech last month. Since that loss, they have only given up a total of 33 points in three games.
The Mountaineer offense hasn’t been bad as of late, either, with Jarret Doege without an interception since the Kansas game in mid-October. The Mountaineers are in perfect position to play spoiler with Oklahoma and Iowa State remaining on the schedule.
Like I said before, this one has upset written all over it with a to capacity Milan Pusker Stadium on a Saturday night after everyone has been drinking moonshine all day, but they’ll have to do in a reduced capacity this season, so everyone will have to drink four times the moonshine to make up for that loss of crowd noise.
But then you have to consider that Oklahoma has won every meeting between these two since West Virginia joined the Big 12 in 2012, including 52-14 in Norman last year. Two years ago they won 59-56 in Morgantown….it won’t be as high scoring, but I predict a similar fate this year.
Oklahoma 31 West Virginia 28
ATS – West Virginia
SU – Oklahoma
Iowa State @ Texas -2:
The stakes here are pretty simple — if Iowa State wins, they clinch a spot in the Big 12 Championship game on December 19th — if Texas wins, there would be a four-way tie for first in the Big 12, and all of our 1994 Southwest Conference dreams would still be alive.
Texas is 13-3 in this series since the formation of the Big 12, losing in 2010 (ISU’s only win in Austin), 2015 and 2019. You remember the 2010 game in Austin, a game in which current Dallas Cowboys star Garrett Gilbert threw three interceptions and had a fumble (Spencer Sanders, is that you?).
I would say that that game, more than the UCLA game that year in which Texas lost 34-12, was the first clear signal that something was really rancid in Austin. You could almost excuse the UCLA loss when the very next game the Horns nearly knocked off #8 Oklahoma, but that Iowa State loss — yuck. The Horns finished the season 1-5, Mack Brown lost his fastball and apparently lost it so far it traveled to North Carolina.
Since that game, the Horns are 72-57...while the Cyclones are 53-72, so as bad as Texas has been in this stretch, imagine if they had 19 less wins during this era. But the rub is, of course that during the Matt Campbell era Iowa State is 32-27, and Texas?
So effectively, Texas has turned into Iowa State.
No offense, Cyclones fans.
Iowa State 21st in offense S&P+, 17th in S&P+ defense;
Anyhow, as far as the game on Saturday goes, if you read this column you know that I am not a fan of Spencer Sanders and that I am not a fan of Brock Purdy. Iowa State running back Breece Hall has rushed for 100 yards in every game this season, even the opening loss to Louisiana, when the Cyclones couldn’t get out of a wet paper bag, he still had 103 yards.
Statistically, this is Purdy’s worst year, as he is only averaging 7.2 yards per attempt and has 13 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. It is easier said than done to go into the game with the objective to stop Breece Hall and make Purdy beat you, but Texas must stop Breece Hall and make Brock Purdy beat them — much like they did against Oklahoma State and Chuba Hubbard.
Purdy was great last season against Texas, throwing for 354 yards — make him do it again. His favorite target, tight end Charlie Kolar was expected to have a good year but was derailed by injury to begin it. He only has 25 catches on the season but 4 of those have gone for touchdowns, including one each of the last three games.
Stop Hall, quadruple team Kolar in the red zone.
Defensively, Iowa State is known for their prowess in the offensive-minded Big 12, and this year is no exception, as the Cyclones are 17th in S&P+ defensively, but they’ve also been susceptible, as Spencer Rattler had a 300-yard game (but also a back-breaking interception) and Max Duggan was able to average 12.7 yards per attempt and threw three touchdowns.
Watch out for Iowa State’s special teams, they are a bit of a cluster — Connor Assalley has missed a third of the field goals he’s attempted this season and has also missed two extra points — something to keep in mind in a close game.
Texas is going to have to play their best game of the season to win this one. The offense can’t sleep through three quarters, the defense can’t decide to revert back to early season form, but most of all, the Horns need to realize that if they win the next three, they are in the Big 12 championship — and this is by far the hardest one left.
This one reminds me a bit of the 2018 game — where Iowa State came into the game ranked 16th in the country riding a hot freshman Purdy, until Texas hammered them and the crowd sang to Don’t Stop Believin’ in the fourth quarter.
For a smile they can share the night.
Texas 28 Iowa State 23
ATS – Texas
SU – Texas
For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for a trip to Arlington.
By the way, if you want to watch that last drive against USC: