November 10, 2008

BCS love could be fool's gold for Texas


Texas bounced Baylor and moved up one in the BCS rankings from No. 4 to No. 3. Texas even jumped Oklahoma in the Harris Poll - going from No. 6 to No. 4 while the Sooners stood static at No. 5. But BCS expert Jerry Palm, of CollegeBCS.com, told Orangebloods.com, he has a queasy feeling about the Longhorns' long-term prospects.

JUMPING OU

"Texas jumping Oklahoma in the Harris Poll this week is unusual, given that Texas and Oklahoma both blew out bad teams," Palm said. "For voters to change their mind like that - I can't think of another time it's happened."

But Palm said the Longhorns' positive showing in the BCS this week could be fool's gold.

If Texas Tech wins at Oklahoma on Nov. 22, of course, everything is moot. Tech would then have only a home game against Baylor before playing for the Big 12 title in Kansas City on Dec. 6 - most likely against Missouri.

TRY AND FOLLOW ME HERE …

The Longhorns need Oklahoma to beat Tech and hope the voters will reward Texas for beating the Sooners by keeping UT ahead of OU. Palm, however, isn't sure it would work out that way. Because OU has Texas Tech and Oklahoma State still left to play - if the Sooners were to win those games - Palm thinks it could move OU ahead of Texas, which has unranked foes Kansas and Texas A&M left.

"The voting may change because Oklahoma has more of an opportunity to make a positive impression on the voters based on who they play," Palm said. "So right now, if I had to go to Vegas and someone made me bet, I'd say Oklahoma just because they have more of a chance to move up. Obviously, Tech would have to lose for any of this to matter."

NO ALL-BIG 12 BCS GAME

Palm said there is little chance of Texas Tech winning out and Texas somehow landing in the top two for an all-Big 12 national title game.

"The odds of a Big 12 South BCS title game are really small," Palm said. "In 10 years of the BCS, the voters have never put a non-league champion in the top two. We've had non-league champions play, but that's because of other factors in the BCS formula overruling the voters. Those were different formulas. Now, the formula is so voter-driven that if they don't get on board, it's not going to happen."

GET READY FOR A BIG 12-SEC TITLE CLASH

Palm said barring upsets the national title game is looking like a Big 12-SEC matchup.

"USC, Penn State, the other Big 12 teams that don't get to the Big 12 title game are probably out of luck," Palm said. "But it's still very early. A lot of upsets could happen, and then a lot of things are possible."

THREE THINGS …

THAT GOT BETTER

1. Team psyche
- These players were shattered last Saturday night and Sunday. For the coaches to come out aggressive in the week with a big, physical practice on Tuesday paid off. The offense was sharp to start the game and then wavered. But as has been the case most all season both sides of the ball picked up the other. Ryan Palmer's interception return for a TD inspired the offense and UT proceeded to hit the detonate button.

2. Run game - Granted, Baylor wasn't the best rush defense, but averaging 4.1 yards per carry and having your two lead backs - Foswhitt Whittaker (15 carries for 77 yards, 5.1) and Vondrell McGee (10 for 55, 5.5) both average more than 5 yards per carry is a plus. Especially, considering last week's season-low 28 carries for 80 yards (2.9 ypc) at Texas Tech. One huge concern for Texas are the diminishing returns of Colt McCoy in the run game. After rushing for 278 yards on 34 carries (8.2 ypc) in the first four games of the season - an average of 69.5 yards per game - McCoy has rushed 67 times for 171 yards (28.5 ypg, 2.6 ypc) the last six games. He's obviously beat up. Quan Cosby talked about how McCoy was in the training room getting treatment all of last week. But McCoy is a huge key to UT's run game. McCoy's legs are what opened things up for Jamaal Charles late last season and a huge reason Texas was averaging 205.3 yards per game rushing through four games and now only 174.5. McCoy has run the straight option with less and less vigor as the season has gone on and who can blame him? The guy is flat out beat up. If he becomes a significant factor in the run game again this season, he will deserve a purple heart.

3. Pass defense - Again, Baylor doesn't present huge hurdles in the passing game, but Texas shut it down anyway - giving up just 71 yards as the Bears completed just 6 of 20 passes. Robert Griffin was intercepted once and it was a doozy - Ryan Palmer returned it for a TD and changed all the momentum in the game. The real positive is that young players who struggled against Tech showed up well, led by Earl Thomas.

… THAT STAYED THE SAME (OR GOT BETTER)

1. Young receivers -
James Kirkendoll, Malcolm Williams and Brandon Collins combined for eight catches, 104 yards receiving and a touchdown. There were seven other passes to this group that didn't connect. So McCoy is gaining more and more trust in looking their way.

2. Protection - Colt McCoy keeps getting hit. He was nailed by a safety blitz on the pass he threw for an interception that was returned to the Texas 6. Also might be a good idea to stop having tight ends go one on one with defensive ends. It's not working.

3. Roy Miller - Miller followed up a heroic game against Texas Tech with another big performance against Baylor. Miller is making himself some money over the last couple weeks. NFL scouts are starting to see Miller as a one-technique that could hold up against double-teams at the next level. Good thing Miller had a big day because Baylor left tackle Jason Smith made himself some money by stoning Sergio Kindle most of the afternoon. The NFL scouts in the press box took note of that battle - on both sides.

… THAT GOT WORSE

1. Injuries - Adam Ulatoski left the game with a left elbow injury that didn't appear serious. And defensive tackle Lamarr Houston left the game with an ankle injury that has been nagging him since the Oklahoma game. Ulatoski will probably put a brace on his elbow and gear up for Kansas. (Mac McWhorter called him the "Bionic Man" last year because of all of Ulatoski's braces.) Houston's status was less certain.

2. Field goal kicking - After going 9-for-9 on field goal attempts to start the season, including long kicks of 46 and 43 yards, Hunter Lawrence missed both of his attempts Saturday against Baylor - from 44 and 20 yards. Mack Brown said Lawrence was suffering from some kind of soreness and downplayed sending Ryan Bailey on the field for a 30-yarder with 5:47 left in the game. Something says that job is up for grabs in practice this week.

3. Penalties - Texas committed some whoppers in this game, including a personal foul committed by CB Aaron Williams right in front of Mack Brown. UT finished with nine penalties for 95 yards, including a holding call on RB Cody Johnson that negated a 39-yard touchdown run by John Chiles with 1:02 left.


NEXT OPPONENT - at KANSAS (6-4, 3-3)
(11:30 a.m. Saturday, Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, Kan., Fox Sports Net)


This game will be just what Mack Brown feared it would be - a cold, emotionless game in front of a small crowd (even a sellout crowd at Kansas is 50,071) in an open-ended stadium where the field is separated from the fans by a track oval.

The Longhorns will see that Kansas just lost to a Nebraska team skunked 52-17 in Lincoln by Missouri and fight to keep from rolling their eyes. So Mack will probably let it slip that UT's only hope for getting into the BCS national title game is continuing to impress the voters - meaning the Longhorns need style points in its next two games. Lots of style points.

Kansas has an OK defense, giving up 28.2 points per game - led by its linebacking corps of Joe Mortensen, James Holt and Mike Rivera. But it lives and breathes with its pass offense - led by quarterback Todd Reesing of Lake Travis, who said before the season he's had the Texas game circled since he got on campus (surprise, surprise).

Reesing throws to a bunch of talented receivers - Dezmon Briscoe, Dexton Fields and Kerry Meier. But teams have been able to get pressure on Reesing. He's been sacked 12 times in the last four games, including five times at Nebraska. Texas needs its pass rush, and Brian Orakpo is expected back for this game from a left knee sprain.


BIG 12 POWER RANKINGS

1. TEXAS TECH (10-0, 6-0)

Bottom line:
What can you say about the Red Raiders now? They came off the emotional win against Texas and thrashed Oklahoma State like a pork chop in a dog's mouth. Next up - their third straight biggest game in school history - at Oklahoma on Nov. 22

2. TEXAS (9-1, 5-1)

Bottom line:
Longhorns need style points - big time. They also need the rest that will come with the bye after Kansas.

3. OKLAHOMA (9-1, 5-1)

Bottom line:
Has Sam Bradford been masking a defense that could be a poor matchup for Texas Tech's offense? Me thinks so.

4. OKLAHOMA STATE (8-2, 4-2)

Bottom line:
Check that, Texas Tech has the most complete offense in college football.

5. MISSOURI (8-2, 4-2)

Bottom line:
Who woulda thunk Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin and Chase Coffman would be completely under the radar at this point?

6. NEBRASKA (6-4, 3-3)

Bottom line:
Bo Pelini got a signature win over Kansas … well … sort of … oh never mind.

7. KANSAS (6-4, 3-3)

Bottom line:
Jayhawks have given up an average of 43.5 points in their last four games (against OU, Tech, K-State and Nebraska).

8. COLORADO (5-5, 2-4)

Bottom line:
Nothing like a slump buster game against Iowa State to get you back on track.

9. BAYLOR (3-7, 1-5)

Bottom line:
The Bears have a chance to torture Texas A&M in Waco this week. Me thinks they will.

10. KANSAS STATE (4-6, 1-5)

Bottom line:
Players couldn't get up for their departing coach in a blowout loss at Missouri.

11. TEXAS A&M (4-6, 2-4)

Bottom line:
Aggies' bowl eligibility hopes fading after giving up a school-record 66 points at home in loss to OU.

12. IOWA STATE (2-8, 0-6)

Bottom line:
It's getting cold in Ames and even colder for Gene Chizik who has last eight in a row.


COAST TO COAST

THE TOP FIVE

1. TEXAS TECH
- This offense is off the charts right now. No one wants to face it.

2. FLORIDA - They are healthy, happy and thumping people.

3. TEXAS - Longhorns are limping along, hoping to get to their bye week with only one loss.

4. OKLAHOMA - Sam Bradford and the offense are carrying the load

5. ALABAMA - Took a close look at Bama's offense. It's two plays: Glen Coffee off tackle and Parker-Wilson to Julio Jones.

THE PICKS

SOUTH CAROLINA at FLORIDA (-23) - Florida 38, South Carolina 21

GEORGIA (-8) at AUBURN
- Georgia 36, Auburn 14

MISSISSIPPI ST. at ALABAMA (-20.5) - Bama 34, Mississippi St. 14

CALIFORNIA at OREGON STATE (-3) - Oregon State 21, Cal 17

OKLAHOMA STATE (-17.5) at COLORADO - Oklahoma State 42, Colorado 17

NEBRASKA (-6.5) at KANSAS STATE - K-State 31, Nebraska 29 - UPSET SPECIAL No. 1

MISSOURI (-26.5) at IOWA STATE - Mizzou 31, Iowa State 14

TEXAS A&M at BAYLOR - Baylor 24, Texas A&M 22 - UPSET SPECIAL No. 2

ONE FINAL THOUGHT

Can't wait to see how this college football season ends. That's why I'm fine waiting for the playoff. Whenever it comes fine. But the playoff in college football happens all season long. The semifinal for this year's college season could well be Texas Tech at Oklahoma and then Florida vs. Alabama in the SEC title game. We'll see. But I love every second of it.


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