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The Week That Will Be: Carry On Wayward Son

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After a disastrous Black Friday, the Horns find themselves playing out the string not only for the season and perhaps bigger than that.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 27 Iowa State at Texas Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last Week: 2-3 ATS 4-1 SU

For the Year: 34-36-1 (.486) (-$550) ATS 49-22 (.690) SU

Quick Thoughts From Last Week:

The Irish Swat the Tar Heels North Carolina came into this game averaging 44 points and 563 yards per game, but after a 17-17 tie at halftime, Notre Dame held North Carolina scoreless in the second half to keep their playoff dreams alive. The 17 points for North Carolina was their lowest offensive output since Mack Brown returned to Chapel Hill.

Retro SEC Day in College Station Texas A&M quarterback Kellen Mond was 11/34 for 105 yards...and won. And it wasn’t really even close, even if LSU beat the Vegas number by the end of the game. The Aggies need wins, but you have to think they need style points as well, and that wasn’t it on Saturday (at least offensively).

Alabama Stomps Auburn Much was made last week of Gus Malzahn’s respectable record against Nick Saban in the Iron Bowl (3-4), but Alabama is always one step ahead and instead inserted Steve Sarkisian when Saban tested positive for COVID-19 (for real this time). Sarkisian’s Tide saw Mac Jones throw for a career high 5 touchdowns (he is now averaging a ridiculous 12 yards per attempt on the year) to fuel Alabama.

Retro Big 12 Day in Stillwater This game saw 94 points, 1,178 yards, a kickoff return off an onside kick, both teams were a combined 5 of 6 on fourth down, 56 first downs, but the game had to be ruined by a team that was already ahead by six electing not to score when they could have walked in and screwing over the bettors. Sigh.

Texas Won’t Win the Big 12...Again. Senior quarterback Sam Ehlinger, a boatload of 4 and 5 star recruits, a relatively healthy roster, a defensive backfield returning everyone, and still the best Texas can hope for is a Texas Bowl and finishing in the top third (!) of the conference. Again.


Sigh.

This wasn’t supposed to happen.

This was going to be “the” year — not that any, ok many, predicted the Longhorns to get to the College Football Playoff, but at the VERY least, everyone expected to be playing in Arlington for the Big 12 Championship game.

And yet, once again, the Longhorns are out of the race before the calendar even flips to the final month of the year.

As we asked a couple of months ago, if not now, when?

Just as we talked about last week with Sam Ehlinger’s drive against Southern California was a representation of his Texas career, that game on Saturday pretty much summed up the Tom Herman experience in Austin.

The Horns came out and punched a superior opponent in the mouth, quickly jumping up 10-0 before all of the crowd could filter in for the 11:00 AM start. But then Texas ran all of five plays in the second quarter because the defense, while they played well, couldn’t get off the field to save their lives.

Then there were some questionable decisions.

The fake punt. For the record, I didn’t mind it because it only didn’t work because Iowa State made a great play. Now we can talk about 4th and 8 and expecting Cade Brewer to make it when catching the ball near the line of scrimmage, but let’s not forget that Cameron Dicker is not an experienced punter and word was that he was struggg-a-ling in pregame warmups.

Then the fourth down attempt with 8:05 remaining in the game at the Iowa State 13-yard line, when a field goal puts Texas up by 7. Again, I don’t have a big problem with this one, either, because Texas was running the ball well against the Cyclones. I do have a problem with the play call, which everyone in the building knew was coming because Texas had run it successfully all day (fake handoff to Roschon Johnson, who then blocks for Ehlinger on a QB Power). If you want to run with Sam, fine, but don’t run a play that takes all day, and I love him, but he has to get that first down there, he just has to. It appeared he could have reached the ball out and got the first down, but perhaps everyone on the team is shy about doing that since the TCU debacle.

And then the next to last possession.

After the fourth-down attempt, Iowa State graciously decided to punt when they probably should have gone for it on fourth-down, giving Texas the ball first-and-ten at their own 24-yard line with 4:04 remaining.

What was everyone thinking there? Here comes Turtle Tom, who gave away wins against TCU this year and Iowa State last year by being too conservative with the lead in the fourth quarter. Well, Texas picked up 4 yards on a Bijan Robinson run, and then, on second and six from the 28, with 3:23 remaining, Ehlinger lofted a bomb to Jake Smith…

Overthrown.

It was almost there. But it wasn’t. And now Texas had to punt the ball after another incompletion and we can’t call him Turtle Tom anymore, but then Iowa State scored in about three plays.

Fine. Minute and a half left, senior quarterback playing in this last home game, I had visions of a touchdown drive and Texas walking off and a Craig Way call that we would play forever.

But not everything ends in fairy tale fashion.

As I said at the end of that column two months ago, “where to from here?”

Tom, thank you for your service, but this isn’t it.

Texas is now 9-7 in Big 12 play since the beginning of last year, which if that doesn’t smack of mediocrity, I don’t know what does. That 9-7 record includes an 0-6 record against Iowa State, TCU and Oklahoma in that time span. What do those teams have in common?

They have the best coaching in the conference.

And if that isn’t sobering enough how about this, courtesy of Banner Society, Tom Herman is now 14-13 in one score games as coach of the Longhorns.

27 one score games in 48 games coached at Texas.

In all of FBS, only one team has more one-score games in that time-span, Eastern Michigan, with 28. In 10 of those 13 losses, Texas had the lead in the fourth quarter.

His record in “not” one-score games? 26-5. Pretty darn good.

If he even converts say, five of those losses to wins, and he’s still sitting at 19-8 in one score games, so not great but not bad, it is probably just a fringe element that is having the conversation that we’re all having today.

But here’s the rub.

There is only one man for this job.

I don’t want to hear about Matt Campbell (imagine if Texas lost to Louisiana) or Billy Napier or Mario Cristobal or Luke Fickell. With all due respect to those coaches, I am tired of the projects or the upstarts or the Group of Five wonders.

Texas simply cannot afford to swing and miss again.

I want a guy with Power Five, major football experience, and one that doesn’t sell Tequila or embarrass himself by coaching in the XFL, one with proven experience recruiting the state of Texas and one that will command respect from the locker room and from recruits and from Texas high school coaches from day one.

I wasn’t in this place three years ago, and I probably wasn’t in this place 12 months ago, but to me, it is Urban Meyer or bust.

I’m tired of it, Texas. And I’m certain I’m not the only one.

Act like the Joneses again.


Ohio State -23.5 @ Michigan State:

Ohio State is desperate to play this game with their Big Ten and national championship hopes on the line, so expect to see this game played, even if the school janitor is at quarterback (he might only throw for 250) and Sarah Fuller is pulled in as a transfer to handle kicking duties.

As it is, Ryan Day will not be allowed on the sidelines due to (all together now) COVID protocols. It probably doesn’t matter much, but if this turns out to be a close game down the stretch on the road, it is something to keep in mind.

As we mentioned, Ohio State is perilously close to falling out of eligibility for the championship game, so expect Michigan to be going around campus licking door knobs this week (and I see their game this week against Maryland was canceled).

As for the actual action on the field, Michigan State is having a weird year even without the pandemic, they are 2-1 against ranked teams (although one of those was Michigan) and 0-2 against unranked teams.

They are terrible on offense (no way, right) but have a solid defense (16th in S&P+ defense). One thing to watch out for here is that Ohio State has been very susceptible to the pass this year, and Michigan State wideout Ricky White is averaging 22.3 yards per catch this season. Now it is only a question as to if quarterback Rocky Lombardi (54% passing on the year) can actually get him the ball.

Ohio State has won 4 in a row in this series, in fact you think of this as a trap game but Michigan State has only beaten the Buckeyes three times this century, and their last win in East Lansing was in 1999. They have only scored 19 points combined the last three meetings.

Who knows who actually plays for Ohio State and for how long, but you have to think they are fine just getting a win here and saving the style points for another day.

Ohio State 34 Michigan State 14

ATS – Michigan State

SU – Ohio State

Texas A&M -7 @ Auburn:

Neither team had a good showing their last time out, but at least Texas A&M came away with a victory. Auburn was still trying to kick embarrassing field goals in the third quarter (as in why bother).

Both teams had a bad outing because of their quarterback, the bad Kellen Mond came out to play against LSU, and well, Bo Nix is just bad for Auburn.

I’m willing to guess that Mond will be better than Nix on Saturday, although it certainly wouldn’t shock me if Auburn came out on top here — I think Vegas had the original line of A&M by a field goal nailed.

Texas A&M 27 Auburn 24

ATS – Auburn

SU – Texas A&M

Alabama -29.5 @ LSU:

Oh boy.

Through eight games, Alabama is outscoring their opponents by an average of 49.7 to 18.5, and after a rough outing for the defense against Ole Miss earlier this year, they have righted the ship, only giving up 16 points total in their last three games.

You have to go all the way down to #54 to find LSU in the S&P+ rankings, nestled right there between #53 Ole Miss and #55 Western Michigan. A win here would be like a major bowl victory for them, their win last year snapped an 8-game losing streak to the Crimson Tide.

But that isn’t happening.

Alabama 41 LSU 16

ATS – LSU

SU – Alabama

West Virginia @ Iowa State -7:

49 and a half might be a generous over/under for this game, as both teams come into this one with a Top 20 S&P+ defense (WVU 11th, ISU 18th), and with Iowa State perhaps content to get through this one without injury as they all but locked up a spot in the Big 12 Championship last week.

The Cyclones have won the last two after West Virginia had won four in a row, including last year’s 38-14 victory in Morgantown. Meanwhile West Virginia has one last chance to get a road victory in 2020. Tough place to get it.

Iowa State 28 West Virginia 17

ATS – Iowa State

SU – Iowa State

Baylor @ Oklahoma -22:

Do you remember a time when Baylor actually won 3 of 4 in this series, starting in 2011 and ending in 2014? Since then, Oklahoma has won six in a row, including twice last year by a combined 10 points.

Baylor got their first victory since September last week against Kansas State. Before that, they had lost five in a row, but the largest margin of victory in any of those losses was the 11-point deficit in Austin to the Longhorns. They are playing close, but just haven’t been good enough to overcome any mistakes made along the way.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma has won five in a row and looks to be on their way to the Big 12 Championship game, which you can guess how that will turn out. Spencer Rattler and the return of Rhamondre Stevenson get the headlines for the turnaround in Norman, but the Oklahoma defense hasn’t given up more than 28 points to any one opponent since the Texas game — only giving up 54 points total in those 4 wins.

Oklahoma 45 Baylor 20

ATS – Oklahoma

SU – Oklahoma

Texas -7 @ Kansas State:

Kansas State is like that deranged lunatic in the horror movie — even when you put them away you don’t feel good about it and you are just glad it is done, and you’re looking over your shoulder the whole time to make sure it is done (and it usually isn’t).

For all the misery that Kansas State has given Texas through the years, it is the funny irony that the worst period Texas has seen in at least 30 years has been the most fruitful for the Longhorns against the Wildcats, as Texas has won 5 of 7 in this series after losing five in a row from 2006 to 2012.

Tom Herman has never lost to the Wildcats, but those three wins have been by a combined 14 points (no way). In fact, these two teams usually play close games — since 2014, the cumulative score in this series is Texas 130, Kansas State 128.

And it is usually close because the Longhorns can’t score against the Wildcats — in 16 meetings with Kansas State, Texas has scored as many as 30 points just three times — in 2017 (a 40-34 victory), in 2013 (a 31-21 victory) and in 2006 (a 45-42 loss).

It has been a strange year in Manhattan (besides the obvious). KSU lost their opener 35-31 to Arkansas State, a team ravaged by COVID, and then two weeks later went out and whipped Oklahoma despite missing nearly their entire secondary to COVID protocols themselves.

They then lost starting quarterback Sylar Thompson for the year due to injury against Texas Tech, but managed to pull out a victory in that game and also managed to patch together two more wins against TCU and Kansas.

So they were sitting at 4-1 (4-0 in the conference) when the bottom fell out from underneath them in Morgantown, and they haven’t stopped falling since, losing four in a row, including last week’s loss in Waco to previously one win Baylor.

Their offense has been a mess. Thompson’s replacement, true freshman Will Howard, has only passed the 185 yards mark once (against Kansas), and in their last two games, the leading passer had 44 yards against Iowa State and 88 against Baylor. Howard is only completing 53% of his passes, and has thrown more interceptions (8) than touchdowns (6).

How bad has their air attack been? Freshman sensation (and Round Rock’s own) Deuce Vaughn eclipsed the 100-yard mark receiving against Baylor for the first time in six games. He hadn’t had more than 19 yards receiving in any game since that win over Kansas in late October. He’s still the leading receiver on the team. Sheesh.

Their defense has been adequate (57th in the country in S&P+), but isn’t good enough to overcome the shortcomings of their offense.

Longhorns linebacker Juwan Mitchell, who had perhaps his best game of the year last week against Iowa State with 10 tackles, will need to be a big factor in this game, to shut down that running attack.

The Longhorns are 0-6 ATS their last six trips to Manhattan, and with team captains opting out with two games left, it is fair to wonder how much stomach they will have for the fight. The Wildcats are not a good team, but since when does KSU have to be good to beat Texas?

Texas 28 Kansas State 24

ATS – Kansas State

SU – Texas

For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for passing the hat around on buyouts.