Tag Archives: Nick Saban

It’s For Real, ‘Horns Fans

It’s about time. No one ever wants to see wholesale changes in a coaching staff, especially one that has been together as long as Mack Brown’s Texas Longhorns staff. But, after the first losing season for Texas football since Brown’s arrival in 1997, it is time for some change.

Early reports indictate that several coaches have either resigned, or at a minimum told their players that they won’t be returning next season. The key departure (good or bad depending on your alliances) is offensive coordinator Greg Davis, who has been with Brown for all 13 years at Texas, not to mention his tenture at North Carolina and Tulane before coming to Austin.

In addition, offensive line coach Mac McWhorter, defensive line coach Mike Tolleson, have confirmed they are resigning, and wide receiver coach Bobby Kennedy is rumored to also be leaving the staff (although that has not yet been confirmed). That leaves a lot of holes to fill on the coaching staff, but they were all areas where the Longhorns have struggled the past 2-3 years. You can find more on the departures here, and it appears as though Mack Brown will not try to fill the positions until after the bowl season concludes. The resignations will also not be effective until August 31, 2011, when each of the coach’s contracts expire, although they could leave sooner if they are hired away by other teams.

Who are the likely candidates to fill some of those roles, you ask? Let’s pontificate, based on some rumors circulating Longhorn nation. Keep in mind, current defensive coordinator and future Texas Longhorns head coach Will Muschamp will also have some pull in hiring the new coaches, so he might help Brown and the staff dig in to SEC coaching talent as well. No doubt, with some top coaches departing, the ‘Horns will have some money to spend in the off-season to get top-notch talent.

Dana Holgorsen (Oklahoma State offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach): Lead the nation’s #1 offensive juggernaut in 2010, and made a former Major League Baseball pitching prospect one of the best quarterbacks in the Big 12. It could be tough to grab Holgorsen, though, as he’s an in-conference coach, and Cowboys alum and millionaire Boone Pickens has plenty of money to donate to keep a winning staff together in Stillwater.

Bob Bostad (Wisconsin running game/offensive line coach): When you think of the Badger’s offense, the first thing that comes to mind is a stout running game that is based on the success of an offensive line that can run block with the best in the counry year-in and year-out. The downside is Bostad hasn’t called the plays and would have to learn on the fly or defer to another member of the current Texas offensive staff (see also: Major Applewhite). Would be a solid hire as an offensive line coach, but that might not be the type of “promotion” or long-term growth opportunity that is attractive to a successful assistant coach.

Major Applewhite (Texas running backs coach): A natural progression for Applewhite, and more the likely one of the reasons he took a demotion from previous roles to come to Texas in the first place – to be Greg Davis’ replacement. As a former quarterback, he can help groom future talent, and he’s also called the offensive plays for Rice and Alabama (under none other than Nick Saban) in previous stints. He’s young – yet experienced, more than capable, repsected by the players, has name recognition and in-roads to Texas-state talent, and it is a guarantee that he wants the job.

Mark Helfrich (Oregon offensive coordinator): As much as EyesOfTX despises all things Ducks, this might be a great hire. Helfrich has only called the plays for the “Zeroes” for two years, but their offense has been prolific during that time – and he’s got the Ducks playing in the national championship game the year after his starting quarterback transferred and his best running back went off to The League. Not bad. This one comes down to how much Nike, er…Phil Knight, er…the university is willing to pay to keep him around.

Bryan Harsin (Boise State offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach): This would be an interesting hire, but might be difficult given Harsin’s a Broncos graduate. It’s hard to get talent out of Boise, as head coach Chris Petersen has a well-oiled machine under his helm. The question remains whether Boise State talent can climb up the rungs and be successful at the next level – see also: former head coach Dan Hawkins, who floundered in his attempt to translate his success in Boise to Boulder and the Universityof Colorado.

Stacy Searels (Georgia line coach): There is some history with Searels and Will Muchamp, and the SEC connection might help draw him to the Lone Star State. While Searels has seen success at Georgia in previous years, the past several years have been struggles for the Bulldogs. Is that what Brown and Muschamp want to bring to town?

We’ll see how things pan out, but expect some big changes in the next month or two.

Leave a comment

Filed under Big 12, Longhorns, NCAA Football

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Aggies, Big 12, NCAA Football

College Football: Week 2 Viewing Guide

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.

2 Comments

Filed under Big 12, Cyclones, Longhorns, NCAA Football, Sooners

Game Preview: BCS National Championship – #2 Texas Longhorns v. #1 Alabama Crimson Tide

Thursday, January 7
7:00 p.m. Central
ABC

In early August, before the beginning of the 2009 season, the Texas Longhorn faithful couldn’t contain their excitement and anticipation for an undefeated season and a potential trip to the BCS National Championship at the famed Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA.

After all, even the casual observer would note 2008 Heisman Trophy runner-up quarterback Colt McCoy was back, as was a stout defense that returned a plethora of young players who continued to improve each day. Yes, the running game continued to have question marks, but then again, every team has questions coming out of spring drills and in to fall two-a-days…it was all fixable, right? Fear not, ‘Horns fans, the day of reckoning has come – a day to redeem a one-second loss to Texas Tech in 2008, and to rejoice and enjoy the spotlight of playing for the Longhorns second national championship in five years.

Let’s breakdown what should be one of the best bowl games of 2009-2010 – the national championship between #1 Alabama and #2 Texas.

This Week
Eyes Of TX’s Prediction
Texas 24, Alabama 20

#1 Alabama Crimson Tide (13-0)
After suffering for years in the SEC and under a revolving door of coaches, always with the “potential” to compete for the conference title, the Crimson Tide have finally found their niche and achieved their goal of being in the hunt for the national championship. With head coach Nick Saban corralling his troops, ‘Bama’s defense has shot to the top of the national rankings and the offense is playing well enough to beat fellow SEC run-heavy conference foes. They bring six All-Americans between both sides of the ball to Pasadena, and yes, they have this year’s Heisman Trophy winner in sophomore running back Mark Ingram. How on earth can they lose?

Ironically, Bama’s games are managed by a fellow Texan in junior Greg McElroy, who has grown out of his Southlake Carroll HS size to be a legitimate 6’3” 200-pound gun slinger for the Tide. I saw managed, because that’s typically what he does – controlling the clock, handing the ball off to the stable of ‘Bama running back, and making timely throws when asked to do so. On the year, he’s completing 60 percent of his passes for just over 2,200 yards, 16 TDs and only four INTs. the focus of ‘Bama’s offense is obviously their running game, but McElroy is more than capable of delivering accurate passes to his underrated wide receiver targets. For those who watched the SEC Championship game against Florida, you saw exactly how McElroy picked apart the man-to-man coverage that a pretty darn good secondary presented the Tide offense all day long. In our opinion, with Texas focused on stopping Ingram and ‘Bama’s running attack, McElroy might have to win this game with his arm – and, it remains to be seen whether or not he’s capable of doing that consistently.

Criss-crossing the field for the offense, McElroy has several targets who are largely underrated on the national landscape. The headliner is sophomore wide receiver Julio Jones, who at 6’4” 210-pounds, has accounted for 545 yards and four TDs (13.6 yards per catch) and has excellent speed and even better hands. He will, by far, be the best WR the ‘Horns will face this season, and he must be accounted for on every play. The benefit of a Jones double-team is none other than Marquise Maze, a 5’10” 179-pound sophomore who is an absolute bullet getting downfield. Maze, who has catches totaling 423 yards and two TDs, is the true deep threat and ‘Bama’s fastest player. While Alabama will run some three- and four-wide receiver sets, their next passing threat is also one of their best run blockers in senior tight end Colin Peek. Peek is big – weighing in at 6’6” and 225 pounds – and is capable of holding his own when ‘Bama runs downfield, and also releasing off chip blocks to be a key outlet for McElroy. With 274 yards receiving and two scores, Peek can make yards after the catch (and after contact) as he’s averaging over 11 yards per reception, and can be trouble for smaller defensive backs and linebackers.

Now, the meat of the Alabama offense – the running game and the boys up front creating the holes. The running game is led by Ingram – the Heisman crier, if you remember – as the sophomore tallied 1,429 yards rushing and 12 TDs (a 6.5 yards per carry average). While he is slightly undersized at 5’10” 215-pounds, he is capable of using his numerous skills to find success running between the tackles or getting to the sidelines and turning the corner. He’s also the team’s second-leading receiver, having caught 28 balls for another 246 yards and three TDs. While Ingram is the workhorse who gets the most recognition, his back-ups are equally qualified to give opposing defenses fits. Trent Richardson, who most often spells Ingram, is a true freshman that is a little bit bigger and faster. That in and of itself is a scary thought, and he might already be better than Ingram. Richardson has accounted for six scores on the year, and is averaging 4.9 yards per carry. Finally, senior Roy Upchurch will anchor the running back corps as a likely third down back that is capable of picking up the blitz and giving McElroy more time to throw on obvious passing downs. The real work, though – and the biggest reason for Ingram and Richardson’s current and future success – is done by the Alabama offensive line. These big boys, led by first-team All-American senior guard Mike Johnson, have made life easy for the running game, paving the way for more than 2,555 yards team rushing and more than 5,000 yards of offense in 2009. While their offensive line is sized well enough to compete with opposing defensive tackles on the outside, the question remark remains their ability to pass protect. They’ve given up 14 sacks on the season, but they haven’t seen a pass rush like Texas’ so far this season, and when it’s not your bread and butter…well…

On defense, Alabama is all they are cracked up to be. If the Texas defense is good, Alabama’s is great – and defense is Saban’s specialty. Given Texas’ own coach-in-waiting defensive coordinator Will Muschamp learned from the best, expect to see some similar wrinkles on the defensive side of the ball. The Tide are ranked #2 nationally in total defense, giving up only 241 yards per game (77 yards rushing for #2 nationally behind Texas; 163 yards passing for #7 nationally), while they are #1 in scoring defense (11 points per game), and getting almost three turnovers per game. In other words, they don’t have a weakness.

The defensive line is stout, they typically run a 3-3-5 base defense, and although they don’t have a lot of sacks from the front three, they plug holes and create opportunities for the linebackers to clean up the mess. Their interior is held down by nose guard Terrence Cody who is an absolute beast at 6’5” 365-pounds and creates double- and triple-team needs by opposing offensive lines. Cody tallied 65 tackles on the season, and six of those were for a loss – not great stat lines, but he creates enough of a distraction for his teammates to make plays. You’ve probably heard about Cody based on his two blocked field goals in the Tennessee game, which allowed ‘Bama to sneak out with a win and maintain their national championship hopes. The teammates on the line who support Cody are defensive ends Brandon Deaderick and Lorenzo Washington, both are 6’5” and nearly 290 pounds each, and both are stout on rush defense and decent pass rushers. The sack master of the line is the smaller Marcell Dareus, who has accounted for 6.5 sacks on the season. All told, the defensive line doesn’t create the stats you would expect, but they do their jobs well.

The linebackers and secondary are the guys who create pressure on opposing offenses and lead the team in tackles. All-American linebacker Rolando McClain – who has been sick with a “stomach virus” this week – is the team’s leading tackler with 101 on the season, and has had 12.5 tackles for a loss including four sacks, two INTs, eight passes defended, a forced fumble and 14 quarterback pressures. If you printed out his stat line, your printer would run out of ink – he’s that good. From his middle linebacker position, he’s able to hit the gaps and make tackles in the backfield, but he’s also solid from sideline to sideline. The other linebackers do their jobs well, and although they aren’t Mr. Clean like McClain, they have accounted for 90 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and four sacks.

The secondary is the best Texas will face all season, and is led by All-American Javier Arenas. Arenas has three INTs, seven passes defended with four more break-ups, his second on the team with five sacks, has 66 tackles and tied for the team-lead in 12.5 tackles for a loss. On the other side of the field, Kareem Jackson has 12 passes defended, and combined with the safeties Eryk Anders, Mark Barron, and Justin Woodall are all big and physical. When ‘Bama plays zone defense, Barron is the ballhawk of the bunch, with seven INTs, and the secondary as a whole plays physical defense and can use it’s size and quickness to makes plays while the ball is in the air.

#2 Texas Longhorns (13-0)
So, what’s it going to take for the ‘Horns to win? First and foremost, the offensive line has to play better than in the Big 12 Championship when they gave up nine sacks to the Cornhuskers. Every unit has a bad day, and with a month to prepare, offensive line coach Mac McWhorter will have his big boys drooling with the opportunity to redeem themselves against one of the best defenses in the country.

Second, Muschamp’s defense has to be prepared to stop the run. You can expect ‘Bama to come out firing the same way they did against Florida – leading with the passing game to get the Texas secondary to back off the line of scrimmage and then finishing the game with Ingram running wild. Can they do it? It remains to be seen – Muschamp is a master of making in-game adjustments to address problem areas, and that could help the ‘Horns on Thursday night.

On offense, McCoy needs to use his legs and be smart with dumping the ball off on screens and using shovel passes to try to alleviate the ‘Bama pass rush. Texas doesn’t win if McCoy can’t use his legs to stretch plays out and give him a chance to find his receivers on broken plays. The ‘Horns have the playmakers at wide receiver to take advantage of the Tide’s secondary, but McCoy needs time to find them. While Texas doesn’t need the running game to have huge stats, they need to use the running game to make ‘Bama think twice about their pass rush. Anything special from the running backs is an added bonus, and one that will help keep the Alabama defense honest.

The real difference in this game could be special teams, and Texas has a slight advantage in kick and punt returns, so long as they can contain Arenas when Texas does have to punt. While I wouldn’t expect Saban to have any trick plays in the kicking game – especially considering they are a defensive-focused and ball-control team – if Boise State is any example, you might see some fireworks to try to keep drives alive.

Pre-game Resources
2009 Texas Longhorns Roster
2009 Alabama Crimson Tide Roster
University Co-op Gameday Newsletter / Pod casts:
Issue #110: Alabama Offense & Special Teams v. Texas Defense & Special Teams
Issue #111: Texas Offense v. Alabama Defense

Texas-focused Media Coverage of the BCS National Championship
One of Eyes Of TX’s favorite media outlets (unless they’re talking about USC), ESPN, has been posting various Texas and Alabama pre-game coverage all week. Some of our favorite Texas-focused reads this week below:

Articles
ESPN: UT’s O-line Aims To Improve (1/6/2010)
ESPN: SEC On Verge Of Total Domination (1/6/2010)
ESPN: Brown Finally Finds Everything In Place (1/5/2010)
ESPN: Muschamp Takes On Friends For Title (1/5/2010)
ESPN: Thomas Is A Man Of Many Talents (1/4/2010)
ESPN: Horns Relish The Challenge of Ingram (1/4/2010)
ESPN: McCoy Focused On Final Texas Test (1/1/2010)

Videos
ESPN: Houston Prepares To Lead Texas’ Defense (1/5/2010)
ESPN: BCS Coaching Conflicts (1/5/2010)
ESPN: Team Talk – Texas (1/5/2010)
ESPN: A Tale Of Two Quarterbacks (1/4/2010)
ESPN: Sunday Conversation – Brown and Saban (1/4/2010)
ESPN: Brown, Longhorns Draw From Experience (1/2/2010)
ESPN: Sergio Kindle’s Inspiration (1/2/2010)

Hook ‘em!

Leave a comment

Filed under Big 12, Longhorns, NCAA Football

Five Reasons Why…Texas or Alabama?

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.

Hook ‘em!

1 Comment

Filed under Big 12, Longhorns, NCAA Football

Saturday in Arlington: What went right, wrong?

With a national title berth on the line, Saturday night’s contest for the Big 12 Championship between the Texas Longhorns and Nebraska Cornhuskers was a game for the ages. While Texas QB Colt McCoy probably lost the Heisman Trophy with his performance, McCoy got his team’s wish of delivering on the chance to play for the national championship in Pasadena leading the ‘Horns to a 13-12 victory. Let’s take a look at what went right and what went wrong for both squads on Saturday night in Arlington.

Texas Longhorns
What went right?
Well, not much, really. While the Nebraska defense was superb, Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and his squad’s effort should not be overshadowed. In a game where the Texas offense couldn’t stay on the field, the defense was asked to step up and keep the game within reach and they did. The defense gave up only 106 yards offensively to Nebraska – 39 passing and 67 rushing – and yielded only five first downs the entire game while tallying three turnovers.

The kicking game – and we’re talking the field goal unit only – was the star of the night. Senior kicker Hunter Lawrence was the epitomy of calm on Saturday night, as he was 2-for-2, including his game-winning 46-yard field goal as time expired.

What went wrong?
The Texas offense was absolutely pathetic. In large part, Nebraska’s defense is to blame – they played fantastic across the front four and in to the secondary – as they pressured McCoy all night, and locked down every receiver Texas threw at them. If Texas was going to play Alabama for the national title, the Nebraska defense gave them the best preparation they could ask for, and Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban will bring a similar defensive attack in Pasadena. As mentioned, with only 184 yards passing on 20-of-36 attempts and three INTs, McCoy did everything he could to potentially lose the Heisman Trophy race. As expected, the running game was also dominated by the Nebraska front four, gaining only 18 total yards (keeping in mind McCoy’s sacks contribute to that total). All told, the Texas offense gained only 202 yards of offense and 17 first downs on the night. Pure and simple, the offensive line played like a pee-wee team against one of the best defensive tackles in college football. Period.

Special teams continues to be a concern for the Longhorns as well. While there were no game-changing plays in the kicking game, they were far from perfect, as they gave up a big return late in the game that if not for Nebraska’s anemic offense, could have spelled trouble. Combine that with the partially blocked punt, and this group needs to get their edge back. Saturday’s game marks three games in a row where the specials have looked anything but, and it will need to get fixed before the national championship.

Nebraska Cornhuskers
What went right?
Obviously, the defense was phenomenal. The unit racked up nine sacks on the night, with 4.5 from defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh alone, and they held Texas to well under their season average in points and yards. More impressive, perhaps, was the effort from their secondary, which covered everything underneath and gave McCoy no where to throw when he was under pressure. They also kept Texas off the field with three key INTs, two of which were more on the receivers than McCoy, but eliminated Texas from getting any rhythm on offense. Despite the loss, the defense earned back the “Blackshirts” mantra of Cornhusker lore on Saturday night.

What went wrong?
The offense. If Texas’ offense was pathetic, the only word to describe the Nebraska offense is inept. Here again, the Texas defense played a large role in inhibiting the Cornhuskers to put up any points, but when your offense is geared to the run, and that is the Texas defense’s strength, you’ve got to try some different things offensively. The Cornhuskers’ offense managed only 1.93 yards per snap, and their stout running game had no back carry the ball more than seven yards on a single carry. Yikes. Early on, the Huskers tried to use play-action to tee up the long pass, but the Texas defensive backs came up with two big INTs when QB Zac Lee looked downfield. Lee can play better, but his Saturday night should leave all Big Red fans wondering his future at the position.

Moving Forward
In the end, a highly-desired BCS controversy was averted, and TCU and Cincinnati can sit back and think back to just how close they came to making their run for a national championship. Early BCS projections (although the final announcements will come 5:00p PT on Sunday) have Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl facing Florida, while TCU and Boise State would match-up in the Fiesta Bowl, the first time a BCS bowl outside of the national championship game would host two undefeated teams. To round it out, Iowa (most likely) or Penn State would play Georgia Tech (ACC champ) in the Orange Bowl, and Oregon (Pac-10 champ) and Ohio State (Big 10 champ) will play for the Roses in Pasadena.

In the coming weeks, post-season awards will be won and lost, and bowl games will decide the fate of many schools 2009-2010 seasons. Come late Saturday night, however, McCoy and his team won the best post-season award of all – the Big 12 Championship and a chance to play for the national title.

Hook ‘em!

Leave a comment

Filed under Big 12, Cornhuskers, Horned Frogs, Longhorns, NCAA Football