Friday, September 30
Hornsblog Goes Live
Gameday Preview: Texas at Missouri
Game Time: 11:00 a.m. CST
Stadium: Faurot Field (68,349); FieldTurf surface
TV: ABC Sports (Regional)
Rankings: UT (#2 coaches/AP) / Missouri (Not Ranked)
Records: UT (3-0) / Missouri (2-1)
Statistics (National Ranking)
Total offense: Missouri 553 ypg (6) / Texas 485 ypg (11)
Rushing offense: Missouri 287 ypg (3) / Texas 297 ypg (2)
Passing offense: Missouri 266 ypg (31) / Texas 188 ypg (86)
Scoring offense: Missouri 43.7 ppg (12) / Texas 45.3 ppg (9)
Total defense: Missouri 362 ypg (60) / Texas 234 ypg (8)
Rushing defense: Missouri 131 ypg (62) / Texas 97 ypg (29)
Passing defense: Missouri 232 ypg (64) / Texas 136 ypg (9)
Scoring defense: 27.7 ppg (73) / Texas 11.7 ppg (9)
Fumbles-Lost: Missouri 3-3 / Texas 10-2
Interceptions thrown: Missouri 3 / Texas 4
Turnover margin: Missouri -1.0 (96) / -0.67 (85)
Texas travels to Missouri to take on the Tigers in both teams’ Big 12 opener. In fact, with the 11:00 kickoff, it’ll be the opening kickoff to the 2005 Big 12 season altogether. The Horns will aim to play better than they did last year when Missouri came to Austin and gave the Horns a game before falling 28-20. In that game, Vince Young was pretty bad and Texas turned the ball over three times.
Not this year. Missouri has a nifty little offense that runs on the athletic talents of quarterback Brad Smith, but this team is in no position to beat Texas. For one thing, the Texas offense is better this year, as Vince has evolved since the first half of last year into the superstar player we see now. Young is never going to be an elite passer, but he’s still the most dangerous quarterback in the Big 12. I just don’t see how Missouri is going to prevent Texas from scoring. The rushing attack of Jamaal Charles and Vince Young is too good, and the passing game is improved.
On the other side, I’ve been more than impressed with Gene Chizik to start this year, and while we may not completely shut down Missouri, it’s hard to imagine them scoring enough to keep pace. I expect us to bring a variety of blitzes at Brad Smith to confuse him, then use the speed of our defense to contain him from getting free on scrambles. Gene Chizik likes a small, fast, aggressive unit, and that’s what he’s got. It’s the best kind of defense against players like Brad Smith, and I expect he’ll have a frustrating day.
The only way Missouri can stay in this game is if Texas turns the ball over too many times. Costly fumbles or interceptions returned for scores could give Missouri a chance, but otherwise, it’s going to be a Texas victory. Texas is favored by 15 points in this one. I like them to cover and improve to 4-0 against the spread on the year. Texas travels to Columbia and leaves with a victory, 38-14.
I have a feeling this game is going to be a closer than people think. Meaning, I think the outcome will be in doubt well into the second half.
Of course, I think Texas will win, but here’s how I see things playing out.
I think Missouri opens the game strong. This could be the highlight of their season. Hosting the #2 team in the country in an early kickoff, with Texas bound to be rusty coming off two bye weeks (one official plus the Rice game), is about as much good fortune as the Tigers could hope for.
I think Texas coaches will want to win this game running the ball and not take any chances by putting the ball up, no matter what Mack said earlier this week about passing it more. I think Missouri will be ready for this, even though they’re dressing only five linebackers. This approach could lead to a sluggish first half by the Horns.
Plus, Brad Smith is good. He’ll have solid numbers this game. Troy Smith gave Texas some problems in the Ohio State game, and Brad Smith had Missouri in position to possibly steal a win at DRK last year.
I would not at all be surprised to see Missouri leading at the half, but over four quarters I think Texas’ o-line will wear the Tigers down. I think Vince will connect for at least one TD pass of over 50 yards in the second half (perhaps off play-action) and Brad Smith will make a mistake late that will help Texas secure the victory.
The 14-point spread is about right. Let’s say Texas 37, Missouri 21.
On Poker, Pansies, and Champs
That catalyzed a whole chain of thoughts in my head (which, I promise, will conclude with a sports thought. Even a Texas sports thought.) Her comment made me think about why I could never be a great poker player. I know the odds, I’ve read enough literature to understand the psychology of the game, I’m familiar with the general guidelines for successful play. And when the stakes are low enough, I usually win. But any time there’s any real money on the line, I might as well not play. I lose every time. Every time I’ve played live at a casino, plopping $300 of my money down in front of me, I tighten up like a scared little girl and leak my chips away, one by one. Or ten by ten. You get the idea.
The reason for it, I realized, and the reason why I’ve never been able to get into sports betting, either, despite my belief that I’d be good at it, is the fact that the terrible feeling that accompanies losing my money is far stronger than the good feelings that accompany winning money. When I play poker with any substantial amount of money at stake, I play to avoid losing more than I play to win.
In other words (see, I told you we’d get here), I’m a Chris Simms poker player, and not a Vince Young poker player. I crumple to the ground like a wilted flower to avoid the big hit instead of risking getting crunched for a chance to win. And Simms? When there’s a lot at stake? I don’t have to tell you how those stories end.
Vince Young is different, thank God, and he’s the reason I believe, finally, for the first time, that we’ve got a real shot this year. Even against USC, should we be fortunate enough to make it that far. The kid’s a champ. Chris Simms, like me, is not.
The Sky Is NOT Falling...
Hey, look, we’ll be the first to admit that the polls are hardly scientific. Just like most everyone these days, we advocate a change to a playoff system to crown the national champion. But all the moaning and groaning about these polls is excessive.
There’s one—and only one—issue that counts, and that’s whether the best team wins the national championship. For all of these polls’ flaws, the system works pretty damn well. Some people crowed that Auburn got screwed last year. We say: combine the best players from Oklahoma and Auburn on an All-Star team last year and we’ll still take USC by 21. The best team won. The rest is details.
And that’s usually how it goes. Furthermore, the controversy wouldn’t subside if we switched to a playoff system. If it were an eight team format, we’d still be forced to listen to Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon blow a gasket about whether Notre Dame or Miami deserved that eighth and final playoff slot.
There’s no such thing as a perfect system, but even if there were, make no mistake about it—the controversies would continue. This is America, baby! The land of the free and the home of the shouting match. We love to argue, and there’s no easy fix that would magically silence the debates. They’ll continue to rage on, in one form or another, as they should. It’s part of what makes sports—and college football—so great.
SI.com asked us to offer our thoughts on a few poll-related questions.
What poll do you rely on most?
The AP Poll, because the coaches’ poll is ridiculous. Coaches have motivations to vote for teams that will make their own team look better, and they hardly have enough time to keep tabs on the whole nation. But even last year’s AP writers were silly, too. As controversies between Oklahoma-Auburn and Texas-Cal raged, it became increasingly clear that even many football writers were barely paying attention. Nowadays, we rely most heavily on our own ballot. We know what we like. Now if the BCS would just let us vote…
What exactly is the Blog Poll and how does it work?
The Blog Poll is a collection of ballots from roughly fifty regular college football blog writers. Somewhat to my surprise, it mirrors the AP poll very closely. Which just goes to show you: for all the huffing and puffing from the blogosphere, the sky is not actually falling. Still, it’s creative and fun. And worth checking out. At least voters are asked to explain their votes.
Is the Harris Poll just the BCS poll in sheep’s clothing?
We still can’t figure out what the Harris Poll is. Scanning the list of voters doesn’t help—they’re largely unknowns. We don’t know that there’s an easy solution out there, but the best idea we’ve heard comes from what we’ve seen at the Blog Poll. Make the voters explain themselves. Narrow down the field of voters (do we need 114 people?!?) to about 25, and make them explain their votes. Accountability might force them to think about, you know, which teams are the best.
Should polls be released in the preseason, or before October at all? (Michigan and Oklahoma started in the top 5)
Sure, why not? Does it really matter if it takes six weeks for it to get sorted out? Not really. Hey, even if the first poll of the year were released next week, how much different would it look than what we’ve got today? We can guarantee you it wouldn’t change a lick. Furthermore, if you extend this argument to its logical conclusion, we shouldn’t release any polls until December, when we really know just how good teams are.
Do people freak out too much about polls?
Absolutely! Hey, Sammy Spartan! It don’t matter if you’re #10 or #12! Relax! Keep winning games and you’ll be fine. We love the polls, love the hype, and love the debates. It’s part of what makes college football so great. And hey, don’t kid yourself, there are downsides to a playoff system. The NBA regular season, for example, is nearly insufferable. How much does it really matter when sixteen teams make the postseason! Be careful what you wish for, kids. The controversies in college football are part of what make it so alluring.
What are some flaws in the current polls?
The worst part about the polls is the lack of accountability from the voters. We want to see the number of voters shrunk and the accountability of the voters magnified. Stick ‘em on television and make them explain their votes. Make them submit their ballots online, for public viewing, complete with commentary and justification—with message boards for viewers to sound off on the ballots and make cases for different teams.
Will there ever be a perfect system?
Never, thank goodness. Chaos is bliss. Just win baby, and things take care of themselves.
You can read the answers from other bloggers on the SI.com 'A List' web page here.
Judicial decrees we'd like to see
1. Forbid any journalist from comparing USC tailback Reggie Bush to a video game player. Enough already. He’s good. We get it.
2. Forbid any Texas Tech player or coach, including Mike Leach, from ever talking to the media again. (Currently, Leach allows only one offensive and one defensive player each week to make statements.) I say why listen to even two of them.
3. Forbid Greg Davis from calling Jamaal Charles’ number less than twenty times a game for the remainder of the season. No freshman worries here.
4. Forbid the Texas break away screen (i.e. horizontal prayer) from ever being called against Oklahoma. We recruit fast players for a reason. Throw it down the field.
5. Forbid the BCS system from deciding the national championship with anything other than an eight team year-end playoff. It would be bigger than March Madness in the same number of weekends.
6. Forbid all male college football cheerleaders from ever taking the field. We don’t want you. We don’t need ya.
7. Forbid Brent Musburger from ever referencing how the Aggies never quit. Sometimes the Aggies aren’t even playing, Brent.
8. Forbid the Big East from sending a representative to the BCS. If Pitt makes another Fiesta Bowl, someone help us.
9. Forbid ABC from choosing which games different parts of the country receive during 11 AM and 2:30 PM broadcasts. Iowa St vs. Nebraska is interesting only if you grow corn.
10. And lastly, forbid the Oklahoma Sooners from ever winning another Red River Shootout or Rivalry or whatever. And no more of that horrendous song either.
Hornsblog Home Page
It's in the game
This is not new, of course. A few years ago, former Texas wide receiver Roy Williams told me that after he made a catch in a real game he “thought about hitting triangle” to avoid being tackled.
Of course, in PS2 speak, hitting the triangle button means hurdle/jump when the defender dives at your feet. I knew what he meant, but I doubt many of the other (older) reporters there did. Seriously, he said that. Roy was as funny/weird as he was talented.
Be sure to read this story all the way to the end, where you’ll get this fantastic quote from Justin Blalock about whether the Mack Brown also plays the game:
"I'm not sure that he's aware they've gotten past Atari," Blalock said.
Thursday, September 29
In-season Report Card
Quarterback: Save the Rice game, when he was a non-factor, Vince Young has been successful. He wasn’t perfect against Ohio State; to the contrary, he made some critical mistakes when he tried to do too much. But he was still the best offensive player in the game, and his game winning touchdown drive was one for the ages. We’ll get to see just how much he’s improved as Big 12 play begins and he gets tested week in and week out. The Ohio State win boosts his score. Grade: A-
Running backs: Selvin Young, the starter to open the year, injured his ankle in the first half of the season opener then played miserably in the first half of the Ohio State game. In the end, it might be a blessing, as his poor performance has accelerated the timetable for the debut of Jamaal Charles. Charles has been nothing short of brilliant. He blocks blitzers like a fearless senior, wiggles through holes with Emmitt Smith-like ability, catches passes like Brian Westbrook, and has the burners to break the long one. There’s nothing not to like, and Horns fans need to hope that the coaches have the sensibility to keep him on the field, healthy Selvin Young or no. Henry Melton has proven himself to be a useful short yardage back, though he’s nothing more than a role player at this point. Charles’ emergence should spell an eventual positional switch for Melton, but there’s no urgency. Charles is the jewel here. Grade: A-
Wide receivers: Consistency is the theme here. No Longhorn receiver has performed consistently at this point. Billy Pittman is developing nicely, and our good friend Limas Sweed has had his moments. David Thomas is still an above average receiving tight end. But the group as a whole has yet to assert itself. Brown says the team plans to throw more as Big 12 play opens up. They’re going to have to in order to avoid eight and nine man fronts geared toward stopping the run. There’s potential here, but they’ve still got a ways to go. Grade: B
Defense: Delicious. Absolutely brilliant so far to start the year. It’s no surprise that they smothered Rice and Louisiana-Lafayette, but the work they did holding Ohio State to field goals was masterful. Gene Chizik has an outstanding grasp of how an ideal college defense should operate. This is Texas’ big edge in every game, spotting the offense room for error when they struggle. Nothing not to like here so far. Grade: A+
Special Teams: Pitiful. The kicking game has been inconsistent, though David Pino looks good so far. The kick coverage has been nonexistent. The punting team has been fine, though nothing to get excited about. Texas doesn’t have a special teams coach, but it’s looking more and more like they should. Let’s hope this area of the game works itself out quickly. We can ill afford to lose a tight game because our effing special teams were miserable. That would truly be a waste. The easiest area for the team to significantly improve. Grade: D
Coaching: Only the miserable special teams keep the coaches from getting perfect marks. We’re plenty critical of Mack Brown and Greg Davis, but the fact is that we’ve won back to back big games, and if you’re going to blame the coaches when the team loses, you have to give the coaches credit when the team wins. A little more offensive creativity is in order, but we’re splitting hairs. Grade: A
MVP, offense: Vince Young / Jamaal Charles (tie)
MVP, defense: Michael Huff
Most improved: Billy Pittman
Most surprising: Drew Kelson
An open letter
Apple. White. Major. Major. Applewhite.
I heart Major. Gooooo Applewhite!
Major Applewhite lovers.
Q&A with Mathew McConaughey
Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch sat down with McConaughey recently for his weekly Q&A interview. Whatever you think of McConaughey the actor, you gotta love McConaughey the Longhorn fan. Some highlights from the interview.
On his pep talk to Vince Young
SI: Prior to Texas playing Michigan in the Rose Bowl, you grabbed Vince in the tunnel and offered some final words. What were they?
McConaughey: I said It's a perfect time. It's a perfect time.
On what it takes to be a champion
SI: Your team has a much harder road to the title game than USC, though?
McConaughey: What I am hoping and seeing is that you can either think you'll be a national champion. Or you actually believe you'll be a national champion. Vincent Young is a guy who is a champion and actually believes it, and you are starting to see the team start to really believe. The Ohio State win was such a huge game, especially to win there. You see people starting to believe. The system believes. You don't get by OU if you are so worried about OU. The thing about OU is: Yeah, OU is a great team but they are in our way. The Red Sox didn't get by the Yankees until they quit worrying about the Yankees. The Sacramento Kings didn't get by the Lakers because they were always worried about getting by the Lakers. The last five years, hey, that's been the rhythm. OU has just had our number. They just plain-out beat us.
On the athletic talents of Vince Young
SI: As a proud Longhorn alum, state your case for Vince Young as the Heisman Trophy winner?
McConaughey: You want to talk about dynamic players? Besides his physical attributes and how it looks as if he's gained four yards and then you find out he's gained 18, the main thing with him is his will. You saw it in the Rose Bowl and against Ohio State. When there's an unsuccessful play -- incompletion, interception, fumble -- his head starts to rise and not in a cocky way. He believes. There's a difference in thinking you are a champion and knowing that you are. And the guy knows he is.
Read the rest of the excellent interview at SI.com here.
*On the top junior quarterbacks in the country
Don (Greenville): Hey there Mel. Last week on your Big Board you listed hot junior quarterbacks as Omar Jacobs out of Bowling Green and Brady Quinn out of Notre Dame. I'd take Drew Stanton over either of these guys. Have you had any change of heart after seeing this last weekend's games?
Mel Kiper: The junior QBs are rated like this -- Vince Young, Brady Quinn 2, Drew Stanton 3 and Omar Jacobs 4.
*Stupid Sooner question of the day
Travis (Norman, OK): How is AD Peterson not in the Top 10 in the Heisman polls. He was the runner-up last year and he is a major part of the Sooners offense this year. I understand that we have 2 losses, but there are other candidates on the board who are much less deserving. When we beat Texas this year will that wake up the voters? -Hook'Em Down, Go Sooners! Mel
Kiper: First of all, Travis, Oklahoma is a struggling football team right now, and everybody thinks Texas is going to win that big one. Now, if they can beat Kansas State this week, and if he has a huge game against Texas and a brilliant finish to the season, then Peterson is in the mix. But he's not in the Top 5 right. Vince Young leads, there is Leinart and Bush battling it out at USC, Maroney is on board. Peterson has had some struggles in the early going. Don't forget, the Heisman is not a lifetime acheivement award, AD needs a big year right now.
*On Michael Huff and Rodrique Wright
Dj (Houston): How do you rate Michael Huff and Rod Wright as NFL prospects for Texas Mel
Kiper: Huff pushed his way onto my Top 25 big board this week. He's been a starter since his redshirt freshman season. He's very instinctive and athletic and it will be interesting to see if, as a safety, he shows cornerback-type skills as we get close to the draft. He could be a 1st rounder. Wright, I'd like to see some more explosion and destructive play from him. He's been solid, but not spectacular yet. I want to see that Oklahoma game among others and I want to see him dominate. He will have to in order to maintain a first round grade.
In support of Mack
Unless, of course, we lose to Oklahoma again. Then we take it all back.
Once more, altogether now
“Selvin practiced really well and there was no swelling. We will look again tomorrow and see. Usually that third day, if something is going to pop up, it will, but he practiced really well. His birthday is Saturday, so it would be good for him to get back for a birthday present from me.”
I like Selvin Young. He seems like a good young kid. He’s reportedly done a great job working with the freshmen. He used to have a fair amount of potential, too. But last year’s ankle injury has clearly taken its toll. He’s not as fast as he used to be, the injury keeps recurring, and he’s still way too fumble prone. Why are we messing around here? I’m not opposed to a token birthday appearance by Selvin if the game is in hand, but we’d better be getting heavy doses of Jamaal Charles on Saturday. Or? Say it with me boys and girls: Mack Brown should be drug tested. And then fired.
College Pick 'Em Entries
A Chance Return
Wednesday, September 28
Back to the future
For a look back at the wild events of that day, check the comments section below.
But, Mack Brown says Texas is about to open up the passing game:
‘The thing we can do is try to be us. In two of the first three games we didn't need to throw the ball. The rest of the year we're going to need to throw the ball and be really balanced in what we do. If people stack the line of scrimmage and try and take away our run, we feel like we're good enough now to throw the ball downfield. I think you'll see us throwing it much more in the last eight games than we did in the first three.”
This should really help Vince Young keep pace with the USC boys in the race for the Heisman. (I am not going to say their names anymore because they get enough pub as it is.)
Everybody Loves Major
The money quote in the article concerns everyone's favorite topic. Simms or Applewhite.
"The toughest thing about it was I couldn't come to grips with it," Applewhite said. "I couldn't reason it out in my mind. It was very difficult. I didn't agree with it. I don't think I ever will."
I think a lot of us agree.
Peter's Picks, Vol. 1
Texas (-14.5) @ Missouri
Sell your car and mortgage your house. The Horns are gonna roll the Tigers, boys and girls. First things first. Our defense is really, really good. Missouri ain’t gonna score much. Let’s say we hold them to 14 points or less—hardly the boldest of predictions. The only question is whether you think the Horns will score 28 points or more. For my money, that’s an easy one. Lay the points and cash in. The only danger here, of course, is the inevitable downside that accompanies betting on your favorite team. Betting on your favorite team can be dangerous for your sanity. The Horns roll on, 38-14.
Pittsburgh (Pick) @ Rutgers
Pitt has been undeniably bad this year, but they’re better than they’ve played. Plus, it’s Rutgers. The state university of… New Jersey. The Oklahoma of the northeast. A bad football team in a terrible state. Of course, Pitt has been miserable, and I partly choose this game as a chance to slam the state of New Jersey. I wouldn’t give this a four-star rating or anything, but you could do worse. Pitt wins it, 20-10.
Florida (-4) @ Alabama
See comments below. This line is too small. Florida will win this game, and they’ll probably win by a touchdown or more. Free money. Who doesn’t love that? Florida wins comfortably, 24-13.
Arizona (+17) at California
The Bears are a good football team, but Arizona’s not as bad as people think. They’re getting better, and while they’re not there yet, they’re not going to roll over for anyone. Jeff Tedford is a great football coach, but Mike Stoops is no dummy, either. The problem for Arizona is on offense, where they still struggle to score at times. Still, 17 points is a lot. I’m taking the points and Arizona. Cal wins, but not by enough to cover, 30-17.
South Florida (-21) at Miami (FL)
After disemboweling Louisville last week, that line looks awfully high, no? Don’t be fooled. Miami’s going to dominate this game. The line opened at -23 and has been dropping fast. Bandwagoneers will be driving that line down, expecting another strong performance from South Florida. I don’t know how to put this nicely: Miami is going to kick the s*@% out of them. If you’re patient, you might wait to see if that line drops farther. If so, lay the points and watch Miami cruise to victory, 42-10.
Full disclosure: I just placed my bets for the weekend. $100 on the Horns, $100 on Florida.
The Crystal Ball Speaketh, Vol. 2
The Crystal Ball returns after a warm up round in week one. A little Windex and another week of observation have the Ball ready for some mortal lock picks in week two. Actually, these are not which games I’d necessarily bet on were I placing my own money on the line. Rather, this is a look at the more interesting games of the weekend and an attempt to pick the winners. If enough people clamor for it, I’ll add a section of the bets I’d be willing to risk money on. On to the games!
Michigan (+6) @ Michigan State
The Wolverines are down, the Spartans are up. Drew Stanton has been the best quarterback in the Big 10. Chad Henne has had one eye on Cleveland (come back, Braylon!) and struggled. Hell, I wouldn’t have been shocked if Michigan State had been favored by more than six. But, it’s a rivalry game, which usually means a close game. It’s hard to totally disembark off the Michigan train. I really thought this team would be better than they are. But I think that ship has sailed. I’m out. Michigan State looks like the real deal to me. I’m laying the points and taking the Spartans at home, 30-20.
Florida (-4) @ Alabama
Alabama is undefeated? I thought Florida would be, but I’ll admit to being surprised by Bama’s good start. They looked so bad last year; at least on offense. SEC road games are always tough, but Florida can win this on the road. I suspect we won’t see a shootout in this one, but I like the Gators defense and I think Urban Meyer will find ways to get points on the board. A four point spread is not enough here. I’m laying the points again. Florida wins it 24-13.
USC (-17) @ Arizona State
Somebody has to give the Trojans a game, right? Not a loss; just a competitive game. I thought the Ducks might do it last week, and for one half, they did. Unfortunately for them (and my prediction), it’s a two half game. USC went bananas in the second half to bury them. I said in my weekend recap that for a team to give USC a game they’d have to have a lot of offensive firepower, as it’s proving impossible to keep USC off the board. Well, the Sun Devils can play a little offense. Enough to beat USC? Doubtful. Enough to get in a shootout? Possibly. I’ll risk making the same mistake twice here and assume that somebody’s got to give USC a tough game this year, and that somebody is Arizona State. I’m taking the points and Arizona State, but picking USC to win. Trojans win a wild one, 49-37.
Kansas (+18.5) @ Texas Tech
The PA announcer in Lubbock has a tricky job this week. Technically, the Red Raiders are 3-0. In reality, this is their season opener. The Texas Tech non-conference schedule this year was absolutely criminal. Raise your hand if you can name the cities where Tech’s opponents reside: Florida International, Sam Houston State, and Indiana State. Yeah, me neither. Before we pile on Tech too hard, though, let’s give Kansas a little flogging too. Florida Atlantic, Appalachian State, and Louisiana Tech. Needless to say, both teams are 3-0 and starting their season on Saturday. I hate Texas Tech, their patsy schedule, their tortilla-throwing fans, and Lubbock in general. I hate their gimmicky offense. I think they’re wildly overrated. In fact, I’m embarrassed to have them ranked as highly as I do in my own ballot. It’s mostly a product of wishcasting, as my self-interest in Texas’ fate is praying that the Big 12 is good. In reality, I don’t think Tech is a great team, and I think Kansas will hang with them. I don’t know that they can win on the road, but I don’t see them getting blown out, either. Look for Tech to score a lot less than they did against the junior varsity academies that they bullied to start the year. I’ll say they win it, but it won’t be a blow out. Tech wins, 35-24.
Notre Dame (+3) @ Purdue
Let me get this straight. Purdue loses at home to Minnesota and Notre Dame won at Michigan. The Boilermakers are favored by three? Something doesn’t smell right. These are the games I’ve taught myself to avoid as a bettor over the years; when something looks really wrong to you, there’s often something you don’t know. Purdue probably matches up really, really well with Notre Dame, or Charlie Weiss is secretly dating the Purdue quarterback and owes him a favor for cheating on him with Tom Brady. Who knows. The Crystal Ball is as cloudy as ever on this one, but I’ll go with my gut here and pick what I feel. Notre Dame wins, 31-23.
Ricky checks in
We managed to get a copy of the note Ricky sent to Vince Young.
I just wanted to say that I saw you throw that game winning pass to Lendmesome Weed. I almost missed it, man. I was right in the middle of giving a holistic massage to the Dalai Lama when you threw it. Dude, totally awesome. Anyway, I'm serving my suspension and getting ready to play again for the Dolphins. My stash ran out and I'm broke, so, you know, I guess I'll play.
Say hi to Mack and the gang for me. Hey, is that guy still selling Maui Wowie on the corner of 6th and Guadalupe?
Well. How nice of him. Hey, no one’s ever accused Ricky of being an asshole. Just sort of crazy. Despite all his shortcomings, which we’ve commented on here before, we hold a special place in our hearts for the Heisman trophy winner. We can all sympathize with wanting to check out on our jobs for a while, though we don’t necessarily agree that it’s okay to bail out on your obligations. Nevertheless, we’re happy that Ricky’s headed back to the NFL, proud that he’s still following Texas athletics, and hopeful that he has good days in front of him.
Hornsblog Home Page
Tuesday, September 27
Former Horns in the pros
*Justin Leonard: The former Longhorn golfer was a member of the winning 2005 American President’s Cup team over the weekend in Virginia. Leonard had a solid competition going 3-1-1 that was capped by a 4 & 3 singles victory on Sunday over Tim Clark.
*Derrick Johnson: The Kansas City Chief’s rookie is off to a great start, 17 tackles and a forced fumble. He could very easily be Defensive Rookie of the Year at season’s end.
*Other NFL Horns of note: Casey Hampton (Steelers), Shaun Rogers (Lions), Nathan Vasher (Bears), Priest Holmes (Chiefs), Christy Simms (Bucs)
*Roger Clemens: He seems to get better with age. At 43, Clemens is 12-8 with a sub .200 ERA and will be a key to the Astros’ playoff success.
*Huston Street: The A’s are hoping for the postseason. In his first full season, Street is trying to take them there. His stats speak loudly: 5 – 1 with 22 saves and a 1.66 ERA.
*Kyle McCulloch: This current Longhorn right hander finished off a spectacular year by begin name to the 2005 College Summer All-America squad as selected by Baseball America. In 25 innings of work, McCulloch went 4-0 with 22Ks in 25 innings and an ERA of 1.44.
Who did I miss? Let us know in the comments section.
Guard Your Jewels
Blue Ribbon Bullish About Horns
We’ve been pretty much consumed by the football team lately (for good reason), but make no mistake about it: we’re absolutely giddy about this year’s hoops team, too. In fact, two of our authors argued that the hoops team is a better bet to make the NCAA title game than the football team. The in-depth football coverage will continue, but we’re already starting to think about the basketball team that will feature Daniel Gibson, Lamarcus Aldridge, P.J. Tucker, and Brad Buckman.
7:30 I sit down at my restaurant’s bar to take in the beginning of the LSU and Tennessee game. I’m anticipating a lot of emotion from the LSU crowd, but I’m overwhelmed by just how stirring it all is. It’s one thing to say, “Damn, those poor folks down in Louisiana need something to cheer for.” It’s quite another to actually see nearly 100,000 of them standing and cheering for the team they love. It’s an inspiring moment and it sets the tone for an emotional, wild evening.
7:45 The game is just about over. Tennessee looks lost on offense, they turn the ball over, and LSU scores on their first play from scrimmage. I don’t really have a horse in this race, but I’m hoping for a Tennessee win because LSU remains a potential challenger to Texas.
8:35 Erik Ainge makes a wild, ridiculously dumb throw from his own end zone, the Tigers intercept him on the five yard line, and the lead increases to 21-0. Tennessee looks all but done at this point.
9:00 With LSU firmly in control, we switch to the Chiefs-Broncos game for some Monday Night Football. I don’t care too much which team wins, but I’m carefully watching this game because my fantasy football matchup comes down to this game. I’m down 20 points, but I have Priest Holmes, Larry Johnson, and the Chiefs kicker all to play. Nine times out of ten they’re going to combine for enough points to get me a win.
9:30 The Broncos are cruising, Larry Johnson has already fumbled, and the Chiefs offense as a whole is doing its best impression of the Tennessee Volunteers. I’m starting to get depressed about the outcomes of these games. With little going for me in the football world, my friend Matt (also a rabid Giants fan) and I head down to the local sports bar that has the baseball package.
10:05 The Giants and Padres are set to open a four game series, with the Giants trailing the Pads by four games. With only seven games left, the Giants will be eliminated if they split the four game set, as they’d be four back with three to play. They’ll have to sweep or take three of four. I tell Matt that the season comes down to tonight. Win tonight, we’re three back with six to play; a daunting task, but not a lost cause. Lose tonight and it’s over. Unfortunately for the Giants, the Padres are opening the series with their ace, Jake Peavy. The Giants counter with rookie lightweight Brad Hennessey.
10:20 After the Padres first hitter of the game singles to left, Ryan Klesko deposits a bomb into the right field bleachers for a 2-0 Padres lead. I call my girlfriend and tell her that it’s turning out to be a miserable evening for my teams.
11:15 The Giants mount their first serious rally, loading the bases with two outs for Barry Bonds. J.R., the third member of our Giant cheering section, has finished work and now joins us at the bar. We’re pounding the counter of the bar in excitement and stand up to watch. No sooner have we gotten up from our bar stools when Bonds lines the first pitch to right for an easy out. Rally over. Someone shoot me.
12:00 J.R.’s birthday officially starts at midnight, so two rounds of shots ensue. We need them, as nothing is going our way. J.R. makes his birthday wish: a comeback Giants win. We toast to it, but it’s a faint hope, as Peavy isn’t slowing down.
12:05 Sometimes, you turn into a pumpkin at midnight. But sometimes, it’s the other way around. Tonight is one of those nights. I hear clamoring from some folks by another TV and I head over to see what the fuss is all about. Tennessee and LSU are in overtime! I arrive just in time to see LSU kick a field goal, then watch as Tennessee marches in to the end zone for the win. At last, something I was hoping for comes to fruition. Another Horns contender is knocked out. For one night, I’m a Rick Clausen fan.
12:15 Trevor Hoffman enters the game in the 9th inning with the Padres leading 2-1. Hoffman’s last blown save was way back on April 29th, to give you an idea of how dominant he’s been. After Pedro Feliz meekly grounds out to start the inning, it’s looking grim. The Giants have light-hitting catcher Mike Matheny and a pinch hitter left to get a rally going. Matheny answers the call with a single to left. Jason Ellison comes in to pinch run, bringing up pinch hitter Edgardo Alfonzo, better known to Matt, J.R. and me as “El Burrito.” The fat man flies out to left and the Giants are down to their last out.
This is where things get crazy. Randy Winn comes to the plate for the Giants and hits a ball to deep center field. Brian Giles has a track on it and jumps up at the wall to make what appears to be a game-ending catch. Hoffman pumps his fist and Matt, J.R., and I let out groans of agony. But Giles then crashes down the ground and the ball trickles out of his glove. Ellison races around third to score and Winn is suddenly standing on third base with a triple. The game is tied!
After a walk to Omar Vizquel, J.T. Snow comes to the plate and singles sharply to right, giving the Giants an improbable 3-2 lead. We’re now jumping around the bar like drunken buffoons, hugging each other, high fiving, and taking more shots to celebrate the lead and J.R.’s birthday. Armando Benitez closes out the Padres in the last of the 9th and the Giants suddenly find themselves just three games back with three more to play against San Diego. It’s the closest they’ve been to the Pads since early May.
The Chiefs players on my fantasy team do nothing to help me win, but at this point, I could care less. LSU has lost and the Giants have won. It was a wild, emotional evening that reminded me why sports are so much fun. I live for nights like last night.
Paging Freedom Dip
Monday, September 26
An Amazing Evening of Sports
*Over the next week, if you watch Fox even a little bit, you’re likely to be bombarded by “It’s all about October!” ads pimping the upcoming baseball postseason. That’s true, of course—baseball playoffs are tremendously exciting. But much of the best drama is September drama, as races come down to the wire. It’s especially true this year, as there are compelling races to watch for nearly every playoff spot. Only the Braves and Cardinals can comfortably say “they’re in.” Tonight I’ll be watching my beloved Giants as they open a four game series against the Padres. They trail the Pads by four games, with seven to play. They’ll need to sweep, or at least win three of four, to have a chance. It’s a longshot, but tonight’s the big game. After San Diego’s ace, Jake Peavy, goes tonight, their starting pitching drops off sharply. Win tonight and the Giants are alive. A loss tonight spells certain doom.
Meanwhile, the Yankees and Red Sox are TIED with seven games to go. The season wraps up with a series in Boston, so this is a tremendously exciting finish to the season for sports’ best rivalry. Whether you have a horse in the race, or hate them both, this is sports drama at its finest.
The White Sox-Indians race and Oakland-Anaheim races also kick into high gear this week.
*The NFL will be on display as well, as the Chiefs and Broncos square off on Monday Night Football. It’s early in the year, but Monday Night Football is one of the great events in all of sports, and the Chiefs still feature former Texas tailback Priest Holmes. I’ll be keeping my eye on this one as well.
*Lastly, even college football is in on the action, as LSU and Tennessee square off in a game that was delayed by Hurricane Rita. This will be a great opportunity to see just how good LSU is, and certainly carries implications for the national picture. Stay tuned.
I’ll be glued to the TVs in a sports bar this evening as I try to keep tabs on it all. It’ll be my only opportunity to take it all in this week as I shut down to focus on preparation for Saturday’s LSAT. But I plan on enjoying what promises to be one of the best sports evenings of the year. I hope you will, too.
The increased growth has also led to an invitation to join the SportsBlog Nation family of sports blogs, an invitation we are accepting. Sometime in the next month or two, we’ll be migrating over to their network. For an example of how the site will look, check out either Athletics Nation or McCovey Chronicles. We think you’ll like the new format. Registered users will have the opportunity to post their own diaries and interact with the site in ways currently prohibited by the present format.
The move will also require a switch in the name of the blog, as SBN has advised us to choose something without “Texas,” “Horns,” or “Longhorns” in the title, to avoid potential legal complications. So, we need your help. Send in potential names for the new, super-charged ATL. Entries need to be free of the banned words above. We’re going to be sending our 10 favorite names to SBN, and they’ll be choosing the one they like best. If your name is picked for the title of the new site, you’ll win a t-shirt from the Co-Op. So help us out and post your suggested names for the new site.
We’ll keep you updated on the migration to SBN. There are still plenty of logistical hurdles to clear before we make the switch, so continue to check in to this address for continued Longhorn coverage.
He didn't die?
Question: What gives?
The first possibility is that Virginia Tech recruits these uber-special teams players—crazed, ball-sniffing special teamers that were born in Petri dishes at Texas A&M by combining the DNA of two psychotic 12th Men from 1968. These test tube lab freaks are then raised on a special farm by whooping, towel-twirling farmers who teach them only three things: blocking kicks, making special teams tackles, and loving the color maroon. Frank Beamer, being the genius that he is, steals the recruits because they’re too dumb to realize that all Maroon teams aren’t the same. They wind up at Virginia Tech thinking they’re in College Station and make insane special teams plays year in and year out. Mack Brown has no access to these recruits because they fear burnt orange like Chris Simms fears the sack.
The other, more plausible, possibility is that Beamer is just better at coaching special teams than we are. I find it impossible to believe that their special teams players are simply better athletes than ours. We certainly have the personnel to do what they do. They’re just better at it. And that means it comes down to coaching. Whoever our special teams coach is, he’s not getting it done. Greg Davis takes a lot of flak, but he does a pretty good job overall. The special teams has been nothing short of disastrous. We need a change in performance or a change in coaching. Sooner rather than later, please.
Answer: There IS no coach...
Mack doesn't have a special teams coach in title, because all coaches work with the special teams. For example, one assistant coach is in charge of the punt team, one is in charge of the punt return, another the kickoff, another kickoff return, and one the field goal/extra point team.
What Texas has now is a “special teams coordinator” – defensive tackles coach Mike Tolleson. My understanding of his role is to make sure the other coaches are doing their jobs with their area of special teams.
My problem with this is, for example, that a linebacker's coach shouldn't be in charge of kickoff returns, and Greg Davis shouldn’t have to worry about helping with this stuff when he should be drawing up new plays. Most problematic, obviously, is the dilemma of who is coaching the kickers themselves.
I see no reason whatsoever (other that to satisfy Mack's ego, because a change at this point would be admitting what he's done for years is wrong) to finding the money in UT’s ginormous athletic budget to hire two full-time special teams coaches, one for kickers and one for the other special teams units.
The role of the kicker’s coach would be obvious. He’d scout for top high school kickers/punters and work with them on their technique. The special teams coach would work with backups and other players who have the skills necessary to succeed on special teams (like Beau Trahan, Michael Ungar, etc.).
If I were coach (ha ha), I’d hire a guy who created an attitude for special teams. Let them wear shirts that say “Special Forces.” Make it a privilege to be on special teams. Give him complete control over those units and give him whoever he asks for. (Within reason of course. Vince Young shouldn’t be returning kicks, but Ramonce Taylor sure as hell should be.)
Then you’d see Texas winning games because of special teams, like VaTech does, not in spite of them, like Texas does now.
It's a boy!
The ATL Top 25
2. Southern Cal
4. Virginia Tech
7. Florida State
8. Ohio State
13. Michigan State
14. Notre Dame
16. Texas Tech
17. Iowa State
22. Boston College
24. Georgia Tech
This ballot is the collective vote of ATL writers Peter Bean and Andrew Wiggins, and the official ballot submitted to the Blog Poll, found here.
The Road to Pasadena
Tier 1—The Favorites
1. USC—started slow against an average Oregon team on the road. This was their first road test but there are more starting with Arizona State this Saturday. Am I the only one sick of sportscasters salivating over the Trojans? I can’t wait for them to lose.
2. Texas—the new Harris poll gives Horns fans another reason to cheer. We are number 2 in the inaugural poll. Now let’s take care of business in Columbia.
3. LSU—if the season ended today, the Tigers would be in a BCS bowl having only played one game. They will finally play tonight against Tennessee. When is hurricane season over?
4. Va Tech—I think I wrote this last week: another impressive win. Bean doesn’t want to drink the Kool Aid yet, but there is plenty of good stuff to go around. The Yellow Jackets only got 6 first downs on Saturday in Blacksburg.
Tier 2—The Contenders
1. Florida—got their first SEC road win of the season, 49-28. It wasn’t that close. Kentucky scored three touchdowns in the second half after being down six. Big game at good Alabama team on Saturday.
2. Georgia—the Bulldogs continued to roll over Mississippi State on the road 23-10. They are off this week and then travel to Knoxville. The Vols could be rolling or reeling by then.
3. Florida St—the Seminoles were off this Saturday. They have a relatively easy ACC schedule the rest of the way. Major and the Orangemen visit this Saturday.
4. California—the overlooked Pac 10 team is 4-0. The Bears don’t have any good wins yet but should be 5-0 when they visit UCLA in two weeks. Remember they are the last team to beat USC on Sept. 27, 2003.
Tier 3—Need Help
1. Ohio St—big win over a hapless Iowa team. Michigan State and Minnesota may challenge Big 10 supremacy but I’m not worried. The Buckeyes play the Spartans in two weeks and the Gophers in four.
2. Miami—solid home victory over Colorado, 23-3. The Canes are home for four of their next five with only a visit to Temple mixed in. Nov. 5th in Blacksburg a must see.
3. Tennessee—the Vols need a win tonight to salvage their season. Not gonna happen: I predict a solid LSU win.
Conference Strength Analysis
Here are the numbers of ranked teams by conference and by poll.
ACC—5 teams (Va Tech, Fl St, Miami, Virginia, and Boston College)
Big 10—6 teams (Ohio St, Michigan St, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Purdue, & Michigan)
SEC—5 teams (LSU, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama)
Pac 10—4 teams (USC, Cal, Arizona St, and UCLA)
Big 12—3 teams (Texas, Texas Tech, and Iowa St)
Notre Dame and Louisville are the others.
ACC—6 teams (all above plus Ga Tech)
Big 10—5 teams (no Michigan)
SEC—6 teams (all above plus Auburn)
Pac 10—4 teams (same as above)
Big 12—2 teams (no Iowa St)
Notre Dame and Louisville are the others.
We looked at these ranking last week and here again this Monday. The strength rests in the ACC and SEC first. Most teams are done with their non conference schedules. Now conferences will begin to beat each other up. This is good news for the Big 12 and the Horns. The SEC, ACC, and Big 10 will begin spread the losses all around. As we have mentioned earlier, we would love for Ohio State to continue winning and make our victory look all the more impressive. So, go Buckeyes. As for the Horns, just keep winning and things will likely take care of themselves.
Sunday, September 25
Around the Nation
*You have to be impressed with what Charlie Weiss has done at Notre Dame thus far. Preseason predictions said the Irish would be lucky to go 7-5, but they’re 3-1, with the only loss coming in overtime to up and coming Michigan State. With the way their offense is chugging along, coupled with Weiss’s track record of success with New England in the pros, don’t be surprised when Notre Dame starts hauling in impressive offensive recruits in the near future. Not only is Notre Dame a program with intense national coverage, but players’ opportunity to be groomed in a complex NFL-style offense will help them in their quest to get drafted in the NFL. If Notre Dame were a long-term stock, they’d be a big time BUY. That said, I still hate ‘em.
*Iowa State made some noise by upsetting Iowa on the road two weeks ago, entering the Top 25 and giving some much needed cred to the Big 12. Unfortunately, they gave up a lot of that ground this week, eeking out an unimpressive win over Army, while Iowa got trounced at Ohio State. The Big 12’s reputation is in trouble. Colorado didn’t help the league by getting smothered in Miami. I’ve been preaching patience on the Big 12’s reputation all year, but as nonconference play wraps up, things aren’t looking great. Texas can no longer afford a conference loss and hope to play in Pasadena. They’ll need to run the table and win convincingly most times.
*Speaking of Texas, the Horns are 3-0 against the spread for the first time in a while, for those of you who enjoy betting. Their games have all gone OVER on the over/under lines, as well. That’s a product of an overestimation and an underestimation. Oddsmakers have overestimated the loss of Cedric Benson and underestimated Jamaal Charles. Not that you’d blame them, but make no mistake about it—Texas can run the ball as well as ever.
*USC may get its final test next week as it plays Arizona State, a team loaded with offense. It’s become increasingly clear that you aren’t going to stop Leinart & Co. from scoring, so the best bet to give USC a match is to put up a lot of points on your own. Oregon didn’t have the firepower to do it, but Arizona State might. The way the USC offense is rolling, though, they’ll need to put up 45+. Doesn’t sound too likely, does it?
*The Big East will, once again, put a pock mark on the BCS, as their BCS bowl representative will likely be undeserving, much the way 23rd ranked Pittsburgh was two years ago. After Louisville got manhandled by South Florida on Saturday, the chances of a respectable Big East champion grew very slim. At least this settles any potential false debate about whether Louisville deserves a shot to play for the title.
*Minnesota has quietly put together a nice little team, led by the nation’s top rusher, Laurence Maroney, the best runner you’ve never heard of. Minnesota knocked off Purdue in overtime to move to 3-0. They won’t win the Big 10, but they’ve got a solid offense behind Maroney. In fact, there’s a lot of parity in the Big 10 this year, as the Gophers, Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Purdue all field solid teams. For Texas fans, though, it’s all about Ohio State—they’ll need the Buckeyes to run the table in the Big 10 for the Horns’ victory in Columbus to hold weight.
*Is it time to fire Lloyd Carr? If I were a Michigan fan, I’d be calling for his head. The program seems to have stalled. The talent is there, but they’re not winning like they should be. If Carr falls on his face this year, this could be the end. If not, the pressure will be tremendous next year. No doubt about it: he’s on the hot seat.
*I refuse to drink the Virginia Tech Kool-Aid. Yes, they have a good defense and an exciting young quarterback. But let’s tone down the praise, folks. Their only good win is at home versus Georgia Tech. Beat Miami and Florida State and we’ll talk. Marcus Vick will lose them a game before the year is over. Count on it.
Cleaning the Crystal Ball
Iowa (+7) at Ohio State
Crystal Ball: 24-13 Ohio State
Actual: 31-6 Ohio State
Breakdown: Ohio State turned the ball over twice inside the Iowa 10 yard line or it could have been worse. The Buckeyes were dominant, though, and certainly covered the spread, as the crystall ball foresaw.
Colorado (+14) at Miami
Crystal Ball: 31-21 Miami
Actual: Miami 23-3
Breakdown: The forecast was for Miami to have too much athletic talent for the Buffs to be able to win. That happened, but the Miami defense was underrated, completely shutting down Colorado. The Canes covered the spread despite having offensive problems of their own. The Miami-Virginia Tech game is going to be huge. Which leads us to...
Georgia Tech (+11.5) at Virginia Tech
Crystal Ball: 21-10 Virginia Tech
Actual: 51-7 Virginia Tech
Breakdown: Somebody predicted non-offensive scoring from Virginia Tech; it just wasn't the Crystal Ball. Tech got three scores from their defense and special teams, more than enough to completely demolish the spread (and my prediction). There will be whispers from the peanut gallery for Virginia Tech to be #2. I say hush. Beating Georgia Tech at home isn't the same as beating Ohio State on the road. Still, an impressive blowout.
USC (-21.5) at Oregon
Crystal Ball: 45-31 USC
Actual: 45-13 USC
Breakdown: For one half, I looked like the genius. Then in the second half, USC showed why they're the #1 team in the country, absolutely blowing out Oregon. The Ducks didn't have the offense to get in the shootout that I predicted. The Trojans pass one of their three tests this year. If they beat Cal and Arizona State, it's off to Pasadena once more.
Monday: Tennessee (+7) at LSU
Hurricane Rita forced the Saturday game to be postponed until Monday. Whew. An alternative to watching the Broncos and Chiefs. I don't mind watching the Chiefs. It's the Broncos that are so boring these days...
All in all, a mixed debut for the Crystal Ball. Correctly predicted a good win for Ohio State and correcly saw USC stumbling out of the gate in its Pac 10 conference opener. Did not foresee it being only a first half stumble. The dominant USC showed up in the second half to take care of business. Predicted Miami and Virginia Tech wins, but underestimated the margins of victory. Hope no one was betting the farm as the Crystal Ball got warmed up.
Oh, and anyone who was remaining on the Louisville bandwagon on Saturday can safely disembark now. The Big East is toast. Their BCS representative will be a waste.
Hope everyone is having a great weekend so far. Lots of good NFL games to watch this weekend, including the rematch of the AFC Championship game, as Pittsburgh heads to New England. The Steelers dominated the Pats in last year's regular season matchup, only to lose to them in the AFC title game. Big Ben Roetholisberger is still undefeated as a starter in the regular season. That will be put to the test this week.
Coming this week on Hornsblog: Full previews and analyses of the Saturday road matchup against Missouri. Both teams are coming off of a bye week.
Thursday, September 22
SI writer likes Horns hoops chances
Sooners is just too P.C.
Propose your own nicknames for our beloved neighbors to the north. The Indian Slaughtering Machines? Inbred Illiterates?
This post inspired by five straight losses to Oklahoma. All anger provoked by this writing should be directed to its proper source: Mack Brown. Or Chris Simms. You choose.
The Crystal Ball Speaketh, Vol. 1
I’m off to Chicago tomorrow morning for a weekend visit with the girlfriend, so I’ll post the weekend predictions a touch early. The crystal ball has now seen enough football to make knowledgable predictions, and it sees a lot of good games to watch this weekend. Here’s predictions on some of the best:
Iowa (+7) at Ohio State
I’m not normally a Big 10 fan, but this year we’ll all need to watch the Buckeyes closely the rest of the year. While I’ve insisted that strength of schedule gets over-emphasized a bit, we want Ohio State to finish the year without another loss—it will only make Texas’ big win look better. What to expect in this one? Both teams lost in week two to Big 12 schools; Iowa was handed a home loss against… Iowa State? Yep, the Cyclones are an improved team, but there’s little excuse for Iowa losing that one at home. They’re a better team than that, but not good enough to win at the Shoe. I like Ohio State’s offense to improve somewhat this week, enough to win the game, 24-13.
Georgia Tech (+11.5) at Virginia Tech
The battle of the Techs should be a decent game, at least defensively. While both defenses certainly excel, I’m not sold on either team’s offense. This is one of those games that makes me hate living in Washington (believe me, it’ll be our regional ABC game), but thankful for the satellite college football packages. Still, it’s an important game for the ACC standings. Marcus Vick isn’t quite there yet, but he can make enough plays to win. Expect an ugly affair, but the home team wins this one, 21-10.
Colorado (+14) at Miami
The Buffaloes circled this game on their calendar a long time ago. To be specific, about 13 years ago. This is the second portion of a home-home series that was scheduled in the early 1990s. The first game was played in Boulder, but a huge brawl on the field forced the teams to cancel the following year’s rematch. Well, this is the rematch. Colorado is certainly improved this year—even quarterback Joel Klatt, who looked absolutely hapless last year, is playing well. Still, there’s a huge mismatch in speed in this one. Couple that with the home field advantage, and I expect Miami to win. Still, a 14 point spread seems too big to me. The Buffs have the better coach, and I’m not sold on Miami as a Top 10 team. I’ll take the Canes to win, but give me the points on the spread. Miami wins it, 31-23.
USC (-21.5) at Oregon
Wait, wait, wait, wait… let that line creep up (it opened at -20), then take the Ducks. USC is going to win this game, but I don’t see them blowing out Oregon in Eugene. Looking back at Pete Carroll’s years at USC, the only time USC has stumbled has been in the conference opener of the Pac 10 each year. Oregon’s an improved football team from last year, and Eugene is a surprisingly tough climate for road teams. The Trojans aren’t going down, but I expect the Ducks to put up a fight. USC wins, 45-31.
Tennessee (+7) at LSU
The battle of the overrateds! Okay, so Tennessee’s loss last week to Florida got them back near where they should be, but LSU’s still got work to do. I don’t think this is the week they lose, but they aren’t a Top 5 team if you ask me. Tennessee’s got the better defense here, LSU the better offense. That can make for an interesting game, and certainly makes predictions difficult. In college ball, though, I usually go with the better offense. I’ll hedge on the spread and predict an LSU win, 24-17.
Disagree with any (or all) of the above? Here’s your chance to sound off. Post your thoughts/predictions in the comment section below.
Rushing toward a title
Red River Shootout may depart Dallas
Nothing would happen until after 2008 at the earliest, and I'm not exactly sure how I feel about this yet. On the one hand, it's true: the Cotton Bowl is a dump. And, to some extent, I'm sympathetic toward the desire to make as much money as possible (don't kid yourself; that's what this is about). Now, on the other hand, while I'm no hyper-traditionalist, I do think it's nice that the game's played on a neutral site, where both teams' fans get to come in droves to see what is usually their team's biggest game of the year. Furthermore, I think it's especially nice that the Texas players only have to travel to that horrid state of Oklahoma once every two years--to play Oklahoma State. Why place undue burden on these poor young kids?
Wednesday, September 21
Point/Counterpoint: Time to worry about weak Big 12?
Most schools have concluded, or will conclude, their non conference schedules by this weekend. So who has fared the best so far?
The BCS teams will be chosen once again this year by the combination of three components: the USA Today Coaches Poll, the Harris Interactive Poll, and the combination of six computer rankings. We don’t have the Harris poll or all the computer rankings yet. So, let’s examine the USA Today poll by conference.
ACC—6 teams (Va Tech, Fl St, Miami, Ga Tech, Virginia, and Boston College)
Big 10—6 teams (Ohio St, Purdue, Michigan, Iowa, Michigan St, and Wisconsin)
SEC—5 teams (LSU, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama)
Pac 10—4 teams (USC, Cal, Arizona St, and UCLA)
Big 12—2 teams (Texas and Texas Tech)
Notre Dame and Louisville are the others.
This may all be a little misleading to only look at one poll for one week. After all Iowa St and A&M will likely be ranked with another win and Michigan St, Wisconsin, and Alabama just entered the poll. But the point about the Big 12 being down still holds. OU’s weakness may actually hurt us this year; much as our strength the last two years helped the Sooners reach the BCS title game. Two years ago OU got in the title game with one loss ahead of an undefeated USC team and last year OU was ranked ahead of Auburn even though both teams were undefeated. OU’s computer rankings and consequently their BCS ranking were significantly strengthened by their wins over Texas and by the overall strength of the Big 12. I hate looking far ahead. The season is only three weeks old, but if more than two teams win out, Texas could need some luck and maybe some more successful convincing by Mack. ATL will keep you updated.
I’m going to make one last attempt to make this point. If Texas wins out, it would be an upset if they weren’t in the Rose Bowl. Andrew, you even spelled it out above. Remember two years ago? Remember how USC didn’t get in that title game and everyone went bananas about “stupid computers and dumb formulas that don’t watch the teams on the field”?
Well, the BCS, forever insecure (for good reason), immediately changed the system, throwing more weight to those trusty human voters. The computer rankings still matter, but far less so than they once did. As of now, the important thing is to get the humans on your side.
Well, as of now, the humans are on our side. We’ve been ranked #2 since the preseason, and our big win at Ohio State just solidified our hold on the spot. We’re a “consensus” #2 team, and we’ll stay there as long as we keep winning. Just like OU did last year. The Big 12 may not be as strong as it normally is, but it’s not going to be so bad that the humans decide we’re no longer worthy of a #2 ranking. If we get bumped down by the humans, it’ll be because we’re not playing well, not because of conference strength of schedule. The Pac-10 absolutely sucked last year, save Cal and USC, and the Trojans weren’t penalized a lick.
If Texas wants to go to the Rose Bowl, they simply need to win out. They need to avoid embarrassing, way-too-close wins, like last year’s Kansas debacle, but they just need to win out. It won’t be easy, but if they pull it off, I guarantee you they’ll be headed to Pasadena.
Tuesday, September 20
More conference rankings
Colley Conference Rankings
1. Big Ten Conference
2. Big 12 Conference
3. Pac-10 Conference
4. Southeastern Conference (SEC)
5. Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)
6. Big East Conference
Ranking the Texas QBs
I think we can all agree that Vince Young is in position to become the greatest QB to ever play at Texas (especially if he either wins the Heisman Trophy or leads UT to a MNC this year or next, since I doubt he'll be leaving early).
But what other quarterbacks to start at Texas before him? For the purpose of length, and out of respect for James Street, we’ll limit the discussion to quarterbacks since 1990.
(Help me out if I am forgetting someone)
Vince Young – A once in a generation player. I expect him to probably move to WR in the pros, but for now he’s the most exciting player in college football. If (God forbid) he never took another snap at UT, he’s still got to be considered one of the all-time greats for the victories he’s led this program to. Stats (good and bad) don’t even begin to show what kind of impact he has on this team. Want proof? Imagine our team without him now. With the ball in his hands, you never think the game is over, and neither to his teammates (or the other team for that matter). His impact will be felt for years to come.
Chance Mock – A good player who probably could have been great had he not gotten lost in the shuffle at Texas. When Vince signed, the writing was on the wall as far as Mock’s role with the team. However, I will always have a special place in my heart for Chance because of his save against Texas Tech in 2003. Sure, Roy Williams was wide open, but Chance got him the ball. He was ready when we needed him.
Chris Simms – The most unfairly treated player in the history of UT football. Forget what you think about how good he was (or wasn’t at times). Chris arrived with such high expectations, only a Ron Powlus-esque two Heismans would have sufficed. Of course, Chris brought some of this on himself when he signed with Texas despite the presence of Major Applewhite, but can you blame him? Mack recruited him and Chris wanted to come to Texas. For that we should have loved him. But instead, we ripped him every chance we got. He never got the benefit of the doubt. I think biggest mistake Mack has made at Texas was not redshirting Chris in 1999. I am sure Chris wanted the chance to play, and as the #1 high school player in the country it’s likely that was a condition for wherever he signed. But things got out of control quickly here, with people taking sides. I know it split the team, too. I ran into some UT players at South Padre Island on Spring Break in March 2001. Predictably, the older player was a Major supporter, because he’d been there with Major through the tough battles in 1998 and 1999 (including two wins over Nebraska), while the younger player was a Simms guy, because he saw the potential in Chris and where he could take the team. Both had valid points. I don’t blame Chris for never beating OU. However, he does have to live forever with his performance in the 2001 Big 12 title game, which cost us a spot in the national title game against Miami in the Rose Bowl.
Major Applewhite – Possibly the most popular UT player ever. My friends named their dog Major. I watch Syracuse games now just to see Major on the sidelines. A good bet to coach in Austin one day (when Mack retires in 20 years or so). He came into the picture at the perfect time, when expectations weren’t so high that a poor performance (K-State ’99 anyone?) could be forgotten. Absolutely cemented his legacy with the comeback against Washington in the 2002 Holiday Bowl. Not the most talented player, but the kind of player everyone liked. Seriously, you cannot find anyone to say a bad word about Major. Will always be near the top of the list because he was so beloved.
Richard Walton – If not for a broken bone in his hand, he’d have been the one handing off to Ricky during the magical 1998 season. Started four games in his UT career (including UCLA ’97 aka Rout 66 in place of an injured James Brown). In case you’re wondering where he is now, check this article. He’ll be forgotten (if he wasn’t already), but is notable for being the QB before the Applewhite/Simms era began.
James Brown – He made us feel good (‘96 Big 12 title game) and bad (too many INTs to remember). The mid-90s were such up-and-down years, but no one will ever forget Roll Left. Even though it’s pre-Mack and the win didn’t really lead to anything, that game has to be considered one of the greatest UT wins ever. His “we might win by three TDs” quote is also the stuff of legend.
Shea Morenz – Was the Golden Boy before anyone in Austin had ever heard of Chris Simms, as the #1 QB recruit in the country. He was supposed to lead us to the promise land, but it never happened. Also played baseball and left UT after being drafted by the Yankees in 1995. That was no biggie, since James Brown had already taken his job.
Peter Gardere – Best known for his 4-0 record against OU, from 1989-92. Also led Texas’ Shock the Nation Tour in 1990, which led UT to a #3 national ranking before the 1991 Cotton Bowl. (We won’t talk about how that turned out).
With that summary, here is my ranking of these eight signal-callers, based on accomplishments and legacy:
1. Vince Young
2. Major Applewhite
3. Chris Simms
4. Peter Gardere
5. James Brown
6. Chance Mock
7. Shea Morenz
8. Richard Walton
Feel free to re-rank them in a comment below if you disagree.
Travis Richmond is a regular contributor to All Things Longhorn. You can read more of Travis's thoughts on his blog here.
How Sweed it was...
Slightly Exaggerated Conference
This topic has spurred a lot of debate, so I thought I’d take a closer look and make a formal post about it. For all the ooh-ing and ahh-ing about the SEC, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, so far. At least not in USA Today’s Sagarin Rankings. Sagarin has a complex computer formula to rate each team in the country, then uses those ratings to break things down by conference.
1 ATLANTIC COAST (A) = 80.62
2 BIG TEN (A) = 80.39
3 PAC-10 (A) = 79.22
4 SOUTHEASTERN (A) = 78.00
5 BIG 12 (A) = 77.17
As of today, his rankings have the SEC as only the 4th best conference. Will that change? I won’t be surprised if it does. Still, this should serve as a two part lesson.
(1) The SEC is getting over-hyped a little bit.
(2) Perception is everything.
And that last lesson is the important one. Humans are biased analysts. It doesn’t matter if the Big 12 winds up being down, or if the SEC winds up being not nearly as (objectively) strong as people think. All that matters is what people think. And right now, and until Texas loses, they think Texas is #2. It’s all that matters.
It turns out I’m not the only one going ga-ga over freshman running back Jamaal Charles. Here’s a snapshot from around the state from players, coaches and sportswriters who love the speedy tailback.
Richard Justice, Houston Chronicle: "Charles has the speed of a sprinter and the size (6-1, 190) of a classically constructed running back. More than that, he has the ability to change speeds, cut back against pursuit and make guys miss. As anyone who saw him in high school would know, he's just different.
"Yes, the Rice game was was little more than a full-uniform practice for the Longhorns. But Charles' skills translate. His ability to see open holes, his ability to change directions and his pure speed were what made this game impressive…"
"Because of him, Texas looks better today than it did a week ago. Because of him, those defensive coordinators who spent months coming up with ways to stop Vince Young now have someone else to occupy their time."
Kirk Bohls, Austin American-Statesman: "Freshman Jamaal Charles will threaten a whole bunch of Cedric Benson's records before he leaves after the 2008 season. He's really, really, really good."
Jeff McDonald, San Antonio Express-News: "From hs first carry to his final exit - which came early in the third quarter - Charles' coming out party was one of the ages . . . Charles was so prolific - zigging and zagging and occassionally hurding through the Rice defense like the former prep track star he is - that he turned Heisman hopeful Vince Young into a bit player.
UT linebacker Aaron Harris: "He's not really a freshman. It's like he's been here for four years."
UT quarterback Vince Young: "Just to see him carrying the ball, I was so proud. For him to run up and down the field like that, for him to be making plays, I was so proud. Today, it was his turn."
Chip Brown, Dallas Morning News: "Three games make a trend. Charles, who has failed to turn the ball over this season, is averaging 116 yards per game and 8.8 yards per carry and hasn't missed a blitz pick-up."
Suzanne Halliburton, Austin American-Statesman: "The way Charles is playing - this is his second 100-yard rushing performance in three games - folks around Austin aren't missing (Cedric) Benson, a first round NFL draft pick, as much as first thought.
Jimmy Burch, Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "Without question, Charles' strong showing - bested only by Cedric Benson's 213 yards (vs. Kansas, 2001) on Texas' list of freshman rushing efforts - caught the attention of Longhorn players and coaches."
Greg Davis, offensive coordinator: "He's way ahead of schedule for a freshman. Football comes easy for him. He's special. He has a way of making his body smaller to get through some holes. He's more of a darter."
Joseph Duarte, Houston Chronicle: “Through three games, the Texas Longhorns know this much: The date on true freshman Jamaal Charles' birth certificate must be a lie."
Mack Brown, head coach: "Coach (Darrell) Royal said guys like him are quick as a puff of smoke."
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if Jamaal Charles isn’t the starting running back from here on out, Mack Brown should be drug tested. Or locked in an asylum. It’s a no-brainer, and not just because Selvin Young has been injured and ineffective. Charles is that good.
Charles came to Texas and said he would make Horns fans forget all about Adrian Peterson. At this point, many of us are confused. Adrian who?