What at first appeared to be a blessing in disguise for Texas this off-season is quickly becoming a nightmare for Texas football head coach Mack Brown and the athletic department. Following his first losing and worst season in Texas history (5-7), pressure was on Brown to replace key coaching positions on his staff where deficiencies were observed. That meant a swift “adios” to long-time offensive coordinator Greg Davis, as well as line coaches Mac McWhorter and Mike Tolleson.
Holy, Davy Crockett with a raccoon hat. Next, we’re going to find out the Confederacy won the Civil War, the French army is something to be reckoned with, and there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Brown’s got some big holes to fill, and just when he thought things were lining up perfectly for him to retire in the not-to-distant future. The two lead coordinator positions, plus the two line coaches – and maybe a wide receiver coach to boot – leads to a very, very busy off-season. Anyone else think 2011’s becoming a re-building year…again?!
Hey, Greg Robinson…tired of working for Rich Rodriguez and getting your door knocked on by the NCAA every other day? Hey Gene Chizik, when you’re done coaching you’re Heisman Trophy quarterback in the national championship game this year, would you be interested in coming back to coach the defense in Austin? Hey, Major Applewhite, aren’t you glad you’re sticking around…opportunities are becoming more and more available for you, my man.
It’s evident, even more so with this latest departure – EyesOfTX is quickly seeing a very, very young coaching staff taking over the helm in Austin in the next 3-5 years.
Whew! The first week of the college football season has come and gone – thank you for five straight days, college football gods! – and with it, so are most of the cupcake teams that pad the schedules of the big boys early in the season. Tell the JV team to go put their summer dresses back in the closest.
That said, there were more than a few surprises in week one – Jacksonville State’s win in Oxford over a stunned Ole Miss squad (Do you think troublemaker QB transfer Jeremiah Masoli felt “robbed” in this one?), North Dakota State’s barn-burner over Turner Gill’s debut for the Jayhawks, oklahoma struggling against the Aggies of the not-Big 12 – Utah State (which always makes ‘Horns fans smile), not to mention the epic battle at FedEx Field between Boise State and Virginia Tech on Monday night.
With week two through the end of the season, fans will get more important and impactful games, and definitely more watchable contests. Let’s hope for plenty more thrilling nail biters from here on in – heck, ESPN’s deemed this weekend “Monster Saturday.” Maybe that refers to the IV drip of Monster energy drinks you’ll need to get through this week’s line-up. Yum, breakfast.
As always, 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. Let’s get to it, shall we? Here is your college football week 2 viewing guide (all times Eastern):
Friday, September 10 #23 West Virginia @ Marshall (ESPN, 7:00 p.m.)
West Virginia is the only ranked team in the Big East and Marshall didn’t put up much of a fight against Ohio State last week. But, this is an in-state rivalry, and the coaches have a long history, so it’s somewhat compelling for a Friday night game.
Saturday, September 11 San Jose State @ #11 Wisconsin (ESPN, 12:00 p.m.)
Wisconsin is heavily favored and taking on San Jose State at home. Cupcakes gone, right? Maybe a game against a wheel of cheese (fitting for the state of Wisconsin) follows a cupcake; EyesOfTx isn’t even mad. Let’s face it, as one of the best in the Big 10, they’re worth keeping an eye on.
#22 Georgia @ #24 South Carolina (ESPN2, 12:00 p.m.)
This should turn out to be a more interesting matchup in this time slot. Both of these teams could be dangerous opponents to the other top teams (i.e. Alabama, Florida) in the Stuck-up Elitist Conference…er, SEC…as the conference schedule progresses.
This week’s regional games on ABC/ESPN2 are unfortunately two of the better games of the day. Check the coverage maps to see which game is on which channel in your area:
Iowa State @ #9 Iowa (ABC/ESPN2, 3:30 p.m.)
The Iowa-Iowa State rivalry is always intriguing and Iowa has really come on as a serious contender. But, head coach Paul Rhoads has Iowa State headed in the right direction, and they’re also one of the Longhorns’ Big 12 North opponents this year; worth scouting if you can pull your eyes away from the oklahoma-Florida State game.
#17 Florida State @ #10 Oklahoma (ABC/ESPN2, 3:30 p.m.)
In the other regional game, ou hosts Florida State and “new” coach Jimbo Fisher – can anyone remember when Bobby Bowden wasn’t the coach of the Seminoles? oklahoma QB Landry Jones was mediocre last week, who had a closer game than expected against Utah State, although RB DeMarco Murray had a field day as one of the conference’s top backs in week one. Gag. FSU, on the other hand, looked better than expected in their opener. This will be a telling game, will have BCS implications, and is definitely a must-watch.
#12 Miami (FL) @ #2 Ohio State (ESPN/ESPN3D, 3:40 p.m.)
Here’s another great game in the mid-afternoon slot. We get our first look at the Buckeyes, and Heisman-hopeful QB Tyrell Pryor, on the national stage. Both teams feature highly-touted quarterbacks, with Miami’s Jacoby Harris leading the way for the Hurricane offense. Unfortunately for the ‘Canes, four players were injured in the week one against Florida A&M and won’t play in Columbus.
Wyoming @ #5 Texas (FSN, Comcast Sports, 7:00 p.m.)
Texas had a slow start against Wyoming in the altitude of the high plains last year, before taking a 3 point lead just before halftime in to a rout in the second half, but playing in Austin should be a different story. Hopefully, the Longhorns broaden the playbook, get remaining jitters and hitches out of the system, and fine tune the details in a win before starting conference play at Texas Tech next week – luckily, offensive-minded Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen’s offense is a perfect litmus test for the ‘Horns highly-ranked secondary.
More importantly than the game, however, EyesOfTX offers its condolences to the family and friends of Wyoming linebacker Ruben Narcisse who lost his life earlier this week in a car accident. Best wishes for a quick recovery to the other three Cowboys players who were hurt in the incident.
#18 Penn State @ #1 Alabama (ESPN, 7:00 p.m.)
A decent consolation if you’re not able to get the Texas game. Both teams cruised to victories last week, including Penn State’s true freshman QB debut, but both better be ready for this brutal challenge. The Crimson Tide playing at home with a bevy of veterans looks to be an easy favorite on paper (despite being without Heisman Trophy winner RB Mark Ingram, who continues to recover from knee surgery), but Penn State is a team you can never count out. Head coach Nick Saban doesn’t have an easy return to the BCS title game, as the Nittany Lions are the first of six ranked opponents Alabama faces this year.
#7 Oregon @ Tennessee (ESPN2, 7:00 p.m.)
A third top 10 team playing in this slot will get you burning up your remote. Oregon has to carry the Pac-10’s “legitimacy hopes” this year, so going on the road against an SEC team will be a barometer for the rest of their season. Is Tennessee the best SEC barometer? Probably not, but its better than Vanderbilt. Under a new head coach, the Vols aren’t the cream of the SEC crop, and they have some key injuries, but they played well last year against some of the top teams even with “crazy Lane” Kiffin as coach. Oregon, meanwhile, comes off a dismantling of New Mexico, in which their back-up running back had five TDs. At halftime. And, they return their starting RB – the “other La” – LaMichael. Let’s look for two things: 1) How well the Zeroes play away from Autzen, at a real college football stadium; and, 2) What crazy uniforms they bring to play against the always-conservative SEC.
#25 Stanford @ UCLA (ESPN, 10:30 p.m.)
The nightcap game this week is a Pac-10 showdown at the Rose Bowl. Stanford comes in with a fresh top 25 ranking to their credit, and the Bruins – expected to finish in the bottom three of the conference – reeling from an opening game loss to Kansas State (well, to Wildcats RB Daniel Thomas, really…not sure the rest of KSU’s team showed up). UCLA comes to Austin in two weeks for redemption game for the Longhorns after the never-forgettable 66-3 beat down in the late 1990s at home, so now is the time to see what the ‘Horns will be up against in a key non-conference match-up.
Thanks to “Lil Pete” for his ongoing weekly viewing guide contributions to EyesOfTX.
It’s time for the last college football game of the 2009 season – and, shed a tear, because it’s hard to believe sports fans are already staring the dreadfully long NBA basketball and Major League Baseball seasons straight in the eye…again. Do they really ever stop playing those sports, or do the networks just stop broadcasting the games for a little bit so we’re under the impression they’re in the “off season”?We can wish, right? Ugh…college football is about to be over, and our life force is about to be taken from each of us for the next eight months.
Luckily for most of the Eyes Of TX readers, your favorite football team likely has one more game, on Thursday night, and is playing for the biggest prize of all – the crystal ball and the national championship – in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. Let’s not lie. It’s been about a month of anticipation and nerves leading up to Thursday’s game, and rather than face the inevitable, I’m going to cop out on the real game analysis for just a little bit longer. So, in the spirit of fun, let’s look at our top five reasons for either a Texas and Alabama win on Thursday – with a humorous (and yet true?) twist.
5 Reasons the Texas Longhorns Will Win
1. Eyes Of TX Attendance. Plain and simple, since a flight to Pasadena and a beautiful postcard-sized ticket the Rose Bowl have my name on it, Texas won’t want to let me down. After all, think of all the horrible things that could be posted here from January 8 until August 2010. Not that I would do that…but I would. Just like in 2005, Texas will want to prove every single media pundit wrong — then, it was ESPN’s self-proclaimed USC dynasty that went down in flames at the hands of the ‘Horns; now, it should be the house that Saban’s built in Tuscaloosa.
2. The right Longhorn gear. For better or worse, I’m very superstitious about game-watching gear…my own, and that of my close friends and girlfriend. Looking at our closet full of Longhorn merchandise, and realizing I have probably kept the University Co-op in business for the past 10+ years on my own, I typically commit to my season game-watching gear (shirt and hat, in particular) in August during two-a-days. Of course, that gear is liable to change based on the team’s play as assessed by me in real-time during a game. So far thus season, my luck has been good – I’ve got a lucky shirt and two lucky hats (I “tried out” another hat against an easier non-conference foe early in the season and it was approved). The gear for the National Championship, you ask? A white, with orange shoulders, short-sleeve Nike Texas coach’s shirt (with the football stitches below the buttons, and Texas stitched across the upper back), and my orange Texas visor. In hindsight, the choice is very Bob Stoops of me. Also in tow will be two different Longhorn (non-bowl game) t-shirts, a Nike orange/white Texas golf hat, and an orange Texas “stash” hat. Don’t get me started on the girlfriend’s wardrobe options – it is more expansive – but, it’s approved. For now.
3. If they don’t win, Will Muschamp might eat someone’s child. You heard me, keep your kids indoors and don’t let them out – not even for the ice cream truck. Give your kids a pager or cell phone so they can “check in” with you often, if need be, or use an invisible fence collar – whatever works to keep them safe from a potentially sulking Muschamp. If the ‘Horns lose, defensive coordinator Will Muschamp is liable to go completely looney bin on the sidelines, perhaps snatching children and old people out of the stands and publicly ridiculing them or eating them for a late evening snack. If the ‘Horns lose, he will be absolutely crazy mad, and that should be enough incentive for the ‘Horns to be inspired on Thursday night. As for me, I’ll keep my fingers and toes away from the sidelines at all times.
4. The Rose Bowl is…home. Seriously, when the players come back to school in the fall semester and they put their name down for the “athletic dorm,” does it just read “Rose Bowl – Pasadena, CA”? This is the third time in six years that the ‘Horns have played in the shadows of the California mountains, and something tells me the players like it there. Is it the weather? The women? The celebrities? No one knows for sure, but the Longhorns love the spotlight in Pasadena…and, I can’t complain one bit.
5. Someone from Texas didn’t win the Heisman Trophy. Yep, in 2005 there is no doubt that Texas’ Vince Young got denied in his bid for the Heisman Trophy, awarded to the country’s best college football player. That year, the ‘Horns played USC in the national championship – a team with two Heisman Trophy winners in Matt Leinart and 2005’s winner Reggie Bush. Anyone remember the opening to the broadcast of the game that year? USC’s Will Ferrell and Texas’ Matthew McConaughey commentary – remember?
And, the final score? Net-net, Texas’ odds against Heisman Trophy winners in recent memory – pretty darn good. Sorry, Mark Ingram, but the house of cards will fall soon enough. On Thursday, Texas quarterback Colt McCoy proves he not only has the best name for a Texas QB in the history of the universe, but that he is the best player in college football this year as well.
6. Bonus Reason: Self-explanatory, thank you El Arroyo.
Posted on Deadspin, Austin's El Arroyo restaurant shows off their pre-game trash talk.
Seriously, those are all legitimate reasons for Texas to take home the crystal ball, and not one Texas fan should fault them. Now, moving on to our friends from the East, let’s take a look at Alabama’s keys to the game.
5 Reasons the Alabama Crimson Tide Will Win
1. Eyes Of TX’s Attendance. Yes, you read right – sound familiar? I’ve officially committed. The game tickets were bought. The plane tickets were booked. The rental car is washed and ready to go at LAX. The hotel was confirmed. The pre-game tailgate was arranged. While I desperately try to redeem myself for my 2005 bailout (where I procrastinated and then choose not to go to the Texas v. USC national championship), I’m committing to cheering the team on in Pasadena this year. The question becomes whether my team is committed to supporting (with a win) my financial investment in joining them in California.
2. Alabama head coach Nick Saban is the devil in disguise (and we think he borrowed the costume from ou head coach Bob Stoops). It’s hard to capture on film, just like Bigfoot or the Lochness Monster, yet when his true devilish persona comes out, it’s hard to control. He has a way of getting his way, that Lucifer. C’mon, do you really think Alabama beat Tennessee by blocking two field goals on their own? No. They had some help from…well…below. His sweet Southern persona won’t get past me, I know what he’s all about. Speaking of Stoops, guess who “happened” to be in Tuscaloosa visiting with Saban last week? You guessed right (slight throw up in my mouth). If this were like the Salem witch trials, Saban would be hung for being in cohorts with the real enemy.
3. Redemption against Major Applewhite. Or Will Muschamp. Both Major Applewhite (UT running backs coach) and Will Muschamp (UT defensive coordinator) have coached under Saban at some point in their young coaching tenures. Both have now ended up at Texas, with Applewhite most recently leaving his offensive coordinator duties under Saban at Alabama to move to the Texas staff. Wouldn’t it be ironic for the Crimson Tide and their coach to exact revenge on those who chose to kick him and his program to the curb in favor of something better?
4. The SEC is the “better conference.” Year-in and year-out, college football pundits from ESPN, ABC, FOX and other related sports entities remind us that the Southeastern Conference comprises the best football teams – on the whole – than any other. This year, perhaps that was true. But, who really cares? In the grand scheme of things, the BCS has proven one thing during it’s existence – and, even then, only to a certain extent. Fans have seen that smaller conference schools, despite being from a “weaker conference,” can compete on the highest levels of competitive athletics. See also: Boise State, TCU and Cincinnati (although the Bearcats should be scolded for laying an egg in the Sugar Bowl this year). In a year when the SEC once again dominated headlines, perhaps Alabama makes its case that the SEC school was the right choice for the national championship game – and best team – in 2010.
5. 7-0-1. No, that’s not a reference to Tim Tebow’s “eye black” Bible verse or a Reggie Bush-like shout-out to his hometown via area code. Rather, it’s Texas’ win-loss record against the Crimson Tide. Alabama has never beaten Texas, although they tied once, in eight attempts – yet the two teams most recently met in 1982. For two of the most storied programs in the history of college football, this is a great statistic (in terms of powerhouse teams playing relatively frequently in their history) and yet it’s too bad the two teams haven’t played more often in recent years. We’ll assume Saban brings some historical perspective and passion to the equation in his pre-game speech and gets the Elephants ready to “roll” on Thursday night for their first victory against the ‘Horns.
Well, the bags are packed, and I’m ready to go. Sunshine and (hopefully) a Texas Longhorn victory await me in Pasadena. My real pre-game analysis to come…when I get the nerve to actually put pen to paper.
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.”
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.
Just days after the conference championships were decided, the Heisman Trophy committee has announced the finalists for this year’s award. This is the first time since 2004, when USC’s Matt Leinart won the award, that five players have been invited to New York City for the ceremony. The award will be given in a ceremony in NYC on Saturday, December 12, and will be broadcast live at 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Right now, based on media coverage of the conference championship games and ensuing BCS bowl game announcements, it would appear as though Alabama RB Mark Ingram would be the leading candidate for the award following his stellar performance against Florida on Saturday. He is followed closely by Stanford RB Toby Gerhart, as well as Texas QB Colt McCoy, who all but blew his chances in front of a national television audience as he attempted to lock up the award Saturday night. To round out the five finalists, Florida QB Tim Tebow and Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh will give chase and should be long-shots to win this year’s award.
Let’s review some highlights from each of these finalists’ seasons:
Alabama’s Mark Ingram 249 carries for 1,542 yards rushing (6.2 yards per carry) and 15 TDs; 30 catches for 322 yards and 3 TDs
Stanford’s Toby Gerhert 311 carries for 1,736 yards and 26 TDs; 10 catches for 149 yards and 0 TDs
Texas’ Colt McCoy 3,512 yards passing and 27 TDs (12 INTs), good for a 70.5% completion rate; 128 carries for 348 yards rushing and 3 TDs; winningest college QB of all time
This one game says enough about McCoy to summarize the season…
Florida’s Tim Tebow 2,413 yards passing for 18 TDs (5 INTs), good for 65.2% completion rate; 203 carries for 859 yards rushing and 13 TDs
By far, the Big 12 Championship game against #3 Texas was Suh’s highlight reel for 2009 – 12 total tackles (10 solo) and 4 sacks.
Honestly, so long as former ou RB Billy Sims isn’t on stage yelling “boomer! sooner!” as he did in 2008 when ou QB Sam Bradford won the award, the college football nation should be content with the voter’s decision. As for Eyes Of TX, let’s take a look at the predictions:
Texas’ 2009 “fourth season” is about to come to close exactly where the team wanted to be – in the Big 12 Championship game in Arlington on Saturday night. Head coach Mack Brown’s mantra this season has been “one game at a time” and focusing on splitting up the season in to four, three-game chunks to keep the team moving forward and delivering on their goal of reaching the conference and national championships. Check.
Last week, Texas showed some weaknesses – in particular, on the defensive side of the ball – and luckily, the offense and Mr. Heisman-hopeful carried the ‘Horns to a hard-fought victory in College Station. Things need to improve this week in order for the ‘Horns to tackle what might be their second-toughest opponent on paper in the Big 12. Don’t think the team isn’t locked on this game, though – if you saw or heard defensive coordinator Will Muschamp after the A&M game, you know the ‘Horns will have their act together defensively come Saturday night. Offensively, QB Colt McCoy has one last game to make his case for the Heisman Trophy in the two-horse race against Florida QB and the media-generated God-like figure Tim Tebow.
This Week Eyes Of TX’s Prediction
Texas 38, Nebraska 17
Don’t let Bo Pelini’s squad fool you – they worked hard and earned this game with Texas. Their three losses – to Virginia Tech, Iowa State, and Texas Tech – were all different in their own right. Visiting the Hokies, they had a chance to win in the closing minutes and fell just short. Playing Iowa State at home, they had one of the most disastrous games a college football fan has ever seen (with eight turnovers), and they still only lost 9-7. Against Tech, well, anything is possible with this Red Raiders team this year, and the Cornhuskers caught them on a good week of football. Net-net, Pelini will not let his defensive-minded team roll over for this game. They will be amped up, ready to play against the odds, and potentially upset the ‘Horns the same way the James Brown-led Texas team did in the inaugural Big 12 Championship game in 1996 (when they were also three TD underdogs).
The mediocre Nebraska offense is based on and led by the running game, and we’ll start there. The Huskers bring two stud running backs to attack the stout Texas run defense in Roy Helu, Jr. and Rex Burkhead. Helu, at a solid 6’2” 215-pounds, is the lead back who is an inside threat with the speed to occasionally break runs to and up the sidelines. He’s tallied more than 1,100 yards rushing on the year, and many of those yards have come after contact, while his 5.4/yards per carry average has led him to 10 TDs on the season. He can also be an outlet for the Nebraska QBs, as he’s also caught passes for more than 149 yards on the season. Generally, however, you can expect to see his touches coming primarily in the I-formation with his feet attacking the Texas defense north-south. The Huskers second running threat is 5’11” 200-pound freshman Burkhead. Burkhead is the speed back, and he’s been successful in the offensive scheme running and catching the ball as a supplement to Helu’s grunt work in the inside. The Cornhusker’s success – both running and throwing the ball – lies directly on these two backs.
If Nebraska is smart, they keep the ball in the hands of the backs, and allow their QBs Zac Lee and Cody Green to supplement their efforts while eliminating mistakes from the playcallers. There has been some back-and-forth at the QB position this season, but Lee’s managed to maintain the starting job, and he is the more adept passing threat. Lee has completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,931 yards and 13 TDs, although he’s thrown seven INTs, and has been under the microscope all season. Let’s be honest, his role on Saturday will be to help control the clock, hand the ball of to his stable of backs, make timely throws, and keep the Texas offense off the field. After the A&M game, the positive for the Texas defense is that they can count on Lee always being in the pocket to throw the ball as his running ability is limited – especially after an injury to his ankle/knee last week against Colorado. He’s accounted for less than 100 yards rushing this year, and has no rushing TDs to his credit – in other words, Nebraska let those position players do the work, and they do it well. If the Huskers do decide to run the option, they will use Green, who is more of a dual-threat QB using his feet to move the chains. As alluded to above, Lee is the better passer, as Green has only completed 56 percent of his passes on the season, so Texas can expect to see Green primarily coming in to the game for rushing plays. On Saturday, Nebraska’s passing threat will completely be dependent on the rushing attack, as they are most efficient when they get opposing defenses to bite on play-action.
The wide receivers for Nebraska are solid, but not spectacular – and, they don’t have to be in Pelini’s offensive scheme. Their leading receiver is Niles Paul, who at 6’1” 215-pounds is a sizable target for Lee or Green downfield. He leads the team with 649 yards receiving, while scoring three TDs. The bigger threat, especially in a play-action offense, is the tight end and the Huskers have a good one in 6’4” 240-pound Mike McNeill. While he’s the third leading receiver on the team with 237 yards receiving on the year, he is their red zone threat, with a team-leading four TD catches. There are other playmakers, but those two will be the keys for the Texas secondary. It will be important for the ‘Horns to chip block McNeill at the line of scrimmage on play-action, and the safeties to key on him downfield, to throw off the timing of the legitimate QB-TE tandem.
The Nebraska offensive line doesn’t have any big names to shout about, but they do their job by creating a huge push off the line of scrimmage and creating running lanes for the backs to work their way downfield. Led by center Jacob Hickman, the line will need to create holes for the running game, and give Lee time to throw in the pocket on passing downs, and play-action plays could help slow the Texas pressure. While solid, they do give up 1.5 sacks/game, and expect Muschamp to dial up pressure when Nebraska is forced to throw.
Overall, the Huskers’ offense ranks mid-pack in the NCAA, and is 92nd in total offense with 334 yards per game, good for only 11th-best in the Big 12. They take a further step backward in pass offense, ranking 93rd nationally. But, in scoring offense (72nd) and rushing offense (64th), they show off some of their strengths. While not mind-blowing offense statistics, when their defense is holding opposing offenses to well under their season-averages, the offense just has to be good enough, and they’ve proved they are capable by winning nine games on the year.
The defense is the strength of this 2009 Nebraska team, hands-down, and they are led by Eyes Of TX’s Heisman candidate in defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. The future NFL first-rounder (and potential top pick) is the kind of all-around tackle that controls the line of scrimmage, scares the daylights out of QBs and RBs, and is legitimately a one-man show on the defensive side of the ball. Check out this stat line (and remember he’s doing all of this at nearly 300 pounds): 70 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 10 passes deflected, 17 quarterback pressures, a fumble recovery and an interception. Whoa. The Texas offensive line should be worried about just Suh, but because of his abilities, the rest of the defensive line benefits as well. Suh’s sidekick on the line is Jared Crick, who has contributed 65 tackles and leads the team with nine sacks. Between Suh and Crick, this will be the toughest inside match-up for the ‘Horns offense this season outside of oklahoma. The defensive ends aren’t anything to shake a stick at either, although they provide more run support than pass rush, tallying six sacks and 16 tackles for a loss this season. It will take a legitimate group effort from the ‘Horns offensive line to keep the Nebraska front four at bay.
The linebackers, like the secondary, are dependent on the front four being productive and disrupting opposing offenses. When the offensive line isn’t getting to the second level, the linebackers are great at cleaning up and taking advantage of the gaps to get in to the backfield to create momentum-killing tackles for a loss. They also have the ability to cover sideline-to-sideline, although Texas’ speed should prove overwhelming over four quarters. The secondary is more than capable of making McCoy make more than one read in the pocket. In particular, safety Matt O’Hanlon has the ability to watch the QBs eyes and make big plays down the field to get the Nebraska offense off the sidelines. Overall, the Huskers secondary has snagged 16 INTs on the year, and O’Hanlon has five. Pelini also likes to use his corners and safeties to bring additional pressure, and it’s fair to say, McCoy and the Texas running back corps will see some looks they haven’t seen all season long. Picking up the blitz and blocking downfield will be paramount to helping the Texas offense break some plays open.
The Nebraska specials have the benefit of Alex Henery, a kicker with a leg developed by some branch of the military for all intents and purposes. He is 16-of-20 on field goals this season while not missing any extra points, and as a punter, he averages 42.3 yards per kick. The way Texas has played on special teams, Henery’s leg could pose field position problems all day long. The Huskers kick coverage is mediocre on both punts and kick-offs, so there is some potential for Texas to take advantage, especially if Jordan Shipley and Marquise Goodwin can hit some holes.
#3 Texas Longhorns (12-0) For the ‘Horns, it’s time to go out and take what is rightfully theirs. They’ve fought through adversity all year long – sickness, injuries, lapses in the offense and defense – and they are still in a position to go undefeated and play in the national championship game in January. The focus needs to be Nebraska this week – no looking ahead – because Pelini’s team will be ready to spring the upset and earn a BCS trip they feel they deserve.
On offense, the key is the offensive line. Nebraska’s defensive line will give the ‘Horns trouble all game long, and the smallest lapse or hesitation will give the Huskers the opportunity to capitalize. If the offensive line can drive off the ball, and Greg Davis can keep the defense guessing (in other words, throwing downfield and giving up on the bubble screen already), then Texas has a shot both running and throwing the ball. While all Texas fans want McCoy to stay healthy and avoid big hits, his production in the running game was critical in last week’s win and could prove valuable again this week if the Nebraska defense over-pursues in pass rush or the defensive ends crash down on the zone read. With the emergence of WR Malcolm Williams in addition to Shipley, the Huskers will have to commit to eyeing them. That opens the door for James Kirkendoll and TE Dan Buckner to get their opportunities. Nebraska will look to control the clock and keep McCoy and the offense on the sidelines, so when they get their chance, they’ll have to make the most of it.
The defense needs to come in with a chip on their shoulder, and they will if Muschamp has anything to say about it. They were absolutely embarrassed in College Station, although the Aggies top-10 offense is nothing to ignore when looking at the stats. Missed tackles and coverage assignments were prevalent last week, and in order for the ‘Horns to stifle the Nebraska offense, things need to get fixed…fast. The good thing is, those starters know it – and they’re a proud bunch who wants to go back out and prove that they just as stout as Pelini’s squad. The play of the defensive line will be key in stopping the run, and the secondary will need to play up in run support, while not being fooled with play-action passes. If the line can keep the linebackers clean, expect Rod Muckelroy and Keenan Robinson to have big stat days. Keep your heads, and make sure tackles. Gang tackle, as they say, especially against Helu, who is a big back that keeps his legs churning through the interior of the line.
This is Texas’ game to lose. If they game plan correctly, the offense can have a hey-day in Arlington on Saturday. If the offensive line doesn’t play up to snuff – and Suh and Crick will make plays – it will be a long day for McCoy and the pass-happy Texas offense. The special teams has had three horrible weeks in a row, and they need to figure out how to tackle all over again to be effective. Get it fixed. This is the shot the ‘Horns have wanted for 365 days. No asterisks. Make it happen, and Texas fans will be enjoying the sun in Pasadena in January.
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.