Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Week That Will Be (11.01.08)

Last Week: 3-3 ATS 4-2 SU
For the Year: 33-20-1 (.623) ($1100) ATS 45-9 (.833) SU

What we learned last week: We learned that either Georgia is finally reaching their potential, or we learned that LSU’s defense is absolutely horrid this year. After giving up 50+ points to Florida, LSU gave up half a hundred in another big game. Somehow I can’t really bring myself to feel sorry for LSU or their fans, however…We learned that Alabama might not have the biggest names or the biggest stats, but they keep winning with a tough defense and efficiency on offense. Think of them as college football’s The Office…Speaking of The Office, the Penn State/Ohio State game on Saturday reminded me of a mud wrestling match between Phyllis and Meredith, as in completely unwatchable. Is there a sane football mind out there that would put their next paycheck on either of those teams against a Big 12 or SEC powerhouse?....We learned that yes, it is possible to have a 4 incompletion to 3 touchdown ratio in a quarter as Todd Reesing put his team square behind the 8 ball against Texas Tech. You do that in a video game and you re-set the console. You do that in real life and you blow your inside lane to the Big 12 Championship game…We learned that Oklahoma can score 55 points in one half and 3 in the next, and somehow Kansas State can look like a big time contender and the worst team in the Big 12 in the course of one game….And finally we learned that Texas is still the class of the nation, but that the team they beat on Saturday is no slouch. That might end up being the Longhorns’ biggest quality win of the year, including the bowl game.


The Longhorns have a big game this week. Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

And that’s the end of the column. No, not really.

Texas ventures out to scenic Lubbock, TX on Saturday night to take on the #5 Texas Tech Red Raiders. Last week it was the #8 Oklahoma State Cowboys. The week before it was the #12 Missouri Tigers (who were #3 the week before). And the week before that it was the #1 Oklahoma Sooners.

Never before had the Longhorns beaten three ranked teams in three weeks before last week’s victory over Oklahoma State, but it’s going to have to be four out of four if they are going to get the job done here.

Much has been made this week about going to Lubbock and playing a game at night in the venerable Jones AT&T Stadium in front of a massive crowd of 53,000 that have decided in their infinite dork-dom to wear black this week, because they are going to “black-out” Texas.

And therein lies your problem, Texas Tech.

Top teams, true contenders for the national title, don’t need false motivation to get themselves going. Last week, when #8 Oklahoma State came to town, you could feel the buzz around town all week, and a sell-out crowd (and the biggest crowd to ever see a game in the state of Texas) didn’t need to be reminded how big the game was. It was loud and proud, and let the team do the talking on the field.

You’ve heard all week that Texas has a problem on the plains, but it is simply not true.

Yes, Mack Brown has lost twice in Lubbock in 5 tries, but let’s take a look at those games.


The Horns traveled to Lubbock in mid-November, coming off a 6 game winning streak that saw them take down #7 Nebraska in Lincoln, their first home loss in quite a while.

They lost to Tech despite Ricky Williams rushing for 141 yards and Wane McGarity’s 4 touchdowns. The Longhorns led 21-20 going to the fourth quarter, but the teams traded touchdowns in the fourth quarter, and unfortunately Tech was last in the trading, as they came out ahead, 42-35.

But how good was that Texas team? They finished 9-3 and were blown out by UCLA and Kansas State early in the year. They were a team that was just getting used to winning again, and had a freshman quarterback by the name of Major Applewhite. They won six straight games in the middle of the year (some of those very close wins), and probably over-achieved that year.

Tech finished the season 7-5.


The Horns again traveled to Lubbock in mid-November, this time ranked #4 in the nation and riding a four game winning streak after losing to Oklahoma earlier in the year. Tech was 7-4, mired in mediocrity.

The Longhorns jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead, but the Red Raiders quickly tied it up in the second quarter behind Kliff Kingsbury and Wes Welker. The teams went to the half tied at 21, but Tech scored early in the third with another touchdown pass to Welker (who finished with 240 all purpose yards). The Horns tied it up with an 80 yard drive and the teams went to the fourth quarter tied up at 28.

Texas got a field goal, Tech answered with a touchdown, but the Horns appeared to have broken the Red Raiders’ back on the next drive, as all it took was one play for Chris Simms to hook up with BJ Johnson for a 84 yard touchdown pass to give the Horns a 38-35 lead with 9:26 left. That was not the case, however, as Tech answered with a 25 yard pass to Taurean Henderson with 5:41 left. Simms was intercepted on the next drive and Tech ran out the clock to close it out.

Yes, the Horns entered the game 4th in the country, with a defense ranked 5th nationally. But the Horns were also without the services of DT Marcus Tubbs and DE Kalen Thornton.

Did the Red Raiders catch the Horns sleeping? Perhaps. The Longhorns finished out the season with a win over Texas A&M and a Cotton Bowl win over LSU to finish the season 11-2, while Tech went on to again finish 7-5.

So what do those two games tell us? Yes, we can have trouble on the plains….if we don’t take Tech seriously.

In 2006, Texas fell down 21-0 before they rallied to win 35-31. Texas entered the game #5 in the country, while Tech entered unranked.

But consider this. When Texas and Texas Tech enter this game ranked, Texas is 3-1 against the Red Raiders.

Last time the teams were ranked? 2005, when the Horns beat #10 Texas Tech 52-17 in Austin. The year before #8 Texas took down #24 Texas Tech in Lubbock, 51-21.

The Red Raiders are a very talented team that is very dangerous, but let’s get real here. They are still Texas Tech, a wannabe program that has never faced the pressure that will face them on Saturday night.

Who do you trust more in a big game? Mack Brown, whose team is now 16-2 against ranked opponents going back to mid-October 2004, or Mike Leach, the drunken malcontent who is fascinated with pirates and picks his kickers from the Chick-fil-A Kick Around the Country contest?

Who would you want as your quarterback? Colt McCoy, who is making video game quarterbacks look ordinary, or Graham Harrell, who had to rally to beat Virginia in the Gator Bowl and threw 9 interceptions in his four losses last year and acts like a petulant punk?

What about your defensive coordinator? Will Muschamp, who has been a coordinator in the NFL and national championship games, as well as the toughest venues in the SEC? Or Ruffin McNeil, where Texas Tech is the big-time for him, and it is seen as a massive improvement that Tech is ranked 58th in the country in total defense?

Let’s face it. If history has taught us anything, in order for Texas Tech to win, Texas has to be an average team that makes mistakes while Texas Tech needs to be perfect. Which one do you see happening on Saturday?

Texas will have to come to play, of course. Tech can hit you in the mouth if you aren’t looking. Michael Crabtree is more talented than anyone they’ve had in years. Harrell has run the offense going back to middle school. There is some individual talent on defense.

But the Horns won’t be caught sleeping here, nor are they an underachieving bunch. Quite the contrary. They’ve fallen behind Tech and know they can still win, and they’ve gone out to a big lead but held on against this same group.

The Red Raiders will give the Horns their best shot on Saturday, but the problem is that Texas will give them theirs as well.


Facebook Status Messages

LSU has removed defense from their interests.

North Texas is looking into a new drug enforcement program.

SMU is crying about wasting time practicing for the Navy passing attack last week.

Penn State is headed to the cupcake store.

Mike Singletary is busting out the old Ouiji board again.

Todd Reesing just threw another interception.

Chris Fowler is wondering how many stops you have to make to get to Lubbock, TX.

Phil Fulmer and Tennessee have changed their relationship status to “it’s complicated.”

Washington State has joined the group We’re Actually 30 Point Underdogs to Stanford.

On to the games...

Florida -6 v. Georgia:

Much of the talk this week has centered around that ridiculous endzone celebration that Georgia performed last year when the focus should be how well both of these teams are playing right now.

After “struggling” on offense earlier in the year, Florida has scored 114 points in their last two games. The defense has been strong all season, as they’ve allowed the opponent single digit point totals 4 times this year.

If there is a weakness in the Florida defense, it is the run defense. They’ve had some great games to make it up statistically, but they gave up 141 yards to Kentucky, 141 yards to Arkansas and 140 to Mississippi. Knowshon Moreno should be able to find some running lanes against this team.

I’m expecting a low scoring SEC game here, with Florida a little better than Georgia.

Florida 21 Georgia 17
ATS – Georgia
SU – Florida

Florida State @ Georgia Tech -2:

The Seminoles are 6-1, and unlike past recent seasons, they might stay there because of their defense, ranked 3rd nationally. Georgia Tech has a pretty decent defense themselves, ranked 12th in the country.

But who has Georgia Tech played? Jacksonville State? Mississippi State? Duke? Gardner-Webb? Yuck.

Give me the Seminoles, as they’re a little more battled tested.

Florida State 24 Georgia Tech 16
ATS – Florida State
SU – Florida State

Arkansas State @ Alabama -23.5:

The fact that I have an Arkansas State game in here tells you the quality of the match-ups here this week.

Last we heard of Arkansas State, they were upsetting Texas A&M at Kyle Field. Can they shock the nation here? No. They have some decent numbers, and Alabama has probably used this whole week practicing for LSU, but let’s not be ridiculous.

Alabama 38 Arkansas State 17
ATS – Arkansas State
SU – Alabama

Missouri -20.5 @ Baylor:

Missouri got healthy in a big way with a 58-0 win over Colorado last week. Baylor has been better under first year head coach Art Briles, but Missouri is desperate to make up some room in the Big 12 and the national at-large picture.

Missouri 49 Baylor 17
ATS – Missouri
SU – Missouri

Nebraska @ Oklahoma -22:

Ah, Nebraska and Oklahoma. Those of us older than 27 know this as a big rivalry game that has been hampered somewhat by the move to the Big 12 scheduling.

Oklahoma has been giving up yards in bunches, as they gave up 438 to Texas, 491 to Kansas and 550 to Kansas State.

Enough for the upset? No, but Joe Ganz is a good one that should be able to keep the Cornhuskers respectable.

Oklahoma 45 Nebraska 28
ATS – Nebraska
SU – Oklahoma

Texas -4 @ Texas Tech:

You can really just cut and paste any game analysis from the past several years here.

Can Tech stop the passing of ________? __________ is going to throw for some yards against Texas, that’s just how their offense works. But can Tech stop anyone enough to keep scoring? Just mention the night game at Lubbock here and you are set.

Texas won this game last year by controlling the clock and the ball. They ran 91 plays to Tech’s 55, eventually wearing down the Tech defense while keeping Graham Harrell off the field.

Texas is poised to do the same this year. The Longhorns have five scoring drives of at least 90 yards this season, and 12 more in the 80+ yard range. As a reference point, the 2005 team, the most prolific in college football history, had 4 drives of 90 yards or longer, and just 3 in the 80 yard range.

On defense, the Red Raiders are better, but how are they going to stop Colt McCoy and the Texas offense? They do rank a healthy 25th in the nation in sacks, but only 105th in tackles for losses, 98th in pass defense and gave up 341 yards passing to the likes of Eastern Washington and nearly 500 yards to Nevada.

They rank 10th in the country in turnover margin, but that is a bit skewed as well, as they are +8 against SMU and Kansas while just +1 against the rest of their competition.

They’re a little more balanced on offense than the past few years, but still aren’t don’t run the ball as Missouri, Oklahoma and certainly Oklahoma State, who Texas has more or less contained in the last three weeks.

And don’t you have to feel a little good about things if it comes down to the kicking game?

This one will require the full focus of the Longhorns, and I think we get it. Texas is 42-5 in Mack Brown’s tenure against Texas teams (those five losses are by a combined 28 points, by the way), and I don’t see the letdown coming here….no matter what the national media pundits say.

They were never history majors, anyhow.

Texas 51 Texas Tech 37
ATS – Texas
SU – Texas

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