The Weak Link

Though I’m not an expert in analytics, frequently I use statistics as a guide and for inspiration in writing a column and formulating Over/Under questions. I was just looking at the Big 12 defensive statistics and was a little surprised to see that Texas is third in points allowed giving up 21.1 points per game. Then I noticed that all games are used in compiling these statistics not just conference games. And then I remembered that Texas hung a goose egg on Oklahoma.

When I think about Texas’ defense I remember the Texas Tech and Oklahoma State games. I also think about how the defense tried to give the Iowa State game away. You probably remember in the fourth quarter that Iowa State’s best receiver dropped a sure touchdown pass with no Texas defender within 20 yards. To their credit the defense sealed the win a few plays later by forcing an Iowa State fumble.

In my analysis of the Kansas State game and all the other remaining games on the schedule, I see Texas’ defense as the weak link that will probably cost Texas at least one of the next four games.

Texas’ defense doesn’t pass the eye test for me.

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Since Kansas State’s defense is second in the Big 12 in scoring defense surrendering just 17.3 points a game, maybe analytics would tell you that the Texas – Kansas State game will be low scoring. The betting line on the over/under the last time I checked was 54.5. If I was dumb enough to bet on college or pro football I would be a sucker on this one for the over. I’m thinking both teams will score in the mid-30s.

Elimination game

I think this is a Big 12 Championship elimination game for Texas. The chances of Texas with three conference losses making the championship game are slim to none. If Texas loses to Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Kansas State would have the tiebreaker edge on them. Texas Tech with three conference losses also has the tiebreaker edge on Texas. At least Texas has the edge on Oklahoma. I’m wondering if Oklahoma is getting back to being Oklahoma and are on their way to finishing the season with a 6-game winning streak.

The vision thing

I think the off week Over/Under contest will become a permanent fixture on Willie Earl in future seasons. I enjoyed compiling the answers of the 15 players who submitted entries.

Here’s how the predictions for Texas’ final regular season record broke down:

9-3: 3
8-4: 4
7-5: 6
6-6: 1
5-7: 1

The players at 9-3 have something I don’t. A vision of Texas wining multiple conference road games against worthy opponents.

It was interesting to me that only one player hedged their bet by putting their final record prediction in conflict with their predictions for the outcomes of Texas’ four remaining games. It was a smart move in my opinion.

The bowl game destination predictions for Texas were more varied and entertaining than I anticipated. Here’s how those broke down:

Alamo: 4
Cotton: 2
Cheez it: 2
Texas: 1
Sun: 1
Armed Forces: 1
Frisco: 1
No bowl: 1
Cereal: 1
Bluebonnet: 1

Ah yes, the old Bluebonnet Bowl. For those keeping score at home, the Bluebonnet Bowl which morphed into the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl was played last on December 31, 1987. In that game, Texas defeated Pittsburg 32-27 in the Astrodome in front of 23,282 fans. I remember it well. Without conducting a deep dive on the game, I want to say it featured a speedy, diminutive Tony Jones scoring on multiple long pass receptions for Texas and hard-running Craig “Hammerhead” Heyward keying Pittsburg’s ground attack.

I don’t have to do a deep dive on the 1975 Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl to tell you that Texas overcame a 21-7 halftime deficit to defeat 10th ranked Colorado going away 38-21. I’m pretty sure the game was a sellout with 50,000 + fans in attendance. The highlight of the game was Tim Campbell, Earl’s younger brother, blocking a Colorado punt and returning it for a touchdown. And I think I remember our Sig Ep fraternity brother Bill Hamilton recovering a fumble on Colorado’s opening possession of the second half setting up a short touchdown drive for Texas.  Texas finished the season 10-2 ranked #6 nationally. Those were the days my friend we thought they’d never end . . .

Players only meeting

The old “players only meeting” fix. This is what’s being reported by Horns247 and SB Nation on Texas’ second players only meeting of the week.

“We had a meeting after we lost to Texas Tech about just how important the details are,” junior wide receiver Jordan Whittington said, per 247Sports. “And this was just like catching back up to it. Just making sure everybody stayed on track and understood that we’re at the last stretch of the season, so the details matter even more. It was good and very much needed. And I think today, just watching practice, you could tell that it got implemented.”

Steve Sarkisian said he definitely sensed a renewed focus and energy at practice on Monday. “I like where our team is at,” Sarkisian said. “I can tell just today (Monday) at practice, and you guys know me, I don’t mind commenting on practice. Today was a tremendous practice. The intent, the energy, the way we went about our business. The focus by the players, that’s a really positive sign on a Monday for where we need to be come Saturday at six o’clock.”

We all know how another meeting solves everything.

The Kansas State Game

The timing of this game should be good for Texas for three reasons:

1. Texas is coming off a bye and should be healthier than they’ve been since early in the season.

2. Last week Kansas State thrashed Oklahoma State 48-0. Kansas State led 35-0 at the half. I’m thinking Kansas State will revert to its mean and come down to earth against Texas. They might even come out flat after a performance like the one against OSU.

3. If Taylor Martinez is healthy, Kansas State could have a quarterback controversy. Do you go back to Marinez as the starter after Will Howard’s 296 yards passing with 4 touchdowns versus Oklahoma State?

Watch the slant!

Rod Babers uncovered a telling stat on the Texas defense. In the last two games, opposing teams have completed 77% of their passes on slant and post routes; 66% of those throws went for a 1st down or a touchdown. To simplify, slant and post routes are passes over the middle. Will Kansas State try to exploit this weakness?  Will Texas fix this weakness?

Final

Texas is a 2.5-point favorite on the road versus Kansas State. Interesting. I’ll believe Texas with Sarkisian will win a game like this when I see it.

Song of the Week

I was going to feature Bruce Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” and not go with the more commercial “Born to Run”. But the “Born to Run” video was so great that I audibled out of “Thunder Road” into “Born to Run” Some may disagree but it’s nice to remember Springsteen when he didn’t take himself so seriously.

3 Comments to “The Weak Link”

  1. Why can we not score in the 2nd half?
    The good news is we are BOWL eligible.

  2. I stand corrected. It WAS Tim Campbell who blocked the Colorado punt in the Astro-Bluebonnet game, not Earl. Earl had previously blocked an Arkansas punt at a crucial point in that game.

  3. I’ll try to double-check, but as I was at that Astro-Bluebonnet bowl game, and sitting near where the play happened, pretty sure it was Earl who blocked the punt and Tim who scored on same.

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