Tag Archives: Earl Thomas

Week 1 Game Preview: Texas Longhorns v. Rice Owls

It’s finally time for the start of the 2010 Texas Longhorn football season, and Mack Brown’s team is looking to avenge their disappointing loss in last year’s BCS National Championship. Honestly, it’s time to put it behind us. EyesOfTX will say it, though: if QB Colt McCoy hadn’t gotten hurt in Pasadena, Calif., the ‘Horns would’ve beat Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide going away. That stupid ESPN “College Gameday” commercial would have Brown bragging about his two championship rings getting in the way during Jenga. OK, done with it. For now.

A few quick notes before jumping in to week one. The 2010 off-season held a lot of question marks for this Longhorns team, as several team leaders and experience took their talents to the next level, including QB Colt McCoy (Cleveland), WR Jordan Shipley (Cincinnati), DE Sergio Kindle (Baltimore), LB Rodderick Muckelroy (Cincinnati) and S Earl Thomas (Seattle; watch this video!) to name a few. That left offensive coordinator Greg Davis (EyesOfTX’s favorite coach to hate) and defensive coordinator / future head coach / crazy man Will Muschamp with some big holes to fill. Luckily, Brown’s recruiting prowess year-in and year-out has the ‘Horns filling out the roster nicely this fall. Some of the key positions will be filled with viable young talent that has learned from watching their elders, and they will only improve as the season progresses. Isn’t that cliche and catchy? Thought so. Worked all summer on it.

Key aspects to watch in September and October will be Gilbert’s progression at quarterback (does his name remind anyone else of the movie “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?”), the “007” martini-like offensive line changes, filling the gaps in the defensive line – specifically at defensive tackle, and the using our former-star-QB-turned-running-backs-coach to find the ever-elusive running game. Who’s calling former UT great RB Ricky Williams to push grad school classes?

On a serious note, the ‘Horns are stacked with a mix of experienced talent and young hot shots that will make this season interesting – they could go undefeated, or lose up to three games. How’s that for not being decisive? The team opens the season as the #4 team in the nation according to USA Today, with some select powerhouses – Alabama, Ohio State, and Florida – ahead of them in the race to Glendale, Ariz., and the 2011 National Championship. Watch out for #5 Boise State – if they win on the road against #10 Virginia Tech in week one, and beat #24 Oregon State at home late in the season, have no one stopping them from getting on the national championship ballot come December. Hooray for small schools with blue football turf everywhere!

Texas Longhorns v. Rice Owls
2:30 p.m. CT (ESPN & ESPN HD)

Prediction:
Texas 48, Rice 10

Rice’s Keys To The Game:
The Owls and head coach David Bailiff (of Texas State fame) had a tough year in 2009 (Bailiff’s third season), going 2-10. While they run a spread offense – with no notable wide receivers to speak of – if they have any chance of beating Texas on Saturday, it starts with the running game and Michigan transfer and current RB Sam McGuffie. Name sound familiar? Yes, it’s the McGuffie of YouTube fame – the top RB prospect in the country a few short years ago. Haven’t seen him on film? Take 6 minutes, it’s worth it. EyesOfTX will be here when you get back. [Pause] Told you so. Unfortunately, McGuffie won’t get 100 touches in this game, which means Rice is still up a creek without a paddle, but don’t be surprised if McGuffie makes the fans gasp a time or two at Houston’s Reliant Stadium.

Rice RB Sam McGuffie

Outside of McGuffie, the Owls don’t even know who their starting quarterback will be. Junior Nick Fanuzzi is the incumbent, a dual-threat QB, but he struggled last year throwing the ball accurately. They could start Miami QB transfer Taylor Cook, a 6’7” 240-pound behemoth with a monster arm but cement for feet. Or, how about true frosh Tyler McHargue, the better of the dual-threat QBs on the roster? It’s like picking lotto numbers out of tumbler – you don’t know what you’re going to get. Surely, Muschamp had fun writing out this week’s defensive schemes.

If the Owls offense is anemic without a running game, then the defense isn’t much better. They were 117th out of 120 teams last year in total defense, and gave up the most points per game – 43 – of any team in the country in 2009. In a 4-2-5 scheme, with four down lineman, two linebackers, and five defensive backs, they’ll play to Texas strength (passing game), but get brutalized by Texas’ punishing ground attack. Like how that was set up?


Texas’ Keys To The Game:
Let’s be clear – Texas can drop way more than 48 points on Rice. But, they won’t. On purpose. Per the commentary the fans have heard all off-season, this game is all about clock control and the to-date-non-existent Texas running game. Stop messing with you, right? Honestly, prepare to be David-ized – “is this real life?” You won’t believe what you see. Rumors have it that Cody Johnson will start at RB for the ‘Horns after dropping virtually no weight, but changing that fat to muscle and becoming a fast as all get-out, extremely conditioned athlete in the off-season. Texas rolls for more than 200 yards rushing on Saturday.

Texas QB Garrett Gilbert

Expect to see “experienced” QB Garrett Gilbert come out firing too, though. Reports have it that he threw only one interception in all of fall ball. Against what is being touted as the best defensive backfield in the country in 2010. Plus, he’s able to make throws that McCoy just couldn’t – I’m referring to downfield, of course. You’ll see more (gasp!) I-formation, with (gasp!) Gilbert under center, and (gasp!) a fullback…er, H-back. Promise. Although the offensive line was juggled around in the off-season, the starters are solid contributors with some experience under their belt. And, they’re finally being asked to fire off the ball in run blocking schemes, so they shouldn’t be a bunch of gigantic pansies blocking for the zone read as in year’s past. They want to go knock someone over. Preferably two.

The wide receiving core is re-tooled as well, but Brown has recruited well at the position, and after 7-on-7 drills this summer it sounds like WR Malcolm Williams found some consistency. He’ll be the scoring threat, with cohorts John Chiles and James Kirkendoll holding down the fort, and the quickness of D.J. Monroe or Marquis Goodwin adding sub-4.4 speed. Expect to see youth get some playing time here – the ‘Horns are deep on talent on the edge.

Defensively, this could be the year that no one forgets. Brown is already saying this could be his best unit ever at Texas. When you had the #1, #3, #4, and #8 defenses in the country in the last few years under Greg Robinson, Gene Chizik, and Will Muschamp, that’s hard to believe. We do know this – the secondary will be lights out…a perfect compliment to the offensive schemes of most Big 12 teams they’ll play. The defensive ends stay the same, with All-American talent and a lot of young studs to add depth. The tackle spot is a question mark, but some guys have stepped up this fall to fill the void. Linebackers will be lethal again this year too, although you’ll see one new name at starter on the weak side – Dravannti Johnson.

Let’s start the season off on the right foot – go get ‘em ‘Horns! Hook ‘em!

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2009 College Football Award Results

2009 Heisman Trophy
In the closest balloting ever in the history of the Heisman Trophy, yet another sophomore was named to the lifelong fraternity of football elites earlier this month in New York City.

Following in the footsteps of Florida QB Tim Tebow and oklahoma QB Sam Bradford when they were sophomores, the 2009 award was presented to Alabama RB Mark Ingram, but he won only by the slimmest margins (28 votes), over surprise second place vote-getter Stanford RB Toby Gerhart. Texas Longhorn QB Colt McCoy finished third in the balloting, ahead of Tebow – who made his third trip to NYC as a finalist for the award – and Nebraska DT Ndamkong Suh. While McCoy finished third overall, he didn’t take the Heisman voter’s Southwest region, which went to Suh, and even failed to win over his hometown sports reporters (the Austin American-Statesman, whom has four Heisman voters, had only one pick McCoy as their 2009 winner – there reasoning here). Here’s hoping Ingram will one day help quiet annoying former oklahoma sooners RB Billy Sims, who continues to embarrass the trophy’s name with his awards show antics of yelling or promoting “Boomer! Sooner!” during the live broadcast.

In the end, Texas fans fear not. Recent memory proves that Texas football – including players who have been runners-up for the Heisman Trophy – have extremely good luck in the bowl games against Heisman winners. Especially when the national championship is on the line. Webster defines that: “See also: 2005.”

Other notable Big 12 Conference Award Recognition
Texas Longhorns QB Colt McCoy
Maxwell Award – Honors the nation’s best all-around player.
Walter Camp Football Foundation’s Player of the Year Award – Honors the nation’s player of the year; this is the second consecutive year McCoy has won the award.
Davey O’Brien Award – Honors the nation’s best quarterback.

Nebraska Cornhuskers DT Ndamkong Suh
Chuck Bednarik Award – Honors the nation’s best defensive player.
Outland Trophy – Honors the nation’s best interior lineman.
Lombardi Award – Honors the nation’s top lineman.
Bronko Nagurski Trophy – Honors the nation’s top defensive player.

While several other Texas-state (TCU DE Jerry Hughes) and Texas Longhorn players (WR Jordan Shipley and DB Earl Thomas) were finalists for the aforementioned and other national awards, including the Jim Thorpe Award honoring the nation’s best defensive back and the Biletnikoff Award honoring the nation’s best wide receiver, Tennessee DB Eric Berry and Notre Dame’s Golden Tate won those awards respectively.

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Game Preview: Texas Longhorns v. Kansas Jayhawks

November 21, 2009
7:00 p.m. Central
ABC (regional)

It has been a week of distractions for both these teams heading in to their late-season match-up, although the situation for Kansas coach Mark Mangino is much more dire. This week, several players – both current and former – have come forward and said Mangino is verbally abusive and had inappropriate physical contact during practices. To that end, Kansas’ athletic director has launched an investigation in to the accusations, and it remains to be seen whether Mangino will remain the Jayhawks coach after the season, only two years removed from being named the AP’s coach of the year.

For Texas, the distraction was different, as kick returner D.J. Monroe – only 20 years old – was arrested for a DWI last Saturday night after the Baylor game. Monroe has been suspended indefinitely by head coach Mack Brown, and might not play again until the bowl game, assuming his legal issues are resolved by that time.

For both teams, the key this week will be focus and preparation, and Texas seems to have the clear advantage in those two categories, if you disregard pure talent and this season’s success – which you can’t. Texas is three games away from playing for the national title, and they need to maintain their composure, play to their level, and help QB Colt McCoy get his 43rd win as the starter – an NCAA record for the winningest QB in history.

Let’s take a look at the details.

This Week
Eyes Of TX’s Prediction
Texas 55, Kansas 17

Kansas Jayhawks (5-5)
Kansas had big expectations this year, despite the loss of two offensive lineman and their stout linebacker core to graduation. With the return of QB Todd Reesing, as well as WRs Dezmon Briscoe and Kerry Meier, they had the offensive firepower to compete in the Big 12’s North division. Unfortunately, after a 5-0 start taking them as high as #15 in the rankings, they fell apart, and have lost five straight games in conference play. Now, they’re scratching to simply become bowl eligible.

This will be a homecoming game for senior QB Todd Reesing, who played his high school football right down the road at Lake Travis High School outside Austin. That high school coach should be proud, as he’s produced some big name QB recruits in recent years with Reesing, Gilbert (Texas), and potential Texas recruit Michael Brewer. Reesing has been the heart and soul of the Jayhawks during his tenure as a starter, but this year he has been nagged by injuries and tension with Mangino, who has pulled him during games in favor of his back-up. Reesing’s numbers are still stellar – 2,862 yards passing, 18 TDs, and only eight INTs with a 62 percent completion rate – but he hasn’t looked as comfortable or efficient as year’s past. There are rumors Reesing is still recovering from a nagging injury, and his lack of mobility is a liability, so a trip back home could prove disappointing in his last year in Lawrence.

The wide receiving corps for Kansas is as good as Texas will see all year. Starters Briscoe and Meier (the former QB turned WR) are both legit NFL draftees come April, and they are Reesing’s top targets in the passing game. Briscoe leads the team in receiving, with 994 yards, and TDs with seven. His 6’3” 202-pound frame makes him a big target downfield, and he is Kansas’ deep threat. Meier, on the other hand, is the big possession receiver at 6’3” 221-pounds, and has accounted for 885 yards and six TDs on a team-leading 83 catches. Both players have big play ability, will be the focal point of the KU passing game on Saturday, and will challenge the young but stout Texas defensive backs.

The Jayhawks running game is similar to Texas’ in that they have two backs who are complete opposites. The starter, Jake Sharp, is 5’10” 195-pounds and quick, with good hands out of the backfield (185 yards receiving and three TDs), accounting for 398 yards and three TDs on the ground this season. His complement is freshman Toben Opurum, a 6’2” 235-pound beast who moves the pile similar to Texas’ RB Cody Johnson. Opurum leads the running attack with 543 yards rushing on the season. Both backs offer different looks for opposing defenses, and given field to work with, they can be dangerous weapons to complement the KU passing game.

The Jayhawks’ offensive woes live in the line, where they start two freshman. Potentially the reason for Reesing’s on-going injuries is the inability to keep him upright, as the o-line has given up 24 sacks on the year. But, if the offensive line can open some holes for the running game, and give Reesing time to throw in the pocket – particularly if Kansas picks up on the weakness they saw in Texas’ defense of the bubble screen last week in Waco – then they have a chance to be very productive on the day. Against Texas’ front seven, though, it seems like a long-shot on Senior Day in Austin.

The defense is solid, but not outstanding, and their defensive line headlines that side of the ball. Overall, the defense gives up 351 yards of offense, 241 yards through the air, and an average of 24.9 points per game. They’ve also given up 32 opposing TDs this season, good for ninth-best in the Big 12. The defensive line’s success comes from the ends, namely Jake Laptad and Maxwell Onyegbule. While the defense s a whole has combined for a respectable 26 sacks on the season, Laptad and Onyegbule have accounted for 11.5 of them – so, that is where McCoy will see pressure on Saturday. As noted above, the weakness in the KU defense is the secondary – despite future NFL safety Darrell Stuckey – and they have only hawked seven INTs on the year. While the secondary steps up in the red zone, the defensive line has given up 18 rushing TDs on the season. Expect the secondary to get torched by McCoy and his receiving core on Saturday.

Finally, the special teams for the Jayhawks are mediocre at best. Their kicker, Jacob Brandstetter has a big leg, but has only made 10-of-15 field goals on the year. Their return game is horrid (6.1 yards per punt, and 20 yards per kickoff), and they give up big chunks of yards to opposing kick returners (11.4 yards per punt, and 22 yards per kickoff). Expect some big plays from the Texas return game, even without Monroe.

#3 Texas Longhorns (10-0)
The game plan for Texas needs to be balanced, both offensively and defensively this week. On defense, the ‘Horns need to put pressure on Reesing and make him scramble or make quick decisions. The secondary will have to keep both Briscoe and Meier in front of them and hold their coverage as long as possible to give the defensive line time to get to Reesing. By the same token, the safeties – Blake Gideon and Earl Thomas – will have to keep an eye on the backfield, as Sharp and Opurum both have the potential to make some big plays running or catching screen passes. If the defense plays up to their potential, they could tack up another non-offensive TD – something the Texas fans have come to expect this season. Another solid game from LB/DE Sergio Kindle also wouldn’t hurt his chances to win this year’s Butkus Award, given to the nation’s best linebacker, as he was named one of five finalists for the award on Friday (along with the Big 12’s Sean Weatherspoon).

On offense, the ‘Horns should continue to hone their running game as they wind down the season, and last week’s production from Johnson and the return of RB Tre Newton, produced a balanced attack in Waco. Expect Johnson to get the start again, and to once again try to lead a balanced Longhorns attack. Of course, McCoy and Shipley will be keys to the offensive game plan, and both will want to go out on a high note in their last game in DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium.

Expect to see John Chiles or Malcolm Williams join Shipley on kickoff returns this week, with the suspension of Monroe. With the Jayhawks porous kick coverage, anything is possible, including some quick fireworks to change the atmosphere inside the stadium.

Something to keep an eye out for: could this be the week the ‘Horns don the new Nike Pro Combat uniforms? If not, fans will seem them at least once before season’s end. While they sound cool in theory, there are some things in college football you just don’t mess with – one of those is the Longhorns’ classic uniforms. Let’s leave the weekly uni-watch to the folks in Oregon.

Another big win and another step closer to Pasadena are easily possible if the ‘Horns stay focused and keep taking one game at a time. This is the time in the season when any team can lose its edge by looking too far ahead, but this team and the senior leadership seem to have the ‘Horns headed in the right direction. Besides, who doesn’t love Pasadena in January?

Pre-game Resources
2009 Texas Longhorns Roster
2009 Kansas Jayhawks Roster
University Co-op Gameday Newsletter / Pod casts

Hook ‘em!

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An Assortment of College Sports Updates

We’re more than halfway through the fall, which means football and volleyball are nearing their end and basketball is more than on the horizon. Let’s take a look at some headlines across the Big 12 and state of Texas college sports.

RB Darrell Scott Transfers From Colorado
After being the top running back recruit in the class of 2008, Darrell Scott chose to attend Colorado over Texas, following his cousin to Boulder with the hopes of bringing Colorado back in to the national discussion. After disappointment throughout his college tenure (much of that due to injuries), Scott is expected to transfer to UCLA, and back to his southern California roots. Once again, he’ll be following his cousin, who transferred to UCLA the year after Scott got to Colorado. Did CU “buy-off” Scott during recruitment process by using his family members as the bait? Hm, brings up some interesting recruiting tactic questions, doesn’t it? Eyes Of TX is happy Scott has stayed far from Austin, or on the sidelines during the ‘Horns football games against the ‘Buffs.

#2 Texas Volleyball Loses to #8 Iowa State, But Rebounds Strong
After dropping only six games in 21 matches this season, the #2 Texas volleyball team had their first slip-up of the season, losing to Iowa State three games-to-two in early November. Despite the loss, the ‘Horns have rebounded for two more match wins, despite dropping another game against Texas Tech at home (the first game they’ve dropped at home all season). If the ‘Horns continue their strong play, they are legitimate contenders to face #1 Penn State in the post-season.

College Football Awards Watch
Heisman Trophy
The race for the best player in college football is once again dominated by offensive players. Some players – like Florida QB Tim Tebow and Texas QB Colt McCoy – were expected to be in the 2009 discussion, but others have surprised the football legions over the course of the season. Other top contenders for this year’s award include Alabama RB Mark Ingram, Houston QB Case Keenum, Clemson RB C.J. Spiller, and Boise State QB Kellen Moore. If Ingram continues his pace, he should be a lock for this year’s award, although since votes don’t have to be cast until after the conference championship games, Tebow, McCoy, and Ingram could give voters a final look in those games Dec. 5 weekend.

Biletnikoff Award
This should be a lock for Texas WR Jordan Shipley, honestly. The award, given to college football’s top wide receiver, is loaded with tier-two talent, but Shipley has already eclipsed 1,000 yards receiving on the year, and with 20 more catches could set the Texas single-season record for receptions. Another Big 12 nominee is Kansas WR Dezmond Briscoe, but with the Jayhawks mid-season debacle, he seems to be a long-shot to be this year’s award winner.

Wuerffel Award
The Wuerffel Award, given annually to a college football who displays exemplary community service, combined with academic and athletic success, will be awarded in February 2010. Texas WR Jordan Shipley is the only Big 12 representative, among 12 finalists.

Lombardi Award
Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, and TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes were named as three of four finalists for the Lombardi Trophy, given to the country’s best lineman – on offense or defense. The winner of the award will be announced on Dec. 9. Surprisingly, most of the award winners in its history have come from the Big 12 Conference (or previously the Big 8 or Southwest Conferences).

Thorpe Award
Oklahoma State cornerback Perrish Cox, Texas safety Earl Thomas, and Kansas safety Darrell Stuckey have all been named as semifinalists for the Thorpe Award, given to the country’s top defensive back. The Big 12 and SEC both have three semifinalists up for the award this year. The winner of the award will be announced on Dec. 10.

Lott Trophy
Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, oklahoma defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, Texas defensive end Sam Acho, and TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes are among eight semifinalists for the Lott Trophy, given to the country’s best defensive impact player based on athletic performance and personal character. The award finalists will be announced Nov. 24, and the winner announced on Dec. 13. Of note, a Big 12 player has never won the award in its five-year history.

Texas Safety Christian Scott Bowl Game Eligible?
There is speculation that Texas safety Christian Scott, who was suspended by the NCAA this fall for lack of progress against his degree, may become eligible for the ‘Horns bowl game in January. Head coach Mack Brown said he has been discussing the case with the NCAA, and if Scott does well academically this semester, it is a long-shot possibility he could play – although he confirmed it was a unique circumstance for the NCAA to consider. Scott has continued to practice with the team, and he was battling with starting safety Blake Gideon in fall camp, so his services could be helpful in the post-season.

More ou Football Injuries
The rash of season-ending injuries for the oklahoma sooners football continues, as three more starters will be out for the season. Players affected by the injuries include offensive lineman Brody Eldridge (neck), defensive end Auston English (ankle tendon), and offensive tackle Jarvis Jones (fractured heel). English is expected to have surgery in the near-term. With the season-ending injuries to quarterback Sam Bradford and tight end Jermaine Gresham, ou has been hampered throughout the season, although they remain one game shy of becoming bowl eligible.

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Game Preview: Texas Longhorns v. Central Florida Knights

November 7, 2009
11:00 a.m. Central
FSN / Comcast Sports Net

If you keep an eye on Mack Brown’s words of wisdom throughout the year, you know the ‘Horns have already completed two seasons in 2009. Brown has a knack for breaking a 12-game season down in to three segments to help keep the team focused on short-term goals, building momentum until it crescendos in a post-season bowl game. To-date, the Longhorns are undefeated in two of their four-game stretches (to be 8-0), with the previous four games – Colorado, oklahoma, Missouri, and Oklahoma State – being their toughest stretch this season.

It’s true that the reminder of Texas’ schedule doesn’t pose much of threat – even the Big 12 Championship game, should they get that far – but, those can be the most dangerous games of all for a team that thrives on big games year-in and year-out.

This week, the ‘Horns face a fiery Central Florida team who almost knocked off Texas in Orlando in 2007 behind future NFL running back Kevin Smith. While this Knights team poses less of a threat, they shouldn’t be overlooked in Austin this weekend. As Eyes Of TX favorite UT guru Trey McLean says, “a game on the schedule is a game on schedule,” and the team still has to show up to play. There are no “gimme” games, and some of top teams in the BCS have already flirted with season-ending disasters this season. Brown and the ‘Horns need to maintain their focus, use Saturday to gain some “style points” with the BCS voters, and stay healthy.

Let’s get to the game preview for Texas v. Central Florida.

This Week
Eyes Of TX’s Prediction
Texas 56, Central Florida 10

Central Florida Knights (5-3)
Head coach George O’Leary brings his Knights to Austin for the first time on Saturday, and while his team is 5-3 and vying for position in the middle of Conference USA, they have had some gutsy performances – most recently on Sunday night when they came back from more than 10 points down to Marshall to win at the wire, 21-20.

The strength of the Knights team is not the offense, and in fact, they rank poorly in all offensive categories, other than being from a city with a lot of humidity. They rank 98th in total offense (336 yards/game), including 47th in pass efficiency, in the 70-range for passing (215 yards/game), and in the 80-range for rushing (120 yards/game) and scoring offense (24.1 points/game). Those are signs of 11 players struggling to find their rhythm against Conference USA opponents. Unfortunately, this weekend’s game is not against a Conference USA team.

The offense is led, however, by quarterback Brett Hodges and running back Brynn Harvey. Hodges is solid, but not great – throwing for 10 TDs and seven INTs while hitting 57 percent of his passes – and he is capable of moving the team down the field methodically when necessary. Ask Marshall. Harvey is the workhorse in the backfield, and standing at 6’1” 215-pounds, he is capable of moving the pile through the middle the field to get his yards, and he averages 84 yards per game, and has seven TDs on the season. The problem this week will be the near-invisible Knights offensive line – while the UCF fans might point to turnovers or lack of total yardage to lead to points, the truth is that the offensive line probably won’t make the ‘Horns defense break a sweat and that will cause Hodges to make mistakes that will take the Knights out of the game by halftime if not sooner.

The surprise out of Orlando is the UCF defense, which has played inspired football all season and given the offense ample opportunities to stay in games, and/or win them in the end. Where their offense is incompetent on the national scene, their defense ranks in the top 10 in both rush defense (87 yards/game) and sacks (27) – those are impressive stats, although against inferior teams from Conference USA. While Eyes Of TX is certain the Knights rush defense statistics will only improve after playing Texas’ “we’ll-kind-of-try-to-run-until-we-give-up-and-pass-all-over-you” attack, UCF’s sack total does pose some concern for Texas’ offensive line and coach Mac McWhorter.

The defense is led by defensive end Bruce Miller, who has totaled nine sacks on the year and as an undersized lineman, plays more like a linebacker at 6’2” 253-pounds. His colleague up front is NFL-sized Torrell Troup, with two sacks and 26 tackles on the year, will take up all space between the hash marks Shaun Rogers-style with his 6’3” 314-pound frame. If Texas has any chance running the ball on Saturday, it won’t be up the middle the field. The opportunity for Texas on Saturday, assuming they can calm the pass rush from UCF’s defensive line and linebackers, will be to take advantage of the secondary with the plethora of bigger, stronger, faster wide outs roaming the burnt orange side of the DKR-Memorial Stadium sidelines. The Knight’s linebackers, while solid in run support, are ripe for taking advantage of in coverage, and the secondary is giving up 243 yards passing per game (90th nationally). How do they solve their coverage woes? They play Texas and Houston back-to-back weeks. Ouch.

On special teams, it’s a mixed bag. The kicking game for the Knights is an absolute debacle for a Division I school, as UCF’s field goal kicker is only 9-for-16, and their punter averages 36 yards per punt. Where it gets interesting is UCF’s ability to cover those short punts – allowing only 3.4 yards per return – as well as kick-offs, allowing 16.3 yards per return. In addition, they are capable of big plays in the kick return game, averaging 25.4 yards per kickoff with a TD on the season, and 12.5 yards per punt. Expect to see the Knights trying to cause some trouble for Texas on specials, and to keep that field goal kicker on the bench when it comes to red-zone situations. Let’s face it, UCF will need TDs – not FGs – to stay in this one.

#2 Texas Longhorns (8-0)
Simple. The ‘Horns need to play the game, and play it to the level they’re capable of – especially as the #2 team in the land. There are already doubters amongst the BCS voters, and if Alabama wins this weekend they get big momentum, so don’t give those ballot-casters another reason to question why Texas should be in Pasadena, Calif., on Thursday, January 7 at 5:30 p.m. Pacific time. Got it?

Texas will likely do what they’ve done all year – keep QB Colt McCoy upright in the pocket, and picking apart the opposing defense with 3-8 yard dink-and-dunk passes. The difference in the passing game this week might be the Texas wide outs ability to break something on Eyes Of TX’s favorite play to hate, the bubble screen. Expect to WR Jordan Shipley to have a career day, especially if he’s matched up on the linebackers, and let’s continue to see the emergence of WR Malcolm Williams who had a nice game in Stillwater last week. The running game should be…well, honestly…non-existent on Saturday for two reasons: 1) Texas doesn’t have a running back or a running game consistent enough to be a threat outside of Cody Johnson rumbling, stumbling, bumbling from the 1-yard line; and, 2) UCF’s rush defense is no joke.

On defense, the ‘Horns front seven must be salivating for Saturday’s match-up. UCF’s Hodges, whose jersey was pretty dirty after the Marshall game, will be sore until 2010 after this game, as there is no way the Knights offensive line can stop Texas’ self-proclaimed “Goon Squad.” With constant pressure on Hodges, and what is expected to be an early deficit, the running game will disappear and the UCF offense will become one dimensional. Oh, why hello Earl Thomas, Blake Gideon, and Curtis Brown – how may we help you? After an epic week against the ‘Pokes, expect a near-repeat performance (it’s scary to think that’s even possible) from the Texas secondary…they are on fire, showing confidence, and have no fear. It will be a self-serve night for the ‘Horns, and Aaron Williams should be back after being injured last week.

Expect some fireworks on special teams – Texas has the athletes to make something big happen…kick or punt return, block? Eyes Of TX expects one of each – who’s up for it this week? Shipley, Marquise Goodwin, D.J. Monroe?

Pre-game Resources
2009 Texas Longhorns Roster
2009 Central Florida Knights Roster
University Co-op Gameday Newsletter / Pod casts

Hook ‘em!

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Week 4: Big 12 Football Updates

Updated 9/30: Texas A&M wide receiver Jeff Fuller out 4-6 weeks with broken leg. More in Comments.

As with every week so far this college football season, some highlights and lowlights from week four. Unfortunately, most of the news out of the Big 12 Conference this week isn’t good. Let’s look in to what’s going on.

Baylor QB Robert Griffin Injured, Out For The Season
Very early in the game against Northwestern State, star quarterback and leader of the Baylor Bears football team, Robert Griffin, injured his knee. While he was taken to the sideline and briefly sat out, Griffin returned to the game in the first half with his knee heavily wrapped to throw for 226 yards and three TDs. At halftime, another examination of his knee revealed a slight tear of his ACL, and he will be out for the remainder of the season. With the lifeblood of the Bears offense out, what looked to be optimism in Waco has suddenly turned in to despair. Filling the QB void will be senior Blake Syzmanski, who looked decent in the second half, was 3-for-5 for 58 yards and one TD. The Bears won the game handily, 68-13, to go to 2-1 on the season, and they take on Kent State on Saturday.

Texas Tech Suspensions…and Twitter
Not only has head coach Mike Leach put a ban on his players using Twitter due to a player’s Tweet that he shouldn’t have to be at a team meeting when the coach was running late, but starting offensive lineman Brandon Carter has been suspended indefinitely for breaking team rules. So far, no additional details have come out on his suspension, but we suspect he might have used too much face paint during last week’s game. OK, not really, but that guy is scary for many reasons. The lack of Twitter content coming from Lubbock is a huge setback for the growing Eyes Of…Twitter resource on this blog for sure. Can you imagine how awesome it would be to have Leach Tweeting? It’d be journalistic gold.

‘Horns Set Big 12 Conference “Player of the Week” Record
After another spectacular defensive performance on Saturday, the ‘Horns were rewarded with another surprise early this week. Safety Earl Thomas was tabbed the Big 12 Conference’s Defensive Player of the Week after tallying two INTs against UTEP. It’s the third week in a row that a Texas defender has been named the conference’s player of the week – a conference first, no matter the category – and Thomas follows Lamarr Houston (Wyoming game) and Rodderick Muckelroy (Texas Tech). There are 12 players on defense, and more than 12 weeks in a good football season…hmmm. Who’s stepping up against Colorado?

New York Yankees…Bowl Game?
Yep, you read that right. The New York Yankees have announced that, beginning in the 2010 bowl season, the new Yankees stadium will host a college football bowl game. Seriously, who wouldn’t want to play a bowl game in New York City in December when its cold, rainy and possibly snowing? What will they call it? The Steinbrenner Bowl? The Salary Cap Bowl? The Raise Money To Get Another Yankee Hall of Famer Bowl? Rumor has it that the bowl will be tied to the Big East and Big 12 Conferences, so expect to see a middle-of-the-road Big 12 team (probably the #7 conference team) taking on a Big East wannabe (#4 conference team) – can you feel the excitement in the air? If a Big 12 team isn’t eligible, then the Yankees would defer to Notre Dame. Does that mean NBC will broadcast it? In addition, the Yankees organization has signed up Army to play four regular season games at the stadium over the next five years, including tilts against Notre Dame and Rutgers.

Texas Longhorns Denied NCAA Reinstatement
While defensive back Deon Beasley was recently reinstated by the NCAA for academic ineligibility in advance of the Texas Tech game, his fellow ‘Horns were not so lucky. Safety Christian Scott and wide receiver Brandon Collins were denied their appeals to the NCAA on Monday, and will not play for the Longhorns this season. They will still be allowed to practice with the team, and both have two years of eligibility remaining – Scott is a redshirt sophomore, and Collins is a junior. Luckily for the ‘Horns, the offense has begun to click with quarterback Colt McCoy getting comfortable with wide outs John Chiles and Dan Buckner, and the defense has looked extremely solid despite the lack of Scott, although fans might see less nickel packages against the Big 12’s potent passing attack from defensive coordinator Will Muschamp. Barring any injuries this season at those critical positions, head coach Mack Brown’s squad should be able to get by just fine without those players.

Texas, no…Baylor, no…an SEC school?
Standout Midway (Waco, TX) High School safety Ahmad Dixon, who initially verbally committed to play for the Texas Longhorns in February 2009, and later switched his commitment to the Baylor Bears in May 2009, is now apparently taking visits to some SEC schools, ESPN reports. Dixon is the #15 player on the ESPNU top 150 list. To be a fly on the wall when Dixon is trying to pick out what to wear to school each day – it’s amazing he ever makes it to class.

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