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The Week That Will Be: Work in Progress

We wanted to skip that whole rebuild thing...but its here.

Oklahoma State v Texas Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Last Week: 3-3 ATS 4-2 SU

For the Year: 20-22 (.476) (-$400) ATS 28-14 (.667) SU

Chalk (Oklahoma -13.5 vs. TCU): Three weeks ago we were told we put too many high expectations on Spencer Rattler, but this week we are told that a true freshman is a Heisman candidate after his first career start. Caleb Williams was impressive, but c’mon. Gary Patterson has now lost 8 in a row and 11 of 12 to Oklahoma.

Bad Beat (Kansas State +6.5 vs. Iowa State): Breece Hall took the first play of the game 75 yards for a touchdown and it was off to the races for Iowa State. Kansas State scored two fourth quarter touchdowns to make it somewhat respectable, but Chris Klieman’s squad now sits at 0-3 in the Big 12 after allowing the Cyclones to average 6.0 yards per carry…but imagine what it was after that 75-yarder. Progress.

2021 was always going to be a rebuilding year on the Forty Acres. Vegas told us as much, setting the over/under on Texas wins at 8. I said in the season opening column this year I was thinking 9, just because I didn’t expect to get our doors blown off in Fayetteville.

As we sit here 58.33% way through the season, knowing that it was a rebuilding year doesn’t make it feel any better.

Because no ifs, ands or buts about it, this team should be 6-1 and sitting in the Top 10.

They would still have the same problems – but we could at least dream of conference titles and sneaking into the playoff and being a year ahead of the process.

Indeed we’re sitting here starting at a matchup with Clemson…but in the Cheez-It Bowl.

Perhaps we can make ourselves feel better by telling ourselves it is for the best – with a better record we would be less apt to tell ourselves the truth and patch holes that need to be patched.

And there are plenty of holes to patch. The 2018 and 2019 recruiting classes are littered with guys that didn’t make it, or did make it and haven’t made much progress since they were in high school. Championship contending defenses don’t have former walk-ons starting or in the two-deep at the most important positions on defense.

The Longhorns’ best wide receiver is a guy who has been on campus for three months. The tight ends are nearly non-existent. And the offensive line…it’s not exactly Kasey Studdard and Lyle Sendlein.

Texas has been outscored 41-7 in the fourth quarter the last two games. TCU outscored them in the fourth quarter and after halftime. Last week after the first drive of the second half they had 17 plays for 14 yards and 0 first downs the rest of the game.

And the reasoning is simple – they don’t have the horses up front on either side of the ball, and as the game goes on and fatigue sets in that becomes more and more apparent.

One of the most simple instruments in all of football is getting a lead of multiple scores in the second half and relying on your running game to bring the win home. And the Longhorns have the best running back in all of college football.

Yet they can’t even get first downs in the second half of these games.

Just baffling.

We talked last week about how Mike Gundy is always under the gun in Stillwater (no pun intended) but the results have been great for OSU – they flat out out-coached Texas on Saturday.

If you have been reading this column for a number of years you know that at heart I am a glass-half full kind of football guy, but this team can’t be getting pushed around the field by the likes of Oklahoma State and TCU.

Perhaps a great quarterback would cover up a lot of faults. I don’t think the one with the job right now is that guy, and I’m not sure about the guy behind him because he really didn’t get a fair shake. It is time for him to get that shake, if for nothing else this roster needs a refresh in the off-season and we need to know if he is the guy or not before he transfers out because this is 2021 and that’s what these kids do now.

Or perhaps he isn’t playing because the coaches already feel like he isn’t the guy. I don’t know.

I don’t think there is any doubt that the future of Texas football is in the right hands.

Just please excuse the mess while it gets sorted out.

South Carolina @ Texas A&M -20.5:

Do you trust Texas A&M here? They meandered through a win over Colorado, lost to Arkansas and Mississippi State and didn’t look good in the process, then out of nowhere they defeated Alabama. Then last week when they were ripe for a hangover with a 11:00 AM start in Columbia, they jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter against Missouri before walking away with an easy win.

Have the Aggies figured it out, or have they simply been on a hot streak? Zach Calzada came back to Earth a bit last week, barely completing 50% of his passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns and an interception. But the Aggies didn’t really need his contribution because they rushed for 283 yards at a 6.7 clip. When you can run the football like that, you are much less prone to roller coaster performances game to game.

The Gamecocks, meanwhile, needed a touchdown with 37 seconds left last week to defeat lowly Vanderbilt and needed their 24-year old former assistant Zeb Noland to pull it off. They have three wins this year over East Carolina, Troy and Vandy by a total of 13 points. Not exactly a murderer’s row.

The Aggies have won every game in this series, which started in 2014. The Gamecocks have scored 9 points in their last two meetings combined, I don’t see them adding much to that total here.

Texas A&M 28 South Carolina 10

LSU @ Ole Miss -9.5:

Boy these teams are flying under the radar, no?

Hardly. 17 games after “leading” LSU to a national championship, it was announced this week that Ed Orgeron won’t be back next year in Baton Rouge, which is good news for LSU players and trustee’s wives.

Meanwhile Ole Miss was involved in that brouhaha at the end of the game in Knoxville last week, when Tennessee fans figured out they are terrible again and decided to throw their makeshift flasks (and a golf ball) on the field. They did finish the game and Ole Miss did still win despite the official protest of the officiating in the game.

The timing for the Orgeron announcement was awkward as LSU was coming off their biggest win of the year, a 49-42 thriller over Florida (the Gators are now 4-6 in their last 10 games) . LSU’s Tyrion Davis-Price had rushed for 140 yards through five games but now has 434 yards in his last two after rushing for 287 against Florida, the most ever allowed by the Gators. LSU had been struggling with the run, only totalling 375 on the year coming into that game.

Ole Miss quarterback and Heisman candidate Matt Corral is questionable for this game after rushing an inexplicable 30 times last week in that win over Tennessee, a game that saw the Rebels run 101 offensive plays, an Ole Miss record.

LSU has won five straight in this series and 9 of 11, but if Corral plays (and I think the assumption is that he will), this shouldn’t be much of a game.

Ole Miss 45 LSU 27

USC @ Notre Dame -7:

This is the 89th game in this storied rivalry, with Notre Dame riding a three-game winning streak and winners of 7 of the last 10. USC has not won in South Bend since 2011.

USC made the dumb move of holding onto Clay Helton this past off-season despite knowing this would probably be his final year and then he didn’t even make it to October. Subsequently the Trojans now sit at 3-3 and 4th in the Pac-12 South with a 2-3 conference record.

Those losses include their first loss to Oregon State in Los Angeles in about 60 years and home losses to Stanford and Utah in which they were not competitive. Even worse, the Trojans play garbage football, standing 126th in the nation (out of 130 teams) in fewest penalties. In those three home losses they have committed 28 penalties for about 200 yards.

Then there is Notre Dame, which has their own issues including a rotating door at quarterback and no running game to speak of. Yet they sit at 5-1 with very winnable games the rest of the schedule (no ranked teams).

Notre Dame 34 USC 21

Oregon @ UCLA -2:

Oregon defeated Ohio State earlier this year in Columbus and while they haven’t gone into a complete tailspin, that was definitely the apex of their season thus far. Last Friday night they found themselves in a dogfight with 1-5 Cal before finally coming out ahead 24-17. They let a bad Cal offense roll up 400 yards on them after earlier this month allowing a middling Stanford squad to accrue 350 yards in a Cardinal win.

One of the bright spots for Oregon is defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, who is projected by many to be the first pick in next April’s NFL draft. How good is Thibodeaux? Last week in that win over Cal he had 11 pressures on 22 dropbacks with a sack – in the second half after missing the first half due to a targeting infraction earlier this year.

Meanwhile UCLA with a win this week and next week at Utah would go a long way towards the running for the Pac-12 Championship game, a contest they have not been in since 2012.

The thing to watch in this one is the running game. UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet and Brittain Brown have combined for 1,165 rushing yards at 6.4 yards per carry, while their rush defense ranks 9th in the country.

Oregon has won 13 of 16 in this series, but look for the Bruins to control both lines of scrimmage.

UCLA 34 Oregon 28

West Virginia @ TCU -4.5:

TCU has now lost three of four games thanks mostly to a defense that has allowed at least 200 rushing yards in four consecutive games, as many as they allowed in the last three seasons combined.

The Horned Frogs actually had more yards than Oklahoma last week in Norman, but 9 penalties and a costly turnover turned deadly for them. Their problem certainly isn’t offense as super sophomore Quentin Johnston had touchdown catches of 75, 25 and 20 yards against the Sooners in a game in which Max Duggan threw for 346 yards and 4 touchdowns.

TCU needs 4 more wins to be bowl eligible, and with Baylor, Oklahoma State and Iowa State still on the schedule, this is a must win for them. The Mountaineers have lost three straight in the Big 12, I don’t see much reason why it won’t be four.

TCU 37 West Virginia 28

Oklahoma State @ Iowa State -7:

The Cowboys have won 11 of 14 in this series, and Iowa State has not won in Ames since 2011.

You remember that game. Oklahoma State was #2 in the country with an inside track to getting to the BCS National Championship Game. All they had to do was beat Iowa State on a Friday night (they were 27 point favorites) and then defeat Oklahoma.

But they lost in double OT. They beat Oklahoma by 34 two weeks later and then defeated #4 Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl to finish 11-1 and ranked third in the country.


Iowa State won the Kansas State Championship the last two games by a combined score of 92-27, led by a stingy defense and Breece Hall, who has run for 100 yards in four straight games and at least 190 yards in two out of his last three games.

But this isn’t Kansas.

Oklahoma State is a little more battle tested, defeating Baylor and Texas in conference play. Win this one and they would own the tiebreaker over the next three teams in the conference race. Texas fans don’t need to hear any more praise of the Oklahoma State defense but after finishing first in the country in third down defense last season they are back in the Top 10 this year after holding Texas to 4/14 last Saturday.

Brock Purdy against this defense? Geesh.

Oklahoma State is 10-3 in their last 13 games as an underdog. That includes 7 outright wins in that stretch.

They get another one here.

Oklahoma State 28 Iowa State 23

For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for Cheez-It Bowl tickets!