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1. It’s a one week party for one team and a 365 day party for the other. A brilliant friend of mine one said that of the annual Red River Shootout (come on, that’s the real name people) that way to me when I was in college and I’ve never heard a better description.
For the Texas Longhorns, this game is also big because it’s one of the “Big Four” that we’ve talked about this season that will determine how the Longhorns season will go. We’ve already played one of those games last week when Texas lost to West Virginia last week 48-45. But we’ve also had to change one of the teams in the Big Four. With Casey Pachall out at TCU and the Baylor Bears showing a powerful, big play offense, the Bears have replaced the Horned Frogs. So of the Big Four (West Virginia, OU, Baylor, and Kansas State), Texas is 0-1 so far. If they finish 2-2 and win all of their other games, they’ll have a shot at maybe going to a BCS bowl game. That would be a great season. 1-3 means probably the Cotton Bowl or Holiday Bowl. 3-1 seems nearly impossible. They’d have a shot at winning the Big 12, would definitely be in a BCS bowl, and would even have an outside shot at a national championship, although it’s still early based on how many teams are still undefeated.
To me, there are three big keys to this game. And as much as everyone has been talking about David Ash and his development from last year to this year, he’s not that big a part of it. He’s got big play ability, but Texas needs to do three things to beat OU on Saturday:
1) Dominate the running game.
This is the biggest key and the only one I expect to happen. We still don’t know if Malcolm Brown will be available to run for Texas in this game, but last week we saw Joe Bergeron run well, with his average held low because he was mostly utilized in short yardage situations where he either scored a touchdown or converted a 1st down. We also saw freshman Johnathan Gray average more than six yards per carry working successfully out of the “Wild Horn” formation. Plus, Jeremy Hills and Daje Johnson made some great plays out of the backfieldin the passing game as well.
We knew that there was a problem with the Sooners defensive line early in the season when UTEP Miners running back Nathan Jeffrey ran for 177 yards on 21 carries. Even if you take away Jeffrey’s 71 yard run, he still averages better than five yards per carry in that game. Two weeks ago, the Wildcats won the time of possession against OU by nearly 10 minutes averaging almost five yards per carry. I expect Texas to running backs, with or without Malcolm Brown, to have a great day at the Cotton Bowl.
2) Get pressure on Landry Jones.
As we talked about in Wednesday’s Daily Six Shooter, Oklahoma is down three offensive linemen this season and they felt it most when they lost to Kansas State. The Wildcats forced three turnovers. One came on a sack-fumble and the other was an interception. Both were caused because Jones was pressured. Jones was sacked twice in the game and both were big because they couldn’t run the ball, even at home. OU settled for less than 90 yards on 27 carries. We already saw what Texas could do against a big, mean offensive line like the Mountaineers had last week. Jones isn’t as athletic as Geno Smith and even Smith had his troubles in the passing game. In the 2nd half of their game against the Longhorns, WVU turned to the running game because too many bad things happened when Smith dropped back to pass.
UTEP didn’t technically turn the ball over against the Sooners, but they missed three field goals. Every single one of those field goals was to tie or take the lead. Those might as well have been turnovers because they gave Oklahoma great field position and took scoring chances off the board. As a result, the Sooners were able to wear down the Miners despite UTEP’s best efforts late in the 2nd half.
Then look at the Kansas State game. KSU only won that game 24-19. 17 of the Wildcats points were scored off of OU’s three turnovers. One was direct as the defense returned a fumble for a touchdown. But another was an 88 yard drive where KSU had to settle for a field goal. Turnovers are one of the most random statistics to try to predict. But the Longhorns have been great this season about not giving the ball up while it’s already cost OU one game this season.
I expect Texas to win this game even though they’re underdogs. Oklahoma has a good secondary, so I wouldn’t expect David Ash to take over this game. He could though. We showed you the numbers in yesterday’s Daily Six Shooter. Texas has a better passing game than Oklahoma. But if the Texas running backs produce the way they can against the Sooners defensive line, Ash won’t have to and he can wait for some big play opportunities that can come from the Longhorns offense grinding this game out.
2. Meanwhile, Texas A&M is playing an unexpected big game this weekend. It’s unexpected because this game against Louisiana Tech was supposed to be played to start the season, but weather pushed this game all the way to what was supposed to be a bye week. It’s also unexpected because the Bulldogs are now ranked…. right behind the Aggies.
Texas A&M is much better than we thought they’d be and so is Louisiana Tech. But the big difference has been the competition. The Aggies top the SEC in scoring offense and total offense against much better teams than Louisiana Tech is playing. The Bulldogs are averaging a ridiculous 52 points per game, but they haven’t yet played a team like Texas A&M.
The one thing that Johnny Manziel, Christine Michael, and the rest of the Aggie offense have to worry about is turning the ball over. A&M beat Ole Miss last week despite six turnovers. Manziel’s pass efficiency numbers don’t do him much good if he’s throwing interceptions and his wide receivers are losing fumbles. The Bulldogs are one of the best teams in the nation in terms of turnover margin. And the Aggies are playing this game on the road.
It’s hard to believe, but this non-conference game, that was supposed to be a walk at the beginning of the season, could be a nice win over a ranked team for Texas A&M. Obviously, I give the Aggies a strong edge in this game. Louisiana Tech hasn’t beaten a ranked team since they took down Fresno State in 2005. And they haven’t beaten a non-conference ranked opponent since they beat Alabama on the road in 1999.
3. The NBA season is almost upon us and we certainly can’t wait. We pretty much know where the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs are going to be, but Houston has a chance to make a big jump not only with Jeremy Lin but with some of their other acquisitions as well. In any case, NBA players and coaches are getting more and more media attention and, surprisingly, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich gave a very candid interview with Dan LeBatard on Miami radio. Among the things that were discussed were Pop’s legendary sideline interviews, like this one.
I love what Pop says about these interviews:
“The quarter ends, you just got outscored by 12 points, they had eight offensive rebounds so the question will be ‘you just got outrebounded by X amount so what are you going to do about it?’ I don’t know. Am I going to make a trade during the timeout? I don’t know.”
Geez, if only GMs and coaches had the power to make trades during a timeouts. If anyone could wield that power effectively, it would be Gregg Popovich.
Photo by Javi Perez/Playmaker Magazine
4. In NFL news, the Houston Texans, and specifically Arian Foster, are going to get some relief on Sunday night when they play the Green Bay Packers as Ben Tate is finally ready for some game action as he’s been dealing with a sore toe the past few weeks.
We’ve talked about this constantly: Arian Foster needs some help carrying the Texans running game. He’s leading the league in carries so far this season and is on pace for over 400 carries on the year. He’s on a new diet and spends all his time during the week recovering and getting his body ready for another brutal Sunday, which should pay dividends this season. But he just signed a big contract and Houston wants him to be a great player for them for years to come. It’s going to be much harder to do that if he gets close to 400 carries in 2012.
Green Bay is a tough team. Even so, I would love to see Foster limited to 20 carries or less and certainly under 25 touches overall. It would mean that not only is he running effectively, but Tate and possibly Justin Forsett can prove that the Texans can run effectively no matter who is in the backfield… although always better with the ball in Foster’s hands.
Photo courtesy US Presswire
5. In Major League Baseball news, it’s certainly been an exciting postseason, sadly without the Texas Rangers but not surprisingly without the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox. After making the mistake of firing Terry Francona, Boston is searching for a new manager after making the easy choice to fire Bobby Valentine. And former Astros catcher Brad Ausmus is on Boston’s short list.
Ausmus was always a smart player in Houston and was an underrated leader in the clubhouse because of the presence of Craig Biggio, but he’s learned a lot and worked with a lot of great pitchers like Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettite, and Roger Clemens. He also worked a lot with Jim Hickey, the former Houston Astros pitching coach who now works with the Tampa Bay Rays and their outstanding pitching staff.
Ausmus has been working in San Diego as the Padres special assistant to the GM, so he’s been getting front office experience and is as ready as ever for a job like this one. Too bad he won’t be able to make some clutch swings in Boston the way he did in Houston. Lord knows the Red Sox could certainly use that next season too.
6. Finally, this week saw the premiere of a new trailer for the Quentin Tarantino movie Django Unchained starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz, and Jamie Foxx. This trailer shows a more menacing side to DiCaprio’s character that’s more devilishly evil and not so serious. We get a better feel for the tone and directing style that Tarantino will use in the film along with a look at more of Django’s backstory, which is a little confusing based on this trailer alone. Plus, we get a sneak peek at Jonah Hill.
Have a great weekend!