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The Week That Will Be: Thanksgiving’s Version

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Tis the season to give thanks....even this year.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 20 Texas at West Virginia Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last Week: 4-2 ATS 6-0 SU

For the Year: 36-36 (.500) (-$360) ATS 48-24 (.667) SU

Chalk (Oklahoma -3.5 vs. Iowa State):

The Sooners managed to only ring up 96 yards passing and were 1-of-10 on third down but kind of always felt in control of this one, especially after Brock Purdy had a derp moment and fumbled the ball right to an Oklahoma defender for a touchdown. Then, for good measure he threw an interception inside the 10-yard line when they were driving to tie at the end of the game. No wonder Matt Campbell is looking for another job.

Bad Beat (Michigan State +19 @ Ohio State):

This one was over in the second quarter as Ohio State led 35-0 twenty minutes into the game. C.J. Stroud was outstanding, completing 32-of-35 passes for 422 yards and six touchdowns while barely playing into the second half. It was the most lopsided game between top-seven teams since No. 1 Army beat No. 6 Penn 61-0 in 1945.


I am thankful for Bijan Robinson.

For entertainment purposes only…see you guys next year!!!

I kid, I kid.

Mostly.

Perhaps we’ll all look back one day at the 2021 season and either A.) be really thankful that it is over and done, or B.) it kept us grounded and reminded us what can happen when we let the winning tradition be entrusted to the weak and the timid.

And understand that I am calling out the machine that is Texas football with that last statement, not any particular section of it.

As my girl Taylor Swift sings, “And I know it’s long gone and that magic’s not here no more…And I might be okay but I’m not fine at all.”

Amen.

Senior day is always a bittersweet day not only on the Forty Acres but across the land. Congratulations to all of those current and former players that will graduate this semester or next – for all of the consternation about the performance of the football team, graduating from the University of Texas is a big deal and should be celebrated.

Be thankful of the opportunity that this sport and that your hard work gave you. You’ll carry that graduate designation on you for the rest of your life.

And for those that are being given another chance due to this crazy world that we live in, be thankful of that opportunity to get another chance to play the greatest game at the greatest University in the land – and for another opportunity to set up future employment.

For those that have decided or will decide that the University of Texas is not for them – that is fine, just make sure that you are making that decision for the right reasons and not temporary reasons. Be thankful of the opportunity you were given.

For those coming into the program this year, be thankful for the chance to prove yourself at the highest level of competition, starting sometime when you are on campus. Realize that the University of Texas is a vehicle, not the destination.

To Steve Sarkisian, I promise that it does get easier. I know you are already thankful for where you are, you don’t need a reminder from me. You have defeated far worse.

And now, it is my turn.

I actually don’t recall when I first started writing this column, but it is around the 20-year mark on this forum and plenty of others. Whether I get 5 readers or 5,000 readers it doesn’t matter, I do it because I enjoy writing and I enjoy this sport that drives us absolutely mad at times.

The last decade of Texas football has not been fun, but it has been fun interacting with you all. If I can write about a 10-2 team, then I should be able to write about a 2-10 team…the results are just fodder to be discussed.

Thank you all for taking the time to read this column each and every week and for your kind comments. I really do consider your time when I decide to write six paragraphs on Oregon and Utah but sometimes I spill over and you are kind enough to keep coming back.

And thank you to Barking Carnival for having me for another year.

Thank you to the New York Times Crossword…Evan Felker…Olivia Rodrigo…the makers of Succession…Larry David…Austin Beerworks…The Ticket…Augusta National Golf Club…guilty pleasure TV that I can’t even mention…HEB Curbside…DoorDash…just to mention a few.

To my tailgate family, it was great being back after a year off. It wasn’t the best year on the field and all of those damn 11:00 AM kickoffs, but I can’t imagine being anywhere else those six five days a year. Thanks for all the hard work each of you do, and thank you for your support. It is much appreciated.

To my friends and family, thank you for your kinship and for just being there. From Austin to Dallas to Marble Falls to Colorado, it was all very much needed. Isn’t it fun to laugh a little bit?

To my son Jackson…thank you for being you. You’re my everything.


Alabama -19.5 @ Auburn:

There are few rivalries in the sport better than the Iron Bowl. Lately it has been a back and forth game with these teams trading victories the last five years – which means that Alabama hasn’t won in Auburn since 2015.

These two teams are headed in opposite directions right now, with Auburn entering this game with a three-game losing streak (their first since 2012) and blowing double-digit leads in the last two. Bryan Harsin is 6-5 in his first season with the Tigers and there is already some grumbling from those meddling Auburn boosters. Add to that there is some uncertainty about the COVID-19 vaccination status of Harsin with a school vaccination mandate coming into effect early next month.

On the field the Tigers lost their starting quarterback Bo Nix for the season a couple of weeks ago. His replacement is former LSU Tiger T.J. Finley, who was 2-3 as a starter for LSU last season and hasn’t inspired confidence in the beginning of his Auburn career.

Meanwhile Alabama has won five games in a row since that loss to Texas A&M and have already clinched a spot in the SEC title game. Of course they have aspirations of the college football playoff so there is little concern for them letting up.

Bryce Young made his Heisman statement last week, throwing for 559 yards against Arkansas, a new school record. He won’t do that this week but he’ll lead the Tide to an Iron Bowl win nonetheless.

Alabama 34 Auburn 17


Texas A&M -6.5 @ LSU:

Twenty-four months ago Ed Orgeron was preparing for the SEC Championship Game amid his offense breaking all sorts of records – this week he is cleaning out his desk of pork rinds and crab legs and preparing to coach his final game in Baton Rouge.

College football is very much a “what have you done for me lately” type of sport. But coming off a bad 2020 Orgeron made more staff changes and still only has two wins over Power 5 teams this season – Mississippi State and Florida.

Orgeron’s offense isn’t breaking records anymore, but Max Johnson hasn’t been terrible, throwing for 2,509 yards, 24 touchdowns and only 6 interceptions, but LSU’s defense has fallen to 57th in the country in SP+ defense…they can’t win those O/U of 38 type of games anymore, either.

Meanwhile the Aggies are a win here and a win in the bowl game for their first 10-win season since 2012, which ought to get Jimbo another 10-year extension. A&M brings the nation’s best scoring defense into this contest (well they are tied with Oklahoma State) and Zach Calzada is doing what LSU quarterbacks used to do – not lose games for them (for the most part).

A win here makes LSU bowl eligible but a loss gives them their first losing season since 1999 – I don’t see them avoiding that.

Texas A&M 27 LSU 23


Ohio State -8.5 @ Michigan:

You have to feel a bit for Michigan.

They are off to a 10-1 start, one of the better starts of the Jim Harbaugh era and Ohio State looks very vulnerable early in the season against Oregon and just a few weeks ago against Nebraska. And then they go out and do THAT to Michigan State.

Here is where I am obligated to remind you that Harbaugh has yet to beat Ohio State as the Buckeyes have now won 8 in a row in this series. It is not just Harbaugh, however, as the Wolverines have won just ONCE since 2004 and twice since 2001. They haven’t been close, either with the last one score loss coming back in 2016.

And of course I am obligated to show you these stat lines: Harbaugh is 2-13 against AP top-10 teams and just 3-9 against Michigan State and Ohio State.

Now this is where I mention that Ohio State hasn’t lost a conference game since October of 2018 – a streak of 31 in a row. The Buckeyes’ offense has been on point, as they have scored 50+ points 6 times in their last 8 games.

They meet a Michigan defense that has held 9 opponents to less than 20 points. The Wolverines have been smothering offenses, but we have heard that before.

Michigan running backs Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum have combined for 1,841 yards and 23 touchdowns this season – their best bet might be to let those two work and keep the Ohio State offense off the field – if they don’t fall down quickly first.

Michigan can absolutely win this game – but until they beat the streak, you have to ride it.

Ohio State 34 Michigan 24


Texas Tech @ Baylor -14.5:

Texas Tech was shut out last week for the first time since 1997, when they went up to Lincoln and were shut out by #2 Nebraska, 29-0.

The Red Raiders are bowl eligible for the first since 2017 (that must be pretty nice), but they have now lost three of four, with that one win an out of nowhere win over Iowa State in Lubbock a couple of weeks ago. Donovan Smith is the quarterback du jour in Lubbock these days, he has thrown for 667 yards and 4 touchdowns with 2 interceptions in his last three starts.

Baylor can clinch a spot in their second Big 12 title game in three years (with two different head coaches!) with a victory here, which would be a tremendous accomplishment after finishing 2-7 last year.

Quarterback Gerry Bohanon is doubtful after suffering a hamstring injury last week in their victory against Kansas State – freshman Blake Shapen replaced Bohanon and did an admirable job (what a concept!), completing 16-of-21 passes, rushing for 44 yards and not turning the ball over. Baylor’s duo of Abram Smith and Trestan Ebner will surpass 2,000 rushing yards in this game, what an accomplishment.

Baylor 24 Texas Tech 13


Oklahoma @ Oklahoma State -4:

Okay, we can talk about Oklahoma State’s defense (the 13.3 ppg they are allowing on defense is the lowest for a Big 12 team since Ndamukong Suh’s 2009 Nebraska team, or their shutout of Texas Tech being their first ever of a Big 12 opponent, we can talk about their four-game winning streak in which they have allowed 23 points total, and we can even talk about how they have clinched a spot in their first ever Big 12 championship game.

But can we talk about Mike Gundy’s 2-14 record against Oklahoma? Including six losses in a row, with only one score game in that stretch?

Oklahoma State is clearly the better team on paper here, but games are played on a field and in the heads of players and coaches. We’ll see if they can overcome that psychological hurdle.

Oklahoma State 27 Oklahoma 20


Kansas State @ Texas -3:

I’m not sure what I was expecting out of this Texas football season, but what I didn’t expect was it to be ending with the Longhorns trying to break a six-game losing streak in front of possibly about 50,000 fans.

It is always sports depressing when your team’s season ends on Thanksgiving weekend, but that is where we find ourselves this year, and with it we find a very beatable opponent coming to Austin on Friday.

I am old enough to remember when Kansas State had a jinx over Texas athletics – but if there is one thing Tom Herman managed to do on the 40 Acres it was to end the Wizard jinx – the Horns finally have a winning record against KSU all-time with their 69-31 victory last year in Manhattan. All in all, the Horns have won four in a row in this series and the last time KSU won in Austin was ten years ago – 2011.

The Wildcats started Big 12 play with an 0-3 record and then won four in a row before dropping one to Baylor at home last weekend. The main casualty of that game was quarterback Skylar Thompson, who is doubtful for this one. Thompson is a major upgrade over the other KSU options.

Will Howard or Jaren Lewis would get the start if Thompson can’t go. Together they are barely completing 50% of their passes for a little over 400 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Howard can run a little bit as the Longhorns found out last season when he ran for 79 yards against them.

And of course the KSU offense orbits around Round Rock native Deuce Vaughn, who leads the team in rushing and receptions for the season. In total Vaughn has 1,579 total yards and 17 touchdowns – no other Kansas State skill player has more than 2.

The backbone of Chris Klieman’s Wildcat squad is their defense – it currently ranks 23rd in the country in SP+ defense and have only allowed more than 24 points three times this season – all losses.

Felix Anudike-Uzomah has 11 sacks on the season but 7 of those came in two games – he hasn’t had one the last two weeks.

We’ll learn a lot about Sarkisian’s team this week – which of course will immediately be torn down and rebuilt kind of like they did to Stanford Stadium a few years ago when the bulldozers were warming up in the parking lot as the game ended. Perhaps it is the eternal optimist inside of me, but I think they end this season with a win – because how depressing would it be to go into the off-season not having won since the first weekend of October?

Texas 31 Kansas State 20

For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for your expanded Christmas budget this year with no bowl trip to plan.