We’re #1 In Something!

Texas has taken a hard and fast fall this football season, dropping their latest contest to Kansas State in fine fashion. Consider it Bill Snyder’s “retirement gift” or the engraving for his urn, whichever comes first.

But, don’t fret ‘Horns fans. Believe it or not, Texas may not have the AP or BCS’ blessing in 2010, but Mack Brown and Co. do top the list of Scout’s top recruiting classes for 2011. Gasp – there’s even a top-rated running back and several top-tier offensive lineman!

Before you get yourselves in a tizzy about next year’s team and officially close the book on this season, here’s the Scout.com teaser.

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Week 9 Game Preview: Texas Longhorns v. Baylor Bears

Two straight losses at home. Offense lacking identity. Coaches and players not being held accountable. When will it change, ‘Horns? It changes this week. Coming off a loss to perennial bottom-dweller Iowa State at home has the attention of both the coaching staff and the players. They lacked energy and enthusiasm last week, and the smelling salts should have emerged for every player and coach in the Texas locker room. If you’re not cutting it, you’re moving down the depth chart or your job is on the line.

Baylor’s leading the Big 12’s South division. Yep, you read that right. Baylor. Those pesky Bears, led by none other than stud QB Robert Griffin, who’s back this season from last year’s knee injury to lead the Bears in to Austin for what they hope will be their first win since, geez, who can count that far back? Texas gets focused this week and scratches out a win. The defense plays up to its standards, and shuts down Griffin in Martinez-style fashion. The offense isn’t great, but improves enough to show some progress and eliminate mistakes.

It’s been a long week, and so EyesOfTX will defer pre-game coverage of Texas v. Baylor to our good friend and football expert Trey McLean at Co-op Gameday.

Texas Longhorns v. #25 Baylor Bears
6:00 p.m. CT (FSN)

Prediction:
Texas 24, Baylor 20

Hook ’em!

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College Football: Week 9 Viewing Guide

This week on “PTI,” Tony and Mike were asked which coach needs a win more, Urban Meyer or Mack Brown. They both have three-loss teams, both have been beaten at home by lesser ranked opponents, and both were preseason top five teams. Their argument came down to which fan base has the crazier fan base with the most unrealistic expectations. Both Tony and Mike chose Urban Meyer as the coach with the most heat at the moment. They’re probably right, though for the wrong reason.

It seems that every year Mack Brown gets another 9-year extension, and is currently on contract until seemingly 2035. The UT boosters, administrators, players, janitors, parking attendants, and field mice love him. The problem is, and always has been – in the eyes of students and alumni at least – offensive coordinator Greg Davis. In the early years of the last decade the phrase “Fire Greg Davis” was as ubiquitous as “Texas Fight” around the Forty Acres. For a time, those cheers quieted as Vince Young and Colt McCoy were able to compensate for poor coaching with superior talent. Today, the cries for Greg Davis’ job are as loud as ever, but are we any closer to his ouster now than we were after five consecutive losses to ou? His supporters can point to this season’s signature win at Nebraska as a point in his favor, and they can fault the inexperience of Garret Gilbert as a reason for the offensive struggles.

After last weekend’s loss, however, even Mack Brown had harsh words for his assistants, saying, “I told them if one of your guys is playing bad, I can change them. If three of your guys are playing bad, I change you.” For a coach known to always take the blame, shielding his players and coaches from criticism, those words carry extra weight and make you wonder if maybe his long partnership with Davis is nearing an end. What would it take? A third straight home loss? To Baylor, no less? Losing out and missing a bowl game? Or, has the damage already been done?

This week Baylor comes into Austin ranked for the first time since 1993, and hoping for their first win over Texas in 12 years. The Bears are also currently in first place in the Big 12’s South division. It’s hard to imagine that a win over Baylor could actually be a signature win on the season, but that is the situation we find ourselves in.

All rankings below are from the current BCS poll. Also, make sure to check your local listings for channel availability, and also these coverage maps for the mid-Saturday and prime-time regional games.

The games this weekend stink, so commentary is light, but if you can bear to watch, here’s your Week 9 viewing guide.

Saturday, October 30
12:00 p.m. ET
#17 Oklahoma State at Kansas State (FSN, Comcast Sports)

The next two Longhorn opponents.

#22 Miami (FL) at Virginia (ESPN)
The early games are light on intrigue.

3:30 p.m. ET
#5 Michigan State at #18 Iowa (ABC/ESPN)

One of the day’s better games, and what should be MSU’s last big test.

#6 Missouri at #14 Nebraska (ABC/ESPN)
This game should decide the Big 12’s North division champion.

Florida vs. Georgia @ Jacksonville, FL (CBS)
Has there ever been less hype for this rivalry?

6:00 p.m. ET
#1 Auburn at Mississippi, ESPN2

The top team has fallen each of the last three weeks. Don’t expect that trend to continue, tune in to watch Auburn QB Cam Newton be awesome.

7:00 p.m. ET
#25 Baylor at Texas (FSN)

See how Texas responds to their latest embarrassment.

8:00 p.m. ET
#2 Oregon at Southern California (ABC)

One of Oregon’s final tests en route to the BCS title game.

#11 Ohio State at Minnesota (ABC)
If Michigan State goes down, the top of the Big Ten will be real interesting presuming OSU and Wisconsin continue to roll.

9:15 p.m. ET
Colorado at #9 oklahoma (ESPN2)

The night cap game has ou giving Colorado a send off from the Big 12. Over/under is at 65 points for ou.

Thanks to “Lil Pete” for his ongoing contributions to EyesOfTX.

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College Football: Week 8 Viewing Guide

If any team earned redemption last weekend it was Texas, both by avoiding a third loss and by beating a top 10 team on the road. Not to mention proving to the Cornhuskers that they weren’t the better team last December 5th. So there’s your parting gift, Nebraska, thanks for playing. The Longhorns will miss their home away from home.

The BCS standings came out earlier this week and with them a lot of analysis and grumbling about who is where. There is really very little we can glean from the poll this early as we still have half the season to play out with some big time match-ups featuring the top ranked teams. Does that mean Texas will rise to the top and play for another BCS title? No, that’s still highly unlikely, but if enough things happen, it’s possible. Let’s entertain some hypothetical outcomes to envision the best case scenario:

First of course, Texas must win out. Looking at the schedule, this could still be difficult. After a challenging game against Nebraska, they play perennial patsies Iowa State and Baylor at home the next two weeks, which should be easy street, but we thought that about UCLA didn’t we? Following those games, the ‘Horns go on the road against K-State, a team Texas historically struggles against, and then top 15 team Oklahoma State comes to Austin. Finally, after a gimme against Florida Atlantic and a short week, they host A&M which is a game never to be taken lightly.

Next, oklahoma has to lose to Missouri this weekend. For Texas to play for the Big 12 title, ou needs two losses and after Mizzou, they don’t face another ranked team until they go to Stillwater on Thanksgiving weekend. The Tigers will be one of the biggest tests for the Sooners, going on the road against a ranked team for the first time this year, and only their second road game period.

Next, Kansas State must beat Missouri and Oklahoma State. Texas doesn’t play the Tigers this year, so the net result of their game against K-State will only benefit Texas if the Wildcats win. Further, if the Wildcats lose that game, they could potentially fall out of the rankings before they play Texas. Either Nebraska or OSU could potentially fall out of the rankings this weekend with a loss.

That will get Texas to the Big 12 title game, though against who is still up in the air. Nebraska is likely to win out, but so is Missouri. After this weekend’s games, it should be a lot easier to predict.

For the rest of the country, we’d like to see Auburn beat LSU and Alabama, but lose the SEC title game to anyone from the East division. Currently, that would be South Carolina. The PAC-10 and Big Ten pose the largest obstacles in Oregon, Michigan State, and Ohio State, all three of whom have few challenging games remaining. And, of course, there’s always the Boise State and TCU problem.

This space will feature more meta analysis of the state of the BCS in the weeks to come and we’ll highlight the games to watch in hoping some of these scenarios play out.

All rankings below are from the current BCS poll. Also, make sure to check your local listings for channel availability, and also these coverage maps for the mid-Saturday regional games. There’s a lot of football left to play, so enjoy the roller coaster. Here’s your Week 8 viewing guide.

Saturday, October 23
12:00 PM ET
#7 Michigan State at Northwestern (ESPN)

Northwestern actually has a chance in this game. They’re playing at home, and they have some advantages on the stat sheet. It might not be enough, but they could give the Spartans a run for their money.

Iowa State at #19 Texas (FSN, Comcast Sports)
Texas returns home and hopes to keep the momentum going. It isn’t their style, but putting up about 60 points and really get that offense in gear wouldn’t be a bad sign.

3:30 PM ET
#6 LSU at #4 Auburn (CBS)

This is the game of the week. Les Miles is getting killed by everyone for the way he’s running this team despite their undefeated record and being three years removed from a national championship. Auburn has hardly earned any credit at all. Something’s going to give.

#13 Wisconsin at #15 Iowa (ABC/ESPN)
#16 Nebraska at #14 Oklahoma State (ABC)
Georgia Tech at Clemson, (ABC/ESPN)

These are your regional games this weekend. Most of the country will not see the Big 12 match-up and it looks to be one of the best of the weekend. On the flip side, most will see how the Big 10 is shaping up which will give some clarity to the rest of the season. Oh, and there’s a dreadful ACC game that no one wants to watch.

7:00 PM ET
#8 Alabama at Tennessee (ESPN)
This is likely to be a drubbing, but Alabama has not played well on the road and a home victory would make the season for Tennessee. Keep an eye on the first half in between the afternoon and later games.

8:00 PM ET
#1 oklahoma at #11 Missouri (ABC)

As mentioned above, Texas needs Missouri to win this game. This ou team has weaknesses, barely surviving at home against Air Force, and eeking out a win over a terrible Cincinnati. Most people don’t agree with ou being at the top of the BCS standings so it’s up to Mizzou to prove them right.

10:15 PM ET
Washington at #18 Arizona (ESPN)

Your night cap game this week features two teams that could stand in Oregon’s way of an undefeated season. Check it out if you’re not passed out by now.

Thanks to “Lil Pete” for his ongoing contributions to EyesOfTX.

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Week 7 Game Preview: Texas Longhorns v. Nebraska Cornhuskers

There are positives and negatives to having a bye week. On the plus side, when you win going into a bye week, as a player you can go through the motions on the practice field while relishing a few more days rest to recover from lingering or annoying minor injuries. Be assured, Texas has had no such break these past two weeks. If EyesOfTX (and the rest of Longhorn nation) had no break from the mental anguish of the past two losses, then the ‘Horns better not have either. Here’s hoping Texas head coach Mack Brown ripped on both his players and staff behind closed doors for the past 13 days. Two losses? Back-to-back? Think the stuff of “Top Gun” lore: “Two of your snot-nosed jockeys did a fly-by on my tower at over 400 knots. I want some butts! … Dammit, that’s twice!”

Luckily for the ‘Horns, the bye week means they’ve some extra time to try and right the ship. Level their wings. Put their heads on straight. To remember they are football players for one of the most elite college programs in the game. The I-35 bubble in Austin should have a lot of blood, sweat, and even some tears after practice this week. The film room should have cots spread out across the room because players have been spending every waking hour glued to the early-season game tape to find and correct their on-field mistakes.

But, it’s deeper than that. So far this season, the seniors are showing how much they feel entitled. On the field, that’s translating to Maverick’s “crashed and burned on the first one, it wasn’t pretty” lingo. The younger guys can’t buy in to that – there is too much talent and potential among the depth chart. For the ‘Horns, it’s time to step up or turn in their pads because they’ve “lost the edge.” Just because it says “Texas” on the front of your jersey doesn’t mean you deserve to win.

Texas Longhorns v. #5 Nebraska Cornhuskers
2:30 p.m. CT (ABC/ESPN)

Prediction:
Texas 13, Nebraska 45

There is one thing on Nebraska’s mind this week – redemption. December 5, 2009. Just like Texas needed one second back in the upset in Lubbock in 2008, the ‘Huskers want one second back from last year’s Big 12 Championship game. December 5, 2009. There will be no mercy rule, Nebraska is squarely set on putting the wood to Texas on Saturday in Lincoln, the teams’ final Big 12 regular season match-up. December 5, 2009. Make no mistake, this game has been circled on head coach Bo Pelini’s calendar since … December 5, 2009.

Even Nebraska’s marketing department was behind an off-season shot at the Texas game (and later changed) to get Husker fans excited for the upcoming season – called “Red Out Around The World.” Their mantra (and doesn’t this sound kind of familiar): “Come early. Be Loud. Wear Red. (Beat Texas).” They’ve sold out of t-shirts at the bookstore bearing the saying: “All my ex’s live in Texas: Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri.” The date “10-16-2010” is plastered all over campus. Don’t become ou fans, Huskers…it’s not a good look for you.

Nebraska’s Keys To The Game:
His name is Taylor Martinez. His name is Taylor Martinez. His name is Taylor Martinez. Seriously, Tyler Durden probably knows this kid by now. The barely-past-puberty Martinez leads Nebraska at QB in 2010, and brings the word “amazing” to an offense that was anything but in 2009. With the same basic role players on offense, the infusion of Martinez has helped transform what was a horrific scoring attack last year to one of the best in all of college football this year. Jake Locker, eat your heart out. As a redshirt freshman, ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. might have just moved Martinez past Locker on his draft board.

Everyone knows Pelini is a defensive-minded coach, and since his return to Nebraska, he’s shown his ability to craft a defensive juggernaut – even giving the “Blackshirts” nickname back to this year’s squad. But, Martinez is the knight in shining armor for the ‘Huskers 2010 BCS run, running the zone read to perfection. He’s mobile. He’s fast. REALLY fast. Think Looney Tunes’ roadrunner. Get this: the kid is five games in to the season, and he’s already accumulated 737 yards rushing, on 10.8 yards per carry, for 12 TDs. Those are RB stats, folks. A really, really good RB. Passing? Only three TDs. You get the idea. Let’s hope Martinez doesn’t leave Will Muschamp’s Texas defense looking like Wile E. Coyote.

Unfortunately, Martinez isn’t the only rushing threat. RBs Roy Helu, Jr. and Rex Burkhead flank Martinez in the backfield, and are more than capable of providing the power running attack as opposed to Martinez’s sideline-to-sideline flair. Is this bringing back UCLA nightmares yet? It should. On the outside, Martinez has the option to throw to several talented and big wide receivers – namely Niles Paul, Mike McNeill and Brandon Kinnie – but quite honestly, he just doesn’t need to. He’s only thrown for 660 yards on the season with three TDs and three INTs. Will they pass? Yes. Do they think they need to? Probably not. Most impressive is that Nebraska’s offense is built around a very inexperienced offensive line, with three new starters in 2010. Maybe Texas’ Mac McWhorter could take some lessons on how to transform on-paper talent to on-field production? The line has given up seven sacks on the season, and with Texas’ stacked defensive line, the Big Red will have their hands full maintaining their gaps and creating running lanes for Martinez, Helu, Jr. and Burkhead.

This year’s “Suh” in Lincoln is none other than Suh’s cohort in the trenches last year, defensive tackle Jared Crick. He has 23 tackles and 2.5 sacks on the season, and with opponents focused on protecting against Crick, the rest of the defensive line has opportunities to shine in opponent’s backfields. Ironically, the line isn’t their strength – the ‘Huskers bring the #1 pass defense in the country. You’d have to utilize your abacus to add up the number of interceptions they have on the year. With Texas’ lack of a running game, expect Pelini to pressure and contain any semblance of a running game with his front four and have his secondary focus on dropping back in to coverage to track down balls a la Willie Mays.

Texas’ Keys To The Game:
Good news. Texas got their butts chewed during the bye week. Bad news. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis is probably sitting up in the press box drawing up a “revised” version of the bubble screen to a different running back or wide receiver. Good news. RB DJ Monroe has used the bye week to “learn the playbook.” OK, maybe not, but he’s getting the call to start in the backfield again this week. Bad news. No matter how well the offense plays on Saturday in Lincoln, Texas won’t win Saturday without a big performance by the defense.

Offensively, this game lies in the hands of the Texas offensive line. Nebraska is prone to giving up rushing yards (well, at least more than they do through the air). If the o-line can give QB Garrett Gilbert time in the pocket, provide running lanes for the speedy Monroe, and the wide receivers can run routes beyond the first down markers, Texas does indeed have a shot. It hasn’t happened yet this season, but they’ve had their poor performances to-date rubbed in their face for too many weeks now. It’s time to change. It’s time to define the offense…on the field…on a Saturday. With freshman WR Mike Davis back in the line-up, Texas can take some shots down the field and change the dynamic of the game with big plays and open up the field for the…gasp…running game.

Defensively, Muschamps’ boys have their hands full with Nebraska’s three-pronged running attack. But, like any good football coach will tell you, even “Coach’s” Hayden Fox, beating a running team is all about playing assignment football. It’s about maintaing your gaps in the trenches, and utilizing your linebackers and secondary to clean up the mess. It’s about not making mistakes. It’s about making sure tackles. It’s beating Martinez to the corner with the right angles. It’s about stripping the ball and winning the turnover battle, and the ‘Huskers have put the ball on the ground 18 this year, so it’s possible. Nebraska will get their yards on the ground, but this defense has shown glimpses of being an elite unit. They’ll need every piece of that talent and pride to win in Lincoln.

Texas will also have to overcome a strong Nebraska kicking game, as the ‘Huskers will use every opportunity to pin Texas deep with punter Alex Henery and make Gilbert and company drive the length of the field, which has been a consistent problem this season. The ‘Horns have to eliminate the mistakes in special teams. Expect to see new kick and punt returners, and with a swift kick in the pants, a different attitude to bring some momentum to the Texas sidelines. It’s going to be chaotic and red in Lincoln, but Texas has a long-shot chance at avoiding a .500 start to the 2010 season and redeeming themselves in the eyes of college football’s elite.

Hook ‘em!

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College Football: Week 7 Viewing Guide

Despite Texas’ struggles, this season is beginning to shape up to be something exciting. An upset here or there is just the prescription to cure the fever of the status quo. This week has more games that have the potential to be great.

The rankings listed here are from the AP poll until the BCS poll begins next week. Check your local listings for channel availability, and also these coverage maps for the mid-Saturday regional games.

We’re jumping right into the Saturday games. Pick your spot and settle in. This is your Week 7 Viewing Guide.

Saturday, October 16
12:00 PM ET
Boston College at #16 Florida State (ESPN)

BC is struggling, losing three straight, and now they travel to Tallahassee to face Florida State who just went on the road to beat Miami. Things don’t look good for the Eagles in this one, but the Seminoles are suddenly surging and looking like the legitimate Florida State teams of a decade ago.

#21 Missouri at Texas A&M (FSN, Comcast Sports)
If you haven’t had a chance to see what the Aggies are looking like this year, here’s as good an opportunity as any. They host Missouri, who could be a potential Big 12 North champion if they hold on to the momentum they have now. The road from here gets harder for the Tigers as they face oklahoma and Nebraska in the next two weeks.

Remember to check the coverage maps to see which channel carries the following regional game in your area.

3:30 PM ET
Texas at #5 Nebraska (ABC/ESPN)

For the third consecutive game, Texas plays in the mid-afternoon time slot, but this time the nation is fortunate that both of the regional games will be shown in every market. Nebraska is always a difficult game, and after last year’s Big 12 title game you can be sure they will be looking to prove that they rightfully belong back at the top of the conference. With two weeks to prepare, Texas has a good opportunity to bounce back and take the Huskers down a notch before they defect to the Big 10.

#15 Iowa at Michigan (ABC/ESPN)
The other regional game is a Big 10 match up. Iowa has been impressive all year, stumbling only on the road against Arizona, and Michigan has Heisman candidate Denard Robinson lighting things up. Check in once in a while and see what’s going on with these two teams.

#12 Arkansas at #7 Auburn (CBS)
The afternoon SEC game should be a good one, so consider putting it on your DVR for later.

4:00 PM ET
Brigham Young at #4 TCU (Versus)

If you haven’t seen TCU this year, flip over to this game during breaks in the Texas action to see how they look.

6:00 PM ET
#10 South Carolina at Kentucky (ESPN2)

Kentucky has ruined hopes before, but something says South Carolina knows who the better team is in this game. The Gamecocks made a huge jump in the polls this week, so they should be feeling good.

7:00 PM ET
#1 Ohio State at #18 Wisconsin (ESPN/ESPN3D)

Heading into primetime, we have another Big 10 contest, this one between two of the best in the conference. Wisconsin is one of the only teams that could legitimately stand up to Ohio State and really throw the BCS doors wide open (much to TCU fans’ delight).

9:00 PM ET
Mississippi at #8 Alabama (ESPN2)

Alabama mercifully gets to return home to lick their wounds and rebound after their first loss in almost two years. Don’t count on an upset here, but it’s worth noting Ole Miss has won four out of their last five games against ranked teams.

Thanks to “Lil Pete” for his ongoing contributions to EyesOfTX.

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College Football: Week 6 Viewing Guide

Well, last week was once again unfortunate. So, as Longhorn fans hope for another 10-win season and a respectable bowl invitation, we can still enjoy the best games each week. Texas is mercifully off this week, but there’s plenty else to keep you entertained.

The rankings listed here are from the AP poll until the BCS poll begins in mid-October. Check your local listings for channel availability, and also these coverage maps for the mid-Saturday regional games.

Settle in for some indifference! Here’s the Week 6 viewing guide.

Saturday, October 9
12:00 PM ET
Indiana at #2 Ohio State (ESPN/ESPN3D)

Ohio State is easily rolling along through their schedule. Don’t expect an upset, but this is an opportunity to see one of the best teams in the country.

3:30 PM ET
#1 Alabama at #19 South Carolina (CBS)

Alabama looks unstoppable based on the way they’ve dominated so far this season. Yet they struggled the last time they went on the road against a ranked team, needing a second half comeback to pull off the win against Arkansas two weeks ago. You can bet the Ol’ Ball Coach picked up some pointers he hopes to exploit.

Check the coverage maps to see where to find which regional game will be on in your area. The regional games this week include:

#11 Arkansas vs. Texas A&M (ABC)
If you can catch it in your area, A&M facing Arkansas at Cowboy Stadium should bring back Southwest Conference memories.

#17 Michigan State at #18 Michigan (ABC/ESPN)
Michigan hosting Michigan State will finally be interesting again, especially with one of the most exciting QBs in the country under Rich Rodriguez’s tutelage.

Clemson at North Carolina (ABC/ESPN)
Once again, ACC country gets a horrible game in the mid-afternoon regional lineup.

7:30 PM ET
#8 Auburn at Kentucky (ESPN2)

Auburn is yet another SEC team that’s rolling right along and looking like a legitimate threat to Alabama’s hopes for SEC domination this season. Auburn will be looking for a little payback going to Kentucky having lost to the Wildcats at home a year ago.

#12 LSU at #14 Florida (ESPN)
Urban Meyer should have asked Nick Saban for a safe word in last week’s throttling. Either the wheels have fallen off or the Gators will be looking to make a statement against unbeaten LSU.

We also have a pair of regional games in the prime time slot:

8:00 PM ET
#23 Florida State at #13 Miami, FL (ABC)

The history in this game makes it intriguing to watch every year. This is the rivalry that brought us “Wide Right” and Jenn Sterger. Both teams are on the upswing for the first time in what seems like forever so it’s nice to finally have some meaning in it once again. If you’re east of the Rockies, this will be your game.

Southern California at #16 Stanford (ABC)
For those on the West Coast, you get the PAC-10 matchup. Both teams took their first loss last week, and the memory of the drama following last year’s Stanford win is surely fresh in everyone’s mind.

10:35 PM ET
San Jose State at #21 Nevada (ESPNU)

Your night cap game this week gives you a look at suddenly surging Nevada. Could they pose a legitimate threat to Boise State later this year? Take a look for yourself.

Thanks to “Lil Pete” for his ongoing contributions to EyesOfTX.

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