Archive for the ‘2019’ Category

Various and Sundry

Over the objection of one of my sternest critics, in tribute to Ben Barnes, it’s time for Willie Earl’s annual “Various and Sundry” column on a variety of subjects—some of them Longhorn Football related.

1.  Iowa State’s offense looks like a very tough matchup for the Texas defense. ISU is 8th in passing offense, 16th in total offense, and 19th in scoring offense. Texas is 124th in passing defense, 109th in total defense, and 89th in scoring defense. Iowa State’s offense passed the Willie Earl “eye test” last Saturday night when they put up 41 on Oklahoma. As I mentioned earlier in the week, I was particularly impressed by tight end Charlie Kolar and by running back Breece Hall.  I don’t remember the Horns facing a really good tight end this year and I wonder how Todd Orlando plans to defend Kolar?

3. Do you know what I’ve noticed? All the Kirk Herbstreit wannabes out there think it makes them sound cutting edge to say “RPO” every six seconds? I’ve always wanted to use the word hackneyed in a sentence. Now I can. Let the word go forth from this time and place to friend and foe alike that “RPO” is now officially a hackneyed expression. Furthermore, RPO it’s not a cutting edge concept. It’s older than the “single wing” which is really old. 

4. Want to hear another hackneyed expression?  “Score the basketball.” It might be the stupidest sports phrase I’ve ever heard.

5. Texas is the only Big 12 team Matt Campbell hasn’t beaten as the coach of Iowa State. I don’t like the sound of that this week.

6. Iowa State is seven point favorite over Texas. It’s doesn’t seem right for Texas to be an underdog to a Big 12 team that doesn’t . . . well, you know.

7. Speaking of Oklahoma, from what I’ve seen of Baylor, I don’t think they will beat Oklahoma. On the other hand I think Jalen Hurts is the most overrated player in college football. Did you see the interception he threw last week in the fourth quarter that set up the Iowa State touchdown that nearly cost Oklahoma the game?  He may not be drafted until sixth or seventh round of the NFL draft and maybe not at all according to the experts who cover the draft.  Also, it seems that Oklahoma’s defense is reverting to its 2018 form. So who knows, maybe Baylor has a chance.

8. Okay, from what I’ve heard, the dream about going to a final exam for a college class you haven’t been to all semester is kind of “standard issue.”  I’ve had it hundreds of times. Last week I had the dream except I was in high school. Does this indicate a “Flowers for Algernon” type situation?

9. Here’s a bold prediction. While everybody talks about whether Alabama will get in the CFP with one loss, I predict they’ll lose to Auburn next week. End of discussion. It will be the first time since the playoff started that Alabama won’t be in it.

10. Here’s a news flash. It’s going to be cold in Ames, Iowa on November 16th. You think I’m being sarcastic?  Well my hometown newspaper thought it was worthy of sports section front page lead headline news earlier this week. Hey Statesman, I have a scoop for you. Starting around the middle of March next year, daily temperatures in large areas of the northern hemisphere will begin to gradually rise. In Austin the gradual increase could lead to temperatures nearing 100 degrees Fahrenheit by sometime in June or July. Amazingly, when the Longhorns play their first home game of the 2020 season on September 5, it might be hot. Even if it’s a night game!

11. I fear an impending disaster. I don’t approve of the way Tom Herman—or “Mensa Boy”—as we refer to him around our house, has handled the end of the Kansas and Kansas State games this year. To refresh your memory, Texas was trailing Kansas 48-47 with :08 left in the game and had a first and 10 on the Kansas’ 21 yard line with no timeouts remaining. Instead of sending in the very reliable Cameron Dicker to kick a 38 yard field goal to win the game. Herman kept the offense on the field and Ehlinger completed a six yard pass to Devin Duvernay who stepped out of bounds with :05 left. Do we think that the six yards was worth the risk of a botched snap or an interception that would have resulted in Texas losing?  In an even more likely scenario, Texas gets flagged for a false start, holding, or an illegal formation. In that case the rules call for an automatic :10 runoff which ends the game before Dicker gets a chance at the kick. Oh well. All’s well that ends well I suppose.

At the end of the Kansas State, game it looked as though Herman had decided to run the clock down and kick a field goal on the last play of the game for the win. Instead, Ehlinger ran the ball over right end for a touchdown with :39 left seemingly giving Kansas State the opportunity for a final possession and a chance to tie the game.  Fortuitously for Texas, they were penalized for an illegal formation negating the touchdown and giving them the chance to run the clock down and kick the winning field goal on the last play of the game.

Herman said in his postgame press conference that they were lucky they were called for the penalty and that he was talked in to going for the touchdown by Ehlinger and the offensive linemen. It seems like “Mensa Boy” gets a little frazzled in those situations.

By the way, Kansas State’s coach Kris Klieman could have and should have declined the penalty so they could get the ball back.

12. As I mentioned earlier, Texas is a seven point underdog to Iowa State. It’s time for Texas to win a game they’re not supposed to win. Their season depends on it.

Willie Earl’s Kansas State @ Texas Game Model called the game a toss-up. Pretty good modeling if I do say so myself.

Willie Earl’s Texas @ Iowa State Game Model has Iowa State winning 39-33.

Hook ‘Em,

W.E.

Iowa State Over/Under

  • Sacks are counted as negative rushing yards in College FB
  • Tiebreaker: required

    Pick the winners against the line

    Georgia - 2 1/2 @ Auburn
  • Oklahoma - 9 1/2 @ Baylor
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Diagnosis and Prognosis

When you catch the common cold you don’t need a doctor to diagnose what’s ailing you and Longhorn fans don’t need Kirk Herbstreit to diagnose what’s ailing their team.  It’s a historically bad defense that can’t stop the pass (126th out of 130 nationally), rush the passer (97th nationally in sacks), or stop the run (68th nationally). 

Making matters worse, Sam Ehlinger has thrown six interceptions in the last two games after throwing only one in the first six games of the season. Perhaps he’s pressing a bit because he thinks he needs to score on every possession because the defense won’t stop anybody. It should be noted that two of his interceptions in the TCU game were the fault of receivers running poor routes.

Here I could offer the Longhorns treatment recommendations for treating their condition but I won’t because it’s been done by many other commentators and writers and you’ve probably already read or heard them.  Instead, I’ll just offer my prognosis for the rest of this season and maybe a little beyond.

One of my favorite words is callow. The first time I heard it I knew what it meant because it’s one of those words that by the sound of it creates an image in your mind of what it means.  Incidentally, at my advanced age, looking back, I realize I was often the perfect illustration of the expression callow youth. That’s a long story for another time.

In Merriam-Webster, three of the synonyms listed for callow are immature, inexperienced, and unformed.  At times when I watch Tom Herman, I see immaturity in the sarcastic way he often deals with questions he doesn’t like.  Considering that he’s only midway through his third year of coaching a high-profile power five college football program—through no fault of his own—he s inexperienced.  And—at 44 years old—hopefully, he’s unformed.  As a Texas fan, I’d hate to think he was already fully formed. 

Perhaps callow is a little harsh in describing Tom Herman. Maybe I should just say he’s inexperienced. And it’s his inexperience combined with his stubbornness that informs my prognosis that Herman will not be able to solve his team’s problems this season especially on defense.  If Caden Sterns returns, that will help a little but not enough to make a demonstrable difference.

Except for the offense’s performance against Kansas, Texas has not played well in their last three games. I’ve read unattributed reports on InsideTexas.com that there is discord between coaches and players. We can only guess what’s going on behind the scenes but it seems obvious something is wrong with this team besides a poor defense.

The cumulative record of Texas’ remaining four opponents, Kansas State, Iowa State, Baylor, and Texas Tech is 20-10. In conference, it’s 10-8.  Baylor and Iowa State on the road look particularly difficult though watching Baylor last night against West Virginia, I wasn’t impressed. Baylor and Iowa State are 12th and 27th respectively nationally in scoring offense. 

Last year, the Horns rallied after two straight losses to Oklahoma State and West Virginia by winning their last three games to finish the regular season 9-3 and qualify for the Big 12 Championship game. That team was in a different place mentally and emotionally than this year’s team. Last year even after those two straight losses, it was a team that was confident that it was improving and on the come. I don’t sense that in this year’s team.

My track record for predicting ahead of time what will happen in football is spotty at best. In August, I predicted Texas would go 11-1 during the regular season. But that won’t stop me from giving it another go.

Texas will go 2-2 in their last four games finishing 7-5 for the regular season. I think that would put them in the Texas Bowl for the second time in Herman’s three seasons at Texas.

If Texas does finish 7-5 with a trip to the Texas Bowl, there will be expectations all around that Herman will shake up his staff, particularly on defense.  Speculating for speculation’s sake, I see Herman standing pat with Todd Orlando who’s been the only defensive coordinator he’s ever had starting in Houston in 2015.  He can justify it by pointing to the large number of injuries Orlando had to deal with. In addition to the injuries Herman can turn to what has become over the last 10 years the standard coach’s fallback at Texas, “We’re young,” to justify the defense’s struggles.

I can’t wait until we’re not young anymore.

Hook “Em,

W.E.

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TCU Over/Under Results

In the third largest field in the 13 year history of Willie Earl’s Over/Under contest, Steve Holstead emerged victorious turning in a strong performance with eight correct answers. 

Eric Vogl, David Bergstrom, Al LoCascio, and Mitchell Frink tied for second with seven correct.

The average score among the 20 contestants was a pretty healthy 5.8.

BF

Coming Friday thoughts on the state of the Longhorn program and the rest of the 2019 season.

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TCU Thoughts, Facts and Figures

Here are some thoughts that have popped into my head this week and my very own analytical analysis and prediction for the TCU game.

1. We know the Texas defense is bad. It’s 119th out of 130 teams in Division 1 and 126th against the pass.  But did you know that Texas ranks 130th (DFL) in punt returns averaging -0.63 per return?  The good news is Texas’ punt return defense is good giving up an average of 3.63 yards per return which ranks 22nd. The bad news is Texas is 65th in net punting at 38.37 yards per punt.  This isn’t helpful to the Horns porous defense.

2.  I’ve been a sports fan all my life but it’s only been the last three or four years that I heard the concept that a head coach’s job is to coach the assistant coaches.  It seems fair to observe that Tom Herman is not doing a great job coaching Todd Orlando and the defensive position coaches.  How can you have a coaching staff at this level, at this stage of the season that needs to conduct remedial tackling instruction? It should boggle your mind.

3. For about oh … the tenth year in a row we’re hearing that Texas’ defensive schemes and game plans need to be simplified to allow the defenders natural ability and instincts kick in. 

Tackle eligible pass plays aside, the offensive scheme and game plans have already been simplified. Texas runs few if any counter plays in the running game and it’s very predictable before the play by formation when a running play is coming. The swing passes to running backs behind the line of scrimmage are telegraphed from 100 miles away.  This lack of sophistication seemed to have made offensive adjustments impossible against Oklahoma and resulted in 310 yards of total offense, 170.9 yards below their season average. 

Giving credit where credit is due Texas is 9th in the country in scoring averaging 40.9 yards per game and is 16th in total offense at 480.9 yards a game.  It’s going to be interesting to see how Ehlinger and the Horns fare against TCU. Their defense is 11th in total defense allowing 281 yards a game. Interestingly, TCU is a pedestrian 53rd in scoring defense giving up 24.7 points per game. On paper, this should be a good game.

The Big 12 Race

If Texas wins out they will play in the Big 12 Championship period. They could lose a second conference game and still qualify for the Championship game. However, if that lose comes to Baylor—in all probability—they won’t make it because Baylor is currently undefeated and it’s extremely unlikely that they will lose more than two conference games down the stretch.  If Texas and Baylor finished in tie for second with two losses, Baylor—with a win over Texas goes to the championship game. 

Any questions?

Willie Earl’s Statistical Breakdown and prediction for the TCU game

Below see Willie Earl’s chart of statistics breaking down the Texas-TCU game with Willie Earl’s soon to be patented weighted adjustments.  The formulas I devised for the adjustments are very complex (I took and passed Algebra ll/Trigonometry and I learned how to manually keep score in bowling at age 8). 

Willie Earl’s chart predicts a less than one point victory for TCU rounded up to a full point 36-35. I’m sorry, the chart is the chart.

I will email separately readers who request an explanation of my formula.

TCU Over/Under

  • Tiebreaker: required

    Pick the winners against the line

    Auburn + 10 1/2 @ LSU
  • Wisconsin +13 1/2 @ Ohio State
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Kansas Over/Under Results

It was bloodbath out there Saturday night for the Over/Under players with an average score of 3.1. That’s the lowest average since Willie Earl began keeping track.

Tom Yoxall, David Bergstrom and David Frink tied for first with five correct answers. Quite well done considering how the game went and the overall scoring average.  They all went 1-1 in with their picks against the line.  On the final tiebreaker Bergstrom and Yoxall both predicted Dallas would beat Philadelphia. Bergstrom gets the win beating out Yoxall on margin of victory with his 27-13 to Yoxall’s 30-23. David Frink had Philly winning 31-24.

Dan Adams, Clayton Frink, and Kelly Malek tied for fourth with four correct answers.

“Winning is Hard”

When you were in school there was probably a test you knew you weren’t prepared for and in your professional life maybe it was a presentation you knew that you weren’t going to nail.  Over the last couple of years, there have been golf tournaments and matches when I knew before I teed it up, because of the way I’d been practicing, that it probably wasn’t going to be my day.

I’m wondering if Tom Herman, Todd Orlando, and the Texas defensive players knew they weren’t prepared to perform well against Kansas.

Oh well, a win is a win is a win … right? 

To paraphrase Bill Belichick, “On to Fort Worth.”

More coming Friday on Kansas and TCU.

Hook “Em,

W.E.

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