The Week That Will Be: Crossroads

Posted by    |    November 16th, 2017 at 12:23 am

The end of the regular season draws near, but there is still a lot to be written

Last Week: 1-4-1 ATS 4-2 SU

For the Year: 31-34-1 (.477) (-$620) ATS 48-18 (.727) SU

We learned last week…

· Jarrett Stidham threw three touchdown passes and Georgia’s rushing attack was held to 46 yards on 32 carries as the Bulldogs had a quick fall from grace.

· If Ohio State doesn’t make the college football playoff this year, and odds are they don’t, they will have to look back at that Iowa game and wonder what happened. The Buckeyes responded with a blowout win over Michigan State, scoring touchdowns on five of their first six drives to open the game.

· Georgia’s bad day got even worse Saturday night, as their best win of the year also got their tails handed to them as Manny Diaz and the Miami Hurricanes held that powerful Notre Dame rushing attack to only 109 yards and 3.0 yards per carry. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly made a curious decision to pull starting quarterback Brandon Wimbush before the half, and that decision resulted in a pick six the other way off back-up QB Ian Book. Miami clinched their division, and will play in the ACC Championship game for the first time since its inception in 2005.

· A roller coaster game in Ames ended with an Iowa State interception in the end zone as they went for the tie ballgame. Oklahoma State running back Justice Hill ran for three touchdowns and 116 yards after contact in Saturday’s contest. Iowa State lost starting quarterback Kyle Kempt in the first half, but still nearly pulled off the victory. What a concept.

· Oklahoma running back had four touchdowns in the first half and nearly 300 total yards for the game as Oklahoma handed TCU quite easily. It would pretty much take a loss to Kansas for Baker Mayfield to lose the Heisman at this point, as the senior now has 3,559 yards passing, 31 touchdowns and only 5 interceptions through 10 games.

· Teams that Kansas has scored at least 27 points on this season: Southeast Missouri State (38) Ohio (30) Central Michigan (27) West Virginia (34) Texas (27)


In a season where easy wins have been few and far between (numbering exactly one), Texas fans were hungry for blood on Saturday evening, feeling like the cure for the season long offensive doldrums was a visit from the lowly Jayhawks – the worst Power 5 team in the country.

And then it was still a game until about five and a half minutes left.

A game where the Longhorns scored nine seconds from the opening kickoff, and led 28-7 at the end of the first quarter was still a game well into the fourth because the defense finally fell asleep and the offense was, well, Texas.

Sigh.

Finally resigning myself to the fact that this offense isn’t going to be fixed at any point this season, where do the Longhorns stand in their effort to be bowl eligible for the first time in three seasons?

It is quite simple – they need to win one of the next two, with a highly questionable chance in the hills of West Virginia on Saturday morning and a game a week from Friday against Texas Tech in Austin.

Let’s look at the outcomes.

First, the disaster plan. Lose both of these games and finish the season 5-7 for the third straight season, and that is probably enough to get Charlie Strong fired and there will be serious questions about the state of this program going into another long off-season.

Because after all, Texas didn’t need to fire a coach and hire another expensive one if all they wanted to do was go 5-7.

Split these games and finish 6-6? Okay, that isn’t the season anyone around here wanted, but the program is in a bowl game, which should be the absolute minimum standard for this Texas program. The progress from 2016 might be minute, but the extra practices will be essential as a springboard into 2018.

Now, if the Horns go crazy and manage to complete their first in-season three-game winning streak since 2014 and finish 7-5? Well now that is discernable progress. Sure, there were some low spots, but it would be a full two wins better than the past couple of years, with a couple of games that honestly could have gone either way if a play or two goes the other way. Even better, go and win the bowl game and that would be real momentum.

Then If we really wanted to use the resources of the richest athletic department in the country to the fullest, we would find some unbecoming lower tier FBS school and find an athletic director with multiple skeletons in his closet and blackmail him into hiring Tim Beck to run his football team and look at Tom Herman with shrugged shoulders.

A fixer, if you will. Then said fixer would hand Tom a list of pre-approved and vetted candidates that were never the offensive coordinator at Nebraska (or any Big 10 program, for that matter), never even tweeted the name of Art Briles and passes any and all short-term memory tests.

I can’t handle another season like this, folks.

On to the games…

Texas A&M @ Mississippi -2.5:

After the dreadful year Mississippi has endured, they are a victory over A&M or Mississippi State away from being bowl eligible – if they weren’t under a bowl ban.

Nick Starkel again gets the start at quarterback for the Aggies, and it has been a stark contrast when he has been able to play this year, including last week when he threw for 416 yards and four touchdowns in a half against New Mexico. For the year, Starkel has led the Aggies to 14 touchdowns on his 29 drives.

Texas A&M 41 Mississippi 35

ATS – Texas A&M

SU – Texas A&M

UCLA @ USC -15.5:

It is a banner season in Westwood as Bruins fans have taken to renting banner planes to voice their displeasure with head coach Jim Mora Jr. and athletic director Dan Guerrero.

The Bruins are a very odd 5-0 at home and 0-5 on the road, so I suppose you have to give them a good grade for consistency, and they’ll have their work cut out for them here as the Trojans have now won three in a row since their loss at Notre Dame.

They’re doing it on the legs of Ronald Jones (100 yards rushing in four of five games), and the arm of Sam Darnold, who has slowed down the interception pace (only two in his last five games).

USC 42 UCLA 28

ATS – UCLA

SU – USC

Michigan @ Wisconsin -7.5:

Very quietly the Wolverines have now won three in a row since their loss to Penn State (how much have these two teams gone in opposite directions since then), and now sit at 8-2, with two very prestigious victories possible in the next two weeks.

Wisconsin, meanwhile, is 10-0 for the first time in program history and have already clinched a spot in the Big 10 title game. They have their eyes on a bigger prize, however, as the Badgers control their own destiny in regards to a playoff spot.

This one promises to be a defensive battle, as the Badgers rank 1st in the country in S&P+ defense, while the Wolverines rank 6th. Both teams have held opponents to 14 points or less in 7 of their 10 games.

Wisconsin 20 Michigan 17

ATS – Michigan

SU – Wisconsin

Kansas State @ Oklahoma State -20:

We know both of these teams well by this point of the year. Oklahoma State has fallen apart on defense since the Texas game, allowing 143 points in their last three games, while Kansas State plugs in another quarterback and they somehow manage to get the job done.

The Wildcats enter this match-up with a record of 5-5, so they need a win here or next week against Iowa State to reach a bowl game. They haven’t missed a bowl game since 2009, Bill Snyder’s first year in his second tenure.

Oklahoma State 38 Kansas State 24

ATS – Kansas State

SU – Oklahoma State

TCU -7 @ Texas Tech:

TCU quarterback Kenny Hill is doubtful or questionable in this one, whichever mood you might catch Gary Patterson in, suffering from an injured, well, who knows because Patterson won’t tell us that, either.

And, truth be told, I’m not sure that it really matters, since Hill has only one touchdown pass in his last three games, anyhow.

Win out and TCU is in the Big 12 title game, while Texas Tech needs a victory here or next week in Austin to become bowl eligible.

TCU 45 Texas Tech 34

ATS – TCU

SU – TCU

Texas @ West Virginia -3:

What does Vegas know here?

The casinos aren’t in the giving away money business, but West Virginia is a better team than Texas, the Longhorns haven’t fared well against quality opponents (the opponents in games Texas has won are now a combined 14-37), they’re at home, they have a healthy quarterback…but they’re only a field goal favorite?

Quarterback Will Grier is a candidate for the Best Decision This Decade award, as the signal caller transferred from quarterback graveyard Florida to West Virginia, where he is second in the country in touchdown passes with 34.

His favorite target on those 34 passes is David Sills, the former quarterback who was once offered a scholarship by Lane Kiffin when he was only 13. Sills has 18 touchdown receptions on the season, which is 7 more than anyone else in the country.

They can score with the best of them but have been lackluster the last two games, only scoring a combined 48 points, which is well below their season average.

It is a good thing that their defense has shown up in those two, giving up only 39 points after giving up an average of 37 points per game in the previous five.

Connor Williams and Sam Ehlinger figure to be back for Texas in this one, which should give a boost to an offense that now ranks ahead of only 11 other Power 5 programs in S&P+ offense, but the defense needs to figure things out after their lackluster performance particularly in the first half last week against Kansas.

Once again I just don’t think the Longhorns have the firepower to stay in a game like this. It will take another Herculean effort from the defense to pull this out, but Todd Orlando has shut down better.

West Virginia 31 Texas 24

ATS – West Virginia

SU – West Virginia

For entertainment purposes only. Save your money for flame retardant for your couch.