Morning Coffee Breaks Out The Gator Chomp

Horns_bullet_mediumGators set to upend Sooner Schooner. As much as I become a fan of the Big 12 during bowl season, there is, of course, a line to be drawn. Just like my defensive coordinator, that line etched in the sand keeps me from ever becoming a Sooner fan. That being said, I'm not here to fellate Tim Tebow, as most of the national media spends an inordinate amount of time doing. No, the point here is to break down the match up a little bit.

  • Put pressure on Bradford. Any of the teams that have faced Oklahoma this season will tell that you that if you let Sam Bradford stand in the pocket untouched, he will absolutely pick you apart. Since it was so long ago, I only have faint recollections of it, but I do believe that the Longhorns and Brian Orakpo were able to pressure Bradford, causing uncharacteristically off-target throws and exposed Bradford's relative lack of mobility. Carlos Dunlap and Jermaine Cunningham are the type of elite rushers who can give massive Phil Loadholt problems, especially since the officiating crew won't be from the Big 12 and likely won't allow the rampant holding condoned in the nation's most offensively prolific conference.
  • Evolution of the spread linebacker. There might be any better example in the country of the evolution at the linebacker position forced by the proliferation of spread offenses than Oklahoma's Travis Lewis. The high school running back and converted safety has clocked 40 times in the mid-4.3 range--certainly fast enough to go stride for stride with the self-proclaimed fastest team in the country. Longhorn fans will remember the 19 tackles registered by Lewis at the Cotton Bowl, no fluke considering his 137 stops on the season. Lewis ranged from sideline to sideline that game and the Longhorns only achieved success in the running game when they got lineman to the second level. Without the size or disposition to take on offensive lineman and disengage to make plays, look for Florida to try to put a hat on Lewis to keep him from ranging free.
  • Ain't seen no one like Gresham. Not only was the Big 12 the conference of the quarterback, but it also sported the three finalists for best receiver and the three finalists for the best tight end in the country. Suffice it to say that Florida has not faced a tight end with the ability of Gresham on the year. Watching Gresham, it is flat out unfair that someone with that size can move so quickly and with such fluidity. Stiff he is not.
  • As if they need any more motivation. If the continued questioning of the "Big Game" Stoops moniker wasn't enough, Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes had to go and pull a Martellus Bennett this week, calling the Sooner defense "a joke." True, perhaps, but having seen the damage done by Michael Jordan to teams daring to slight him in the least, I'm a believer in providing as little bulletin board material as possible. Unfortunately for OU, playing with a chip on their shoulder may be not enough.

Horns_bullet_mediumPendulum swings again. AJ Abrams took a lot of heat after his high-volume, low-efficiency performance against Notre Dame, recovering to score 26 or more points in four consecutive games starting against UCLA. Since then, Abrams has scored in double figures only once in the last four games, struggling to find open looks within the offense. As Dexter Pittman has begun to assert himself more in the low post, the offense has moved away from focusing on screening for Abrams. Combined with lead guard play that has been largely ineffective at producing open looks for Abrams and little time handling the ball, Abrams looks mostly lost in the shuffle, dangerous new for a Longhorn team that struggles making three-point baskets.

Abrams misses the playmaking ability and recognition of DJ Augustin. Just as all five players on defense must account for Abrams, so too do his teammates. On three consecutive plays in the first half against Arkansas, a Longhorn player slashed towards the basket on the bounce, failing on the first two tries to spot and find Abrams wide open in the strongside corner. Simply unacceptable. On the third time, when Abrams finally did get the ball, he was out of rhythm and missed. Rick Barnes tried to rectify the situation by calling a timeout and putting Abrams on the ball, which only lead to a forced three pointer, with Abrams having no confidence that he would see the ball again were he to pass it.

In a game in which the Longhorns and Razorbacks made the same number of field goals, the difference was three-point shooting. Arkansas made four more three pointers than Texas, a result of the Longhorns shooting 7% from long range. Yes, 7%. The most likely solution is to work hard to free Abrams if several consecutive ineffective possessions occur, or to put him on the ball for an extended stretch of time. Simply giving him one possession on the ball isn't enough because of the likelihood that Abrams will force a shot. Focusing on running more dribble handoffs may be another solution. Another option that the Boston Celtics use is to have Abrams set screens on the perimeter to free himself for some pick and pop plays. He's not the best option for screening, but it was one of the plays that killed the Lakers in the Finals last year. In essence, the longer Abrams goes without seeing the ball, the more likely he is to take a bad shot and the Longhorns don't have any hope of playing deep into March if Abrams isn't scoring. Check here for Trips Right's thoughts on the matter.

Horns_bullet_mediumSexy Dexy strokes it. Don't look now, but Dexter Pittman is now the third-highest percentage free throw shooter on the Longhorn basketball team at 77% and has moved into third place for the most free throws attempted on the season, behind Damion James and Gary Johnson, respectively. It's no fluke either, just look at the fluidity and smoothness of his follow-through. If Pittman can continue to make progress in cutting down his number of fouls, he has an opportunity to significantly help the team at the charity stripe. The 4-out, 1-in look used to great effect against Appalachian State and improved entry passing will manufacture easy looks for Pittman and numerous trips to the line.

Not counting the game against Wisconsin that didn't favor Pittman in terms of match ups, he has taken four or more free throws in each last five games he has played 14 minutes. The effort has helped raise the team free throw percentage to over 64%, inching towards respectability. With a largely ineffective and inefficient offense, simply making good entry passes to Pittman and keeping the big man out of trouble and on the free throw line provides a significant boost to the basketball team

Horns_bullet_mediumGarrett Gilbert update. One of the storylines leading into the 2009 season is the question of whether Gilbert will redshirt or not. Mack Brown's announcement that John Chiles will remain full-time at the quarterback position and that he has made progress since scrapping the Q Package lends credence to the thought that Gilbert will redshirt in 2009, setting up a battle between Gilbert and Chiles the following year. Ultimately, the decision may rest on the arm of Chiles and the amount of improvement he continues to make. If Colt McCoy's first year and a half as the starting quarterback demonstrated one thing, it's that the offense as currently constructed needs a quarterback that can make plays with their feet, an ability that Chiles supposedly possesses, but hasn't yet shown with any consistency.

Since the Texas coaches likely don't know what will happen with Gilbert possibly redshirting, they haven't told him anything about it ($), but Gilbert seems prepared to be a team player about it and accept a year redshirting and possibly a year behind Chiles. Of course, if the last year has proven anything, it's that the offense as currently constructed requires a quarterback with preternatural accuracy, an area in which Gilbert would seem to have an advantage over Chiles, even though Chiles has two years in the program and Gilbert hasn't yet graduated from high school.

Horns_bullet_mediumBeergut and continued experimentations in argumentation. You're right if you know this won't end well. As aptly demonstrated before, Beergut succeeds mainly in the realm of provocateur, irritating Longhorn fans to no end. After attempting to justify his Heisman ballot, Beergut once again goes after "texas," which apparently can't even be capitalized at the beginning of the sentence. I guess after losing almighty scoreboard against Texas, you have to take your shots where you can.

As usual, Beergut loves the use of logical fallacies. Lambasting Texas as "sad," "pathetic," and turning in an "incomprehensible" performance, Beergut makes use of the slippery slope logical fallacy, never explaining why it's so horrific to need a last-second drive to beat a BCS team playing at full strength and with a month to prepare. Make no mistake, this was not the same Ohio State team that got steamrolled by USC, or the same team that lost to Penn State, even when considering that Ohio State with Pryor as quarterback is not a team capable of taking advantage of the weak Penn State secondary.

If you don't believe in running up the score or keeping your starters in deep into the fourth quarter of blowouts, you probably understand that winning is more important than how you look winning. Why should the Longhorns be held accountable for something they have no control over, the odds put on the game? Want to know what pathetic is? Stephen McGee on Thanksgiving was pathetic. Defending McGee for acting like a clown is pathetic. Pathetic is being unable to capitalize the name of a rival school.

Beergut also claims that Tressel's conservative nature held back Ohio State, never explaining how Tressel was conservative, an example of the questionable cause fallacy. Terrelle Pryor could not effectively throw the ball. So Todd Boeckman had chances. Devising a package for both quarterbacks hardly seems conservative. What does "actually unleashing" Terrelle Pryor mean? It's kind of important when trying to craft arguments to back up your assertions with evidence. I mean, if you want to make strong arguments, that is.

Also prevalent is the claim that Utah would have beaten Texas this year. I'm not sure if this is a specific logical fallacy for this statement, beyond simply being inane and unsupportable. Utah, the same team that beat New Mexico 13-10, a team that even the sorry-ass Aggies beat? Um, I'm pretty sure that if New Mexico can slow down Brian Johnson that the Longhorn defense can as well. The same team that barely beat Michigan in the first game of the Dick Rod era? Freaking Toledo beat Michigan at home this year, by a larger margin than Utah and giving up fewer points in the process. Could Toledo beat Texas, too? Utah doesn't scare me, but apparently Texas scares Utah, since they were supposed to play this year, but the Utes backed out. If beating Michigan qualifies as a top-four resume win, you don't have much of an argument as a team that could beat Texas.

Beergut shudders to think what Johnson would have done against the Longhorns? How do you figure? Newsflash Beergut, but the Longhorns were the only team to slow down the OU offense, I think they can play some defense. As much as Ohio State "dominated" the first half, they only ended up with six points. There's a reason for that and it's because Texas consistently kept teams out of the end zone all season.

A "miracle win?" Maybe for most quarterbacks. Except Colt McCoy has made a living out of it, leading 10 comeback wins in his career, accounting for roughly a third of his victories. No, when Colt McCoy leads a late comeback, it's not a miracle, it's just Colt McCoy being Colt McCoy. Maybe there's a reason why Jim Rome called the Aggie view of Texas the largest case of penis envy in the world.

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