Who is Texas?

Texas’ win over a ranked Kansas State team was their first road win of the season and only their second road win under Steve Sarkisian. The win put the Longhorns back into the College Football Playoff rankings and the AP poll rankings at #18. Further, the college football computer geeks like Texas. They’re #6 in the ESPN Power Index and the ESPN SP+ rankings. More importantly, the win over Kansas State coupled with Oklahoma State’s loss to Kansas means Texas will get into the Big 12 Championship if they win their remaining three games in the regular season.

With the win over Kansas State has Texas put their road woes behind them?  Are they going to perform going forward like the talent laden team they are should perform?  Or is Texas still the under achieving team they have been? In their two conference road losses to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, and in their road win against Kansas State they scored only three points in the second half.  They were lucky at home to beat Iowa State, a 4-5 team that is in 9th place in the Big 12.  Nine games into the season I don’t know who Texas is.

TCU vs Texas

Big game experience

Although TCU rolls into Austin sporting a #4 College Football Playoff Texas is currently a 7-point favorite. Generally, in college football the home field is worth three points so the oddsmakers think Texas is the better team. Like I said, the football computer geeks like Texas.

TCU has no recent experience in games of this magnitude. Texas played #1 Alabama a couple of months ago, but the expectations were low. Remember, most Texas fans and pro-Texas media were just hoping Texas could keep the game within two scores. Texas was playing with house money.  So, I don’t think either team has an edge in big game experience.

Quarterback

If Quinn Ewers plays up to his potential I don’t think either team has an edge in the quarterback matchup. If Sarkisian continues to call numerous deep shot attempts to Xavier Worthy and Ewers is having an off day I think TCU with Max Dugan will have the decided edge. Duggan can hurt you running or passing. Texas will have a tough time containing him. He leads the Big 12 in total passing yards averaging 267 yards per game and touchdown passes with 24. He’s completed 66% of his throws. Texas struggles in pass defense even against average passers. Duggan has run for 282 yards averaging 3.7 yards per carry which seems rather modest, but sacks are factored into quarterback rushing stats skewing yards per carry and total yards lower.

Coaching

I don’t see an edge for either team in terms of coaching. Dykes and Sarkisian have faced each other once. In 2014 Sarkisian’s USC beat Dykes’ California team 38-30.  

Sonny Dykes has won 56% of his games as head coach of Louisiana Tech, California, and SMU.  He was 25-10 at SMU and that success got him the job at TCU. This will be the biggest game of his head coaching career.

Ironically, Steve Sarkisian has also won 56% of his games as a head coach with stops at Washington, USC, and Texas. His best year was in 2014 at USC when he went 9-4.  Reviewing the recap of that season without much context it looks like if USC had beaten UCLA in their last conference game, they would have been in the Pac 12 Championship game. They lost to #11 UCLA 38-20.  Anyway, that’s ancient history. This will be the biggest game of his head coaching career. Win and he would have a manageable task of winning a road game versus Kansas, and a home game versus Baylor to get in the Big 12 Championship which would be a successful season. Lose and it’s wait until next year. Again.

Making plays

Before the Alabama game I wrote that Texas players needed to make plays when they had opportunities. In that game, Xavier Worthy dropped a very catchable ball in the end zone. D’Shawn Jamison dropped an interception that hit him between the numbers that would have ended an Alabama scoring drive. And Ryan Watts missed a sack that would have been a game a game clincher on Alabama’s winning drive for a field goal. Texas can’t afford to miss those kinds of opportunities on Saturday.

Tale of two halves

By now we’re familiar with Texas’ second half struggles in their losses to Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. Last week in their win at Kansas State they only scored three points. What happens if Texas doesn’t have a good first half against TCU?

Classic matchup

This game isn’t a championship game. It’s not #1 versus #2 such as Nebraska vs Oklahoma in 1971 or USC vs Texas in the 2005 title game. But it is a classic Big 12 matchup of the 2010s. Those involve Texas with predominantly four-star recruits with a few five stars sprinkled in versus non blueblood programs like Iowa State, Oklahoma State, or TCU. Those programs’ rosters consist of mostly three-star recruits with a four-star here and there.  In the recruiting classes from 2019 through 2022 Texas’ average national ranking was 8. TCU’s was 38.

In 2020 after Iowa State beat Texas, Iowa State’s Breece Hall took to Twitter with “It’s five-star culture vs. five-star players.”  You know TCU will be coming into this game with five-star culture vs. five-star players chip on their collective shoulders.

Final

As Chris Schenkel said during the fourth quarter of the 1969 Texas, Arkansas game, “tension.”

We might get some Saturday night.

Song of the Week

When this song came out in 1977 and top 40 radio was still big in my life, it was played so often that I developed something close to a dislike for this song. In more recent years I have come to really appreciate it as one of the Eagles best.

3 Comments to “Who is Texas?”

  1. WOW, really diving deep into the stats & history… great analysis, W.E.!

  2. wind will be a factor in the passing and kicking game.
    I hope being tanned isn’t a factor

  3. I think this game is too big for TCU. Too big in that the Horns’ offensive and defensive lines are too much for TCU. Too big in that the stage is in 102,000-building in Austin, not the 45,000-building in Fort Worth. Too big in that 95 percent of those 102,000 fans will cause Horned Frog confusion at least two or three times. Too big in that noted big boy Gary Patterson probably has been working this game for months. Too big in that the Horns are largely tanned, rested and ready. Well, rested and ready, anyway. I’m often wrong, but I’m not confused about this pick: Horns Roll!

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