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The Week That Will Be: Return of the Jedi

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As of press time, football resumes this week in Austin. Can the Horns ride a senior QB the next level?

Valero Alamo Bowl - Utah v Texas Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

We’re back...we don’t know how long we might be back, so like this last season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, let’s enjoy what we have, and if we get more, hey, we’re not complaining, right?

And we might as well open a spite store while we’re at it.

These past few months haven’t been easy for anybody, but I hope that this column each and every week can at least bring some much needed normalcy to you and yours. I, along with college football and Taylor Swift’s Folklore are here to guide you through this pandemic, and hey, if you get a little extra enjoyment on the side, ain’t nothing wrong with that.

We might have to scratch some games off the list, much like I did this week, but we’ll get through it, and some football is better than no football, right my readers from Columbus and Los Angeles?

Anyhow, I feel like any one of us could write this column for the last 10 years…”Texas football finds itself at a crossroads”....”It is a make or break year for this coaching staff”...”why this set of coaches will finally turn the page”...”why does Mack Brown piss me off so much”...

In normal times you certainly could argue it is make or break time for Tom Herman, but take one look at that buyout and of course the fact that we’re in the middle of a economic fallout amid a worldwide pandemic, and I think Tom could go 2-8 this year, be found asleep under the bench during one of those losses and he would still be opening up that beautiful new south end zone project against the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns next Labor Day weekend.

But this is the most talented team of the Tom Herman era, and probably the most talented since Colt McCoy’s daddy was throwing soil on the artificial turf so his son could play on Texas soil. The excuses are minimal as Sam Ehlinger returns for his fourth year under center behind the best offensive line Texas has fielded in a decade. His targets are young but talented, and he has an embarrassment of riches behind him in the backfield. The offensive drought that they suffered through for a better part of half a season last year shouldn’t happen again this year.

Defensively a secondary that was green last year is all grown up this year, with the hope that they can avoid the Press Your Luck whammies that befell them last year. The group of B.J. Foster, D’Shawn Jamison, Caden Sterns and Jalen Green might be the best in the conference, and the guys behind them are eager to prove their worth as well. The struggles that Texas had fielding a secondary group last year might pay dividends this year.

One of new defensive coordinator Chris Ash’s biggest priorities this year will be getting pressure on the quarterback without, oh, running a zero blitz on 3rd and 17. He has the talent to do so with Joseph Ossai looking to turn a dominant Alamo Bowl performance into a dominating Junior campaign, but until we see it, Longhorn fans will be nervous.

Then, of course, there is the schedule. I am willing to gamble my life that Texas will get through their non-conference schedule unscathed for the first time since 2012, and will be fortunate to get a trip to Lubbock in a year where capacity will be reduced and get TCU early in the year while they are still figuring things out.

There is the three game triumvirate of Oklahoma, Baylor and Oklahoma State, but get through that portion and they are looking at a schedule the rest of the way that has their two toughest opponents (West Virginia and Iowa State) at home. There is that last game of the season in Manhattan, but Texas broke that curse in 2018 so we have absolutely nothing to worry about with that trip.

There is nothing about the 2020 season that figures to be routine, but Texas has the tools (and the schedule) to get that Big 12 title that has eluded them since 2009.

Let us just hope that the Horns embrace the chaos and invoke the words of our muse Taylor Swift:

“I was so ahead of the curve, the curve became a sphere.”

Duke @ Notre Dame -20:

We kick off the 2020 column with the….conference opener for Notre Dame?

Yes, the Fighting Irish are an honorary member of the Atlantic Coast Conference for the 2020 College Football Season, presented to you by COVID-19. The Irish enter this game ranked 10th in both polls, but will rise next week when those who didn’t want to answer the player petition so they canceled the season Big 10 teams fall out of the polls.

Ian Book is back under center for Notre Dame as he tries to build upon a 2019 season in which he threw for 34 touchdowns to only 6 interceptions. He certainly has some help in front as him, as all five members of his offensive line return. Book led the Irish to an 11-2 record last season that included a dismantling of Iowa State in the Camping World Bowl.

Even more impressive for Notre Dame? Only two of those wins last year was a one-score game. They dominated.

David Cutliffe enters his 13th year at the helm for Duke, who missed the postseason last year for the second time in three years. At quarterback for the Blue Devils is Clemson transfer Chase Brice, who served as Trevor Lawrence’s back-up for three years and engineered the comeback against Syracuse in the 2018 national championship run when Lawrence was injured.

Duke won the last time they traveled to South Bend (38-35 in 2016 behind the arm of Daniel Jones), but fell last year 38-7 in Durham.

This one will more resemble the latter.

Notre Dame 34 Duke 17

ATS – Duke

SU – Notre Dame

UAB @ Miami -14 (Thursday):

When the Miami Hurricanes finished the 2017 season 10-3, the future looked bright as everyone declared them “back” (that must be awful). Unfortunately for the Hurricanes the two seasons since have not been as kind, as they are 13-13 in that time due mainly to an offense that resembles a youth football team playing their first week of football, which we saw in the Independence Bowl when they were shut-out by Louisiana Tech of all teams.

That shouldn’t be an issue this season, as they welcome Houston transfer D’Eriq King, who in 2018 had a hand in an absurd 50 touchdowns before curiously opting out last season midway through the year before ultimately transferring. Joining King in Coral Gables is new offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, who spent time at Auburn under Gus Malzahn before leading up a high octane SMU offense last season.

Their opponent on Saturday is the University of Alabama- Birmingham, who are only three seasons removed from a two-year impasse in the program. Somehow Bill Clark’s squad has managed to tabulate a record of 26-13 in those three seasons. Impressive, indeed.

This is a team that Miami should be able to handle, as their team strength (17th in rushing defense last season) matches up with UAB’s strength (233 rushing yards last week in a win over Central Arkansas), but it might take King a game or two to shake off the rust.

Miami 31 UAB 14

ATS – Miami

SU – Miami

Syracuse @ North Carolina -23:

No, it doesn’t irk me at all that Mack Brown appears to have found the fountain of youth in Chapel Hill as the Tar Heels come into this season ranked in the Top 20 of both polls after a 7-6 campaign in 2019 that saw them lose those six games by a combined 26 points.

Building upon that success with a top recruiting class, the Tar Heels are a trendy pick to win the ACC Coastal Division this year, and with good reason as quarterback Sam Howell is back for his sophomore season. Howell enjoyed an outstanding freshman season last year, throwing for 3,641 yards with 38 touchdowns to only 7 interceptions.

The opposite of North Carolina is Syracuse, who two years ago was 10-3 but fell to 5-7 last year, losing by 40 to Maryland (c’mon who loses to Maryland) and 35 the next week to Clemson, a team they nearly knocked off in 2018. Prognosticators are even more bearish on the ‘Cuse this season, as some have them only winning two or three games.

Good. Serves them right for kicking Texas out of the Final Four.

North Carolina 38 Syracuse 17

ATS – Syracuse

SU – North Carolina

Louisiana Lafayette @ Iowa State -11.5:

This is a sneaky good game for the first full week of the college football season, as a Louisiana team that won 11 games last season riding a Top 10 offense comes into Ames with most of those offensive stars returning.

Quarterback Levi Lewis threw for more than 3,000 yards last season with 26 touchdowns and 4 interceptions, but he takes a back seat to the running back duo of Elijah Mitchell and Raymond Calais, who combined for more than 2,000 yards rushing and 22 scores a year ago.

Brock Purdy returns again at quarterback for the Cyclones after a sophomore season that saw him throw for nearly 4,000 yards with 27 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. If that wasn’t enough he added another 8 scores on the ground.

Iowa State cannot afford to sleep through this one like they did their 2019 opener, which saw them need overtime to defeat Northern Iowa. This ain’t Northern Iowa.

Iowa State 34 Louisiana Lafayette 24

ATS – Louisiana Lafayette

SU – Iowa State

Arkansas State @ Kansas State -10.5:

This is another sneaky good game for the Big 12 (they didn’t get the memo to schedule teams that won two games in two years).

Arkansas State reeled off their 9th straight winning season last year, which is no small feat for a Group of Five team. The Red Wolves have already played this season, as they ran out to a lead on Memphis last week before ultimately falling.

The Red Wolves gave up 227 rushing yards in that game, and the question here is whether Kansas State can replicate that, as they are the opposite of Notre Dame in that they have five new starters on the offensive line. Skylar Thompson is back at quarterback, so there is some familiarity there, but there might be a feeling out period early this year.

Kansas State 28 Arkansas State 24

ATS – Arkansas State

SU – Kansas State

UTEP @ Texas -43:

Look.

You can tell me all about brand new wide receivers, and oh no, Jake Smith is going to miss a game against a UTEP team that is 2-22 in their last two seasons. You can tell me that Texas is 5-0 against UTEP in their history and that each victory was by more than 30 points..

You can tell me that UTEP’s lone victory last year was a two-point win over Houston Baptist, who we last saw getting run over by North Texas on ESPN+ of all channels.

You can tell me that Dana Dimel is the head coach of UTEP and he has done such a respectable job that a program that hasn’t had a winning season since 2005 (Vince Young, holla) might haul off and win two more games this season.

You can tell me that their quarterback is a kid that transferred from New Mexico Military Institute, and I’m not even going to be a cynic and tell you that NMMI is so far gone from Last Chance U that Netflix suggested they be a part of Blockbuster Video’s next great documentary.

No more excuses.

Sam Ehlinger is a Jedi.

If there are people invited to New York for that award in New York, he’ll be there.

And I’m not picking against Texas quarterbacked by a Jedi against a team that has won 2 games the last two seasons.

Are you?

Texas 49 UTEP 0

ATS – Texas

SU – Texas

For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for burnt orange PPE.