Morning Coffee Dares You To Doubt Vince Young

Horns_bullet_mediumAggie game review. So I've finally had a chance to re-watch the Thanksgiving Day shootout with A&M and the big takeaway is... complicated. Which shouldn't surprise anyone, given just how far out of line the defense's performance was with everything it had done prior to allowing 39 points and 500 yards of offense to the Aggies. Reviewing the game itself took a long time to complete; writing about it is taking even longer, but given the implications of the performance, I want the evaluation to be thorough.

One thing to chew on while you wait: I think part of what we're seeing is just how much college defenses struggle to defend a spread offense with A-grade quarterback play. Relevant observations/questions/implications:

  1. Before even getting to the defense, this applies to the Texas offense, as well. With Colt McCoy making plays with his feet and passing to multiple receivers at multiple levels, our offense is difficult to defend again.
  2. We struggled mightily with A&M in large part because Jerrod Johnson was as elusive with his feet as he was accurate with his arm.
  3. We have to ask, first, whether this was the best offensive attack we've faced this year (while not consistent, at its best the A&M offense is arguably the strongest), and second, whether we should be concerned that the result was similar to the last time we faced outstanding offensive attacks -- last year, when the Big 12 was loaded with strong (and healthy) QB play. Consider this year's QB line up: four weak non-con opponents, first-year (and early-in-the-year) Taylor Potts, Cody Hawkins, Landry Jones, gimpy (first-year starting) Blaine Gabbert, Zac Robinson, Nick Florence, Todd Reesing, and Jerrod Johnson. Among the three strongest tests, the defense was stout against Robinson, so-so against Reesing, and scorched by Johnson.

Horns_bullet_mediumThe Legend Lives. I struggled yesterday to decide whether to stay at home, where I knew I had the obscure channel carrying the Texas basketball game but didn't have the Titans game, or venture to a sports bar where I knew I could see the Titans but might miss out on seeing 'Horns hoops. I ultimately decided on the sports bar, precisely because Vince Young has, as Big Roy so nicely wrote, recaptured the magic, and with it, our imaginations. Even if the sports bar hadn't found the Texas game, my decision was, um, the right one:

Do not doubt this man. Ever. He's been down before, but unless and until he's actually out... Do. Not. Doubt. This. Man. He's the football equivalent of Jack Bauer: there will be setbacks, ugly moments, things that make you cringe, but in the end, he wins. Spectacularly. Impossibly.

Titans fans undoubtedly thought we Longhorns fans were utterly psychotic with all our disgusted sniping at their doubts, but... yeah. See above. We didn't go to war for Ricky Williams when he was down and nearly out (though we always supported him). With VY, it's different: we're talking about what many of us think is the single best player in the history of college football. Until he's out, we won't doubt him. Ever.

Underestimate him at your own peril.

Horns_bullet_mediumIt gets better. Beyond the pure thrill from watching Vince lead the Titans to five straight wins -- while getting better and better each successive week -- there is now the very real question of whether the Titans can make the playoffs. While at 5-6 Tennessee still sits in the 10th slot in the AFC, they benefited from a terrific weekend of results, with Houston, Pittsburgh, Miami, and Jacksonville all losing. Only a Denver win over the Giants kept it from being a perfect slate of results.

While it's possible Tennessee could sneak into the playoffs with a 9-7 record, it's an incredible long shot because those first six losses to open the season all came against AFC opponents, which put them in terrible position in various tiebreaker scenarios. Let's assume that Vince pulls the impossible and wins all 10 of his starts to get the Titans to 10-6. Here's how they get in:

  1. By winning out the Titans deliver Miami (5-6) it's 7th loss, and thus knock out the Dolphins.
  2. Jacksonville (6-5) drops games to New England and Indy (or any two losses).
  3. Houston drops game either to Jacksonville or New England.
  4. Denver (7-4) drops three of final five: at KC, at Indy, vs Oakland, at Philly, vs KC, or
  5. If Denver gets to 10-6 or better, then: the winner of Baltimore (6-5) at Pittsburgh (6-5) drops two of other four remaining games, and the loser of BAL-PIT drops a second game. (Pittsburgh: vs Oakland, at Cleveland, vs Green Bay, at Miami) (Baltimore: at GB, vs Detroit, vs Chicago, at Oakland)*

Bottom line? Go Chiefs! Go Raiders!

Horns_bullet_mediumStrong start for Big 12 hoops. If the first half dozen games of the season are good indication of what's to come, the Big 12 is going to be awfully strong at the top. A glance at the Pomeroy Ratings as of Monday morning reveals 3 teams in the Top 10, 4 among the top 14, and a fifth at #21:

Rank AdjO AdjD SOS
Texas (5-0) 1 6 1 69
A&M (5-1) 7 7 24 3
Kansas (5-0) 9 5 62 330
Mizzou (4-1) 14 43 20 231
Okie St (6-0) 21 29 47 269

Yup, that's right: After five games -- adjusting for competition and tempo -- your Texas Longhorns are the nation's best. I've been a KenPom junkie for going on five years now, and I cannot ever recall Texas occupying the #1 line in his ratings -- not even for a day or two. We'll find out a lot more about this team in the next month, but the early results certainly look great, especially considering this squad's incredible room to grow. (Jai Lucas isn't even eligible to play until December 15th. Think about that a second.)

Beyond the Longhorns, A&M's off to a great start with two neutral floor wins over Clemson and Minnesota, and a narrow loss to West Virginia. The Jayhawks narrowly escaped Memphis but have thrashed the rest of the garbage on their schedule. Mizzou's up high in the ratings thanks to several extreme blowouts of bad competition, but their loss to the only good team on the schedule thus far (52-59 to Richmond on a neutral floor) raises questions about their legitimacy. Most surprising may be Oklahoma State's strong start, which just ran Utah out of the gym to get to 6-0.

Horns_bullet_mediumTexas opens as 15.5-point favorites vs Nebraska. Texas opened as 15.5-point favorites over Nebraska in the Big 12 Championship game, a line which has since dropped to 14 at several books. I say if you can get that line under two touchdowns, throw down the bet. Thoughts?

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