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The Week That Will Be: Cattle Call

The Horns face their old nemesis TCU this weekend...these are the games Steve Sarkisian was brought in to win.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 25 Texas Tech at Texas Photo by Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Last Week: 3-3 ATS 3-3 SU

For the Year: 11-13 (.458) (-$310) ATS 16-8 (.667) SU

Chalk (Arkansas +5.5 vs. Texas A&M): I just wish I would have had the guts to follow my instincts and pick Arkansas to win it outright. Texas A&M is dealing with a lot of injuries on the offensive side of the football, but they are paying Jimbo Fisher a lot of money to figure it out.

Bad Beat (Oklahoma -17 vs. West Virginia): I think it is time to acknowledge, pollsters included, that as much as I don’t want to believe it, this Oklahoma team is not very good. That having been said, I still don’t trust them to turn it on at some point like they did last season, but two weeks ago was their lowest scoring output in a win since 2013 and last Saturday was their lowest output in any game since 2014.

Okay Longhorn fans, we’re going to do the 4-7-8 breathing method. Breathe in through your nose for four seconds…one, two, three, four….hold it for 7 seconds….one, two, three, four, five, six, seven…and exhale through the mouth for 8 seconds…one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight….

Feel better?

I know it is TCU week and some are up-tight because of that silly record against TCU since they joined the Big 12 conference and some of you have PTSD from the Fayetteville trip three weeks ago, and some more of you even don’t remember that the last two guys were basically fired because they couldn’t beat TCU.

These are the games Steve Sarkisian was hired for.

Of course he is expected to beat Oklahoma more often than not and to win a conference title every now and then and to get Texas into the College Football Playoff for the first time at some point in the not so distant future, but Texas fans were accustomed to beating the others and taking their chances against the big ones in the Mack Brown era, and that is the goal here.

Because if you beat TCU and Oklahoma State and Iowa State and go undefeated in your non-conference slate where you don’t run into buzzsaws then you can have those 10 win seasons we stuck our nose up at not so long ago.

And with those 10-win seasons and wins over TCU you can win those recruiting battles over the blue bloods and can keep the TCUs of the world at arm’s length. Who do you think the dirtiest recruiter against Texas is in the Big 12? Gary Patterson. Lincoln Riley is too busy showing parents his Big 12 championship rings to worry about Texas.

Beating Texas is all that Gary Patterson and his losing record against the rest of the Big 12 over the past five years has.

Arkansas was the first test for Sarkisian and he failed miserably, but I am willing to write that off to lessons learned and it just not being their night. He has a chance for redemption here, to get a monkey off of Texas’s back and send it off to the 6-6 zoo that it belongs to.

Because make no mistake, Texas will get TCU’s best shot on Saturday. Gary Patterson admits to spending more time on Texas in the off-season, as evidenced by their record against everyone else the last several years. He treats this as the Rose Bowl, the Super Bowl and the day that McDonald’s releases the McRib all rolled into one.

Texas has to be ready to match the intensity level from the pre-game workout on, not after the fifth punch to the mouth.

Texas men’s basketball coach Chris Beard said it best recently:

“You’ve got to embrace the hate,” Beard said. “I imagine it’s not easy to play for the Yankees, the Lakers or the Cowboys. And that’s what this deal is all about. This deal isn’t for everybody.”

Embrace the hate.

Texas has to feed off the energy in these games and turn that hate into an energy that tells you the only way to get out of there is to smash them in the mouth. Take pride in a silent stadium.

Make a statement that this is a new era, plant your flag and get home with all your goals intact.

Cincinnati -2 @ Notre Dame:

Notre Dame outscored Wisconsin 31-3 in the final quarter last week as a special teams touchdown and two defensive touchdown caused under bettors everywhere to break things in their apartment. The win made Brian Kelly the winningest coach in Notre Dame history, but it was a weird one as Notre Dame routed the Badgers despite only having 9 rushing yards on the day and allowing six sacks.

This is year five for Luke Fickell in Cincinnati, and it is a bit of a surprise that he is still there as he has a 34-6 record since 2018. The Bearcats are known for their defense, finishing 5th in the country in SP+ defense last season and ranking 12th this season.

Desmond Ridder is back under center for Cincinnati, in about his twelfth year of college football. Ridder is off to a slow start with only 748 passing yards, 7 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in three games.

The Bearcats had a bye week last week, but had a big comeback victory over Indiana the week prior, down 14-0 at one point and still down one point going to the fourth quarter but Cincinnati scored the last 15 points of the game. They had their issues in that one, however, only gaining 328 total yards, only converting 4-of-14 third down conversions, turned the ball over twice and committed 11 penalties.

That might work against the Hoosiers.

The Irish have a 26-game home winning streak, but they just do not look that impressive this year. Add to it that starting quarterback Jack Coan might miss some time with a bum ankle and the Irish’s early season struggles seem destined to finally catch up to them.

Cincinnati 28 Notre Dame 23

Ole Miss @ Alabama -14.5:

Ole Miss might be to thank for Nick Saban finally realizing circa 2015 that he would need more offense as the Rebels went into Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa and scored 43 points in an upset win. Thanks a lot.

This game is the battle of early season Heisman front-runners, as Alabama’s Bryce Young will face off against Ole Miss’s Matt Corral. Corral is a Junior from Ventura, California who has thrown for 997 yards, 9 touchdowns and 0 interceptions through three ball games. Young has thrown for 1,124 yards, 15 touchdowns and only one interception through four games.

That’s about where the similarities end, as Alabama carries an 18-game home winning streak into this one. It should be high scoring (Alabama has scored 30 or more points in 30 straight games and Ole Miss tallied nearly 200 more yards than anyone on Alabama last year), but when it comes down to it, Mississippi can’t handle Alabama.

Alabama 48 Ole Miss 31

Arkansas @ Georgia -18.5:

Arkansas pulls off an upset 30over Texas, wears down Texas A&M, prints their little “Texas State Champs” t-shirts and their reward for all of that? A trip to Athens to play what everyone thinks is the second best team in the country, the Georgia Bulldogs.

Welcome to the SEC.

The question in this one is if Arkansas quarterback K.J. Jefferson might be able to play after sustaining an injury in Arkansas’s victory over Texas A&M last week. They will need all available hands as Georgia had 62 points last week against Vanderbilt and only allowed 77 yards.

Arkansas will need to limit the Georgia explosives in the passing game, if they do that this one can be close but this feels like a Georgia win with a chance to get ugly.

Georgia 31 Arkansas 17

Oklahoma -10.5 @ Kansas State


Oklahoma’s offensive issues can be broken down into two things – they are no longer explosive on offense and they don’t want to wear out their running game or they don’t trust it, either way their running game isn’t working.

To the first point, the Sooners rank 71st in the plays of 30+ yards this year after ranking Top 25 every year since 2014. A lot of that is that they are not attempting passes downfield. 17% of their passing plays in 2020 were downfield compared to only 5% this year, according to ESPN’s Bill Connelly. It is quite apparent that defenses are willing to let the Oklahoma ground game beat them rather than explosive plays from Rattler, who is completing 74% of his passes but yards per completion is down to 10.2 from 14.2 in 2020.

Those defenses are willing to let the Oklahoma ground game figure things out because the Sooners are down to two scholarship backs, and they were in two words not good last week against West Virginia, rushing for 3.2 yards per carry. They were better against Nebraska, rushing for 194 on 35 attempts, but could only muster 116 yards on 35 carries against Tulane in the opener. Their leading rusher in any game this year was Kennedy Brooks against Tulane, rushing for a grand total of 87 yards.

Enter Kansas State, who comes into this week ranked 40th in the country in SP+ defense. The Wildcats were burned by Spencer Sanders last week, but held the OSU running game to 3.2 yards per carry. They held Nevada to 1.1 yards per carry. Stanford? 1.8 yards per carry.

The Wildcats have won two in a row against the Sooners, including 38-35 last year in Norman. A victory here would give them their first three game winning streak over the Sooners since they won five straight from 1993 to 1997, but I don’t think they have the offense to get it done unless Deuce Vaughn has a Tavon Austin type of game.

Oklahoma 31 Kansas State 21

Baylor @ Oklahoma State -3.5:

Wow, Baylor comes into this one with a Top 25 ranking, let’s check the schedule real quick…Iowa State, okay, the stats don’t really scream a Baylor win but they won. Who else? Kansas. Texas Southern. Texas State.


The key to this one is if Baylor quarterback Gerry Bohanon can do anything against an impressive Oklahoma State defense. Bohanan has been okay but not great – throwing for 823 yards and 7 touchdowns to 0 interceptions through four games.

Oklahoma State has held their four opponents to 20 points or fewer to start the season and shut down an albeit bad Kansas State offense last week, holding them to 2-of-12 on third down.

There are plenty of questions about Oklahoma State’s offense – if you have read more than two of these columns you know I am not a fan of Spencer Sanders – but Sanders was better last week, throwing for 344 yards on 10.1 ypa, but once again the Cowboys failed to score in the second half, the second straight game they have done that.

Oklahoma State 28 Baylor 21

Texas -4.5 @ TCU:

I present the following with full expectation that we’ll see the best game of the year from TCU because after all this is Gary Patterson’s favorite day of the year outside of Thanksgiving because you know, pie.

But they have not been good. Cal, the same 1-3 Golden Bears squad that lost to Nevada and had a 12-point win over Sacramento State rolled up 442 yards at a 8.2 yards per play clip and 4.9 yards per carry against TCU.

SMU rolled up 350 rushing yards against the Horned Frogs and no it wasn’t Turn Back the Clock day so Craig James and Eric Dickerson weren’t suited up for the Pony Express. In fact the Mustangs hadn’t rushed for that many yards against a Power Five school since they rushed for 227 against Texas Tech 19 years ago.

Those 350 yards were the second-most ever allowed by a TCU team coached by Gary Patterson.

They are getting a few guys back on defense this week. Word is that they were ready sooner but Gary Patterson held them back because the day his Horned Frogs play Texas is like Christmas, with only more pie.

So yes, TCU will give us the best shot of the year, and yes they are getting some bodies back this week but they are having rampant issues in the secondary, particularly at safety, where blown assignments and miscommunication issues have been the norm this season. Throw in some shoddy tackling that would remind you of a Todd Orlando defense and that is a lot to fix in six days.

Though he has looked like Russell Wilson against Texas the last two years there are some concerns in Fort Worth that Max Duggan has plateaued. Despite the presence of Zach Evans and his 7.9 yards per carry average in the TCU backfield, I think you start with stopping Duggan from running (he has more than 70 yards rushing in each of his appearances against Texas in his career).

You obviously don’t want Evans going off like Rashaan Salaam against Texas, but if I am defending the Horned Frogs I limit the explosives and make their offense and Duggan go 75 yards in 12-15 plays without giving the ball up (he had a back breaking fumble against SMU last week in the shadow of his own goal posts) or committing a killer penalty (they had 9 against SMU). If you can stop Evans while limiting the downfield action, great.

I expect TCU to give it all in the first half and then Texas to take over the second half.

Then on to Oklahoma.

Texas 38 TCU 28

For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for flags to plant at midfield at Amon Carter Stadium.