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Pre-Game Musings: Colorado at Texas

Horns_bullet_mediumHow bad are the Buffs? Colorado is better than a bread box but worse than Toledo. The quantitative translation according to Vegas: the Longhorns open as 32 point favorites. Other signs Dan Hawkins is running an intramural squad:

  • Colorado SID Dave Plati has conditioned press credentials on media publishers disabling comments for stories about the team.1
  • Until last week, the Buffs were starting the worst pair of safeties I have ever seen on a (Division 1) football field. It's difficult to say which sophomore was worse against Toledo -- Anthony "Six-And-A-Half Steps Late" Perkins or Jonathan "When You're Not Running Past Me I'm Diving At Your Ankles" Mahnke -- but the tough decision was made to demote Mahnke. When asked about the demotion Coach Hawk explained that while neither of them gets to the ball in time, on the off chance they do, Perkins is slightly less likely to miss the tackle. At least we think that's what he was getting at with his answer: "By nature men are nearly alike; by practice they are wide apart."
  • CU quarterbacks have passed for a 103.1 QB Rating, worse than 109 of 120 Division 1 teams.
  • Following their 1-3 start, for Dan Hawkins to fulfill his promise that the team would win 10 games this season, Colorado would have to win 7 of its 8 remaining regular season games, the Big 12 championship game, and the Fiesta Bowl. (Or win out and lose in the Fiesta Bowl.)
  • Colorado's defense is yielding an average of 6.3 yards per play overall and an unconscinable 6.9 yards per play on first down. And with that, we invoke the mercy rule. More thoughts on the actual game after the jump.

1Though I have in the past spoken with Mr. Plati, and like and respect him, this seems to me incredibly myopic and not in the university's best long-term interests. I'll withhold a full expose on the topic for another time and place. (Perhaps here?)  

Horns_bullet_mediumLooking ahead? It being certain that Colorado is a bad football team (and that my saying so is just the latest manifestation of SHORTHORN ARROGANCE), one might be tempted to argue that Mack Brown should approach the game conservatively, both to "save" our best looks for Oklahoma and minimize the risk of injury to key players. It's not an unreasonable thought, but for several reasons I think it's the wrong one.

For starters, with Texas coming off a bye week the Buffaloes offer 60 minutes of live competition to return to form. You can practice a hundred hours a week, but it's a fundamentally different exercise than live competition. The last thing Texas needs in the Cotton Bowl is to take a quarter or half to get going because players were trying to "flip on the switch" after going through the motions against Colorado. As Coach Hawkins is fond of saying: "He who kills the rodent today, bags the snake tomorrow." Or maybe that was Joe Kines. I forget.

Second, surprising the enemy on the football field is not like surprising the enemy on the battlefield. The only thing stupider than waiting to unload all your best stuff against your stiffest challenger is waiting to unload your best stuff after you've lost again to Oklahoma. Those days are thankfully behind us, and while the coaches will surely have a few wrinkles to add for Oklahoma, the RRS won't be a 60 minute series of Gotcha! moments. As always, it will be about well-coordinated series of plays, executed well. Give Oklahoma's defense a lot to process; the only times Brent Venables units dominate is when they can just out-athlete inferior competition.

And finally, there's no reason to believe you can tip-toe your way around injuries. A guy will either be in the wrong place at the wrong time, or he won't, and Lady Luck is indiscriminate about when and where she appears.


"I think you mean an indiscriminate BITCH!"

Horns_bullet_mediumOpportunities knock. Not only would it hurt Texas to wait a week to fire the jets again, it would be a waste. As dominant as the team oftentimes has looked, few would say this group is running at max capacity. To name a few opportunities available on Saturday:

  • Get Malcolm Williams going. I noted my confusion when Texas' preseason depth chart listed Shipley as the starting split end and Williams in Cosby's vacated Sub-B position. It's not that Shipley can't play the position, or that if Williams isn't getting it done at split end that his superior blocking makes a move to the slot sensible. I'll even concede that this is a proper area to give the coaches the benefit of the doubt, given their more intimate knowledge of how guys are performing day in and out at practice. But if my plea for change is not meant as a criticism, it very much is a disagreement about the choice, however defensible. Simply put, it seems to me this team's properly trained goals (Pasadena or bust) should dictate making "high reward" choices where the risk level is in the acceptably low range. Developing Malcolm Williams has enormous potential reward and little to not risk, given the acceptable back up plan should the gambit prove fruitless. The coaches instead started the year with the alternative plan. Though they got it backwards and are beginning to re-commit to Williams at split end, the opportunities to develop against ULM, Wyoming, and to a lesser degree UTEP were wasted. No sense lingering on sunk costs, though -- the coaches have another opportunity this Saturday to try getting things going with Williams. My gut says he's in for a rewarding evening -- put me down for 5 catches and a score.
  • Take the Foz for a test drive. All hail the clutchy clutchness of Tre Newton, and good for Vondrell McGee for bouncing back to form against UTEP. Both players are perfectly capable tailbacks worth playing. Neither player, however, has the upside of the Mythical Fozzy Creature. Or maybe not and this is my Merrill Hoge Moment where I'm just stuck on the idea because of my preseason prognostications. What we do know is that Fozzy Whittaker is reported to be 100% healthy for the first time and if he is another "high reward" player who's only yet to prove it, the time to find out is Saturday. If it doesn't work out or he gets hurt once again, the 'Horns have an army of good-not-great tailbacks. Low risk, high reward.
  • Use the corners to stop the run. At their best, Chykie Brown, Aaron Williams, and Curtis Brown are elite cover guys, and there will come a time this season when Texas will need to leave them on islands to liberate the interior defenders to thwart a potent rushing attack. Colorado's offense is but a practice run, but good practice it will be. If Texas buries Colorado's running game in the first half, there's little in Cody Hawkins game to believe the 'Horns can't three-and-out the Buffs into a 28-0 halftime deficit.
  • Build the momentum along the O-Line. It often hasn't been pretty, but the offensive line has been spurting forward. The scaling back of the stretch plays and emergence of our bizarre version of the kinda-counter have illuminated the strengths and weaknesses of both individual players and the unit as a whole. With Michael Huey back to health and Tray Allen's exciting big step forward, even the preseason depth concerns are fading. It doesn't take Hannibal's army to be successful running the football in the Big 12 and there's no better assist Greg Davis could offer his star QB. I hope the positive trend continues.