Notwithstanding the incredible rate of attrition thinning the ranks of the football team in recent weeks, Texas still has enough guys to suit up for Saturday evening's game against the BYU Cougars here in Austin. (Just how bad has it been? The big "good news" story for the week was learning that the two experienced offensive linemen we thought had been kicked off the team for good merely were suspended for BYU and were being given one last chance by the coaching staff. Hooray?)
Head coach Charlie Strong says we've got to just keep our eyes looking forward, work hard, and figure things out with what we've got. I think he was talking about the team, but that serves nicely as instructions for the fan base to follow, as well. Onward, then. It's Football Saturday in Austin.
BYU at Texas Game Day Vitals
Kickoff: 6:30 pm CDT
During the oppressive heat that characterizes early September in Austin, the later the better as far as kickoff times are concerned. In addition to sparing fans and players from the scorching mid-day sun, the late kickoff enables fans to sleep in, tailgate heartily, and watch all of the day game action across the country. And last but not least, Longhorns fans tend to be less docile during night games than those during the day. The only thing that could be better would be a 7:30 pm kickoff. But 6:30 is almost perfect.
Weather: 94 degrees at kickoff, falling to 88 over the course of the game. Mostly cloudy with a 40% chance of rain and 5-10 mph winds.
There's a chance of rain throughout the day, and on the one hand, while that might serve to cool off what should otherwise be a brutally hot day, on the other hand, the forecast is about as uncertain as they come, which could mean the worst of both worlds: a scorching hot day that threatens rain enough to impact tailgaters but never actually does anything to cool things off. A more interesting and important question to ponder is what impact a light but steady rain might have on the game. The only reason the weather doesn't receive the 1-star rating it otherwise deserves is its potential to help the Horns tonight. The strength of this Texas team is the defense, obviously, and we have a strong, solidly mobile sophomore quarterback making his first ever start and genuine questions about his readiness to be an asset throwing the ball under perfect conditions. I don't know that we wouldn't prefer a rugby match in the mud.
Television: Fox Sports 1 (online tool for finding FS1 on your television)
Announcers: Joe Davis, Joey Harrington
Fox Sports 1 is doing some nice things in their bid to compete with the behemoth in Bristol, particularly with their studio crews, but they haven't made much headway in the broadcast booth -- which is a real missed opportunity when the barrier to improvement is, "better than Charles Davis." Alas, Davis is back with Gus Johnson to form FS1's A-Team in the booth, which is a pretty mediocre A-Team but still preferable to FS1's B-Team that will call Texas-BYU tonight. Joe Davis is only 26 years old and is where he is because he has spent his whole life training his voice to perfectly reflect all the worst qualities in modern play-by-play announcers. It's tolerable as atmospherics during a fall evening when your TV is tuned to whatever random game is playing on ESPN2 at 9:00 pm, but tonight Davis will simply serve to make Texas-BYU feel like its a random game playing at 9:00 pm on ESPN2. All that being said, each potential word out of Joey Harrington's mouth that is precluded by Davis's slow intonations is a precious gift to the broadcast audience. Frankly, I'm surprised FS1 is allowing Harrington an encore on the heels of his truly awful debut in the booth last year.
Texas Record: 1-0 (W, 38-7 vs N. Texas last week)
There were plenty of things to like about Texas' performance against UNT in the season opener -- particularly on defense -- but the losses of Ash and Espinosa were crushing losses to an offense that already had very little margin for error heading into the year.
BYU Record: 1-0 (W, 35-10 at UConn last week)
The most enlightening thing I can say about BYU's win last week, which I didn't see and would know nothing about if not for Wescott's helpful report, is that 35-10 feels like a very Bronco Mendenhall kind of win for an opener against UConn. I'lll go out on a limb, then, and predict that BYU's team this year looks a whole lot like Mendenhall's previous BYU teams: mentally and physically tough players who execute consistently and in unison on offense, and play sound assignment football on defense.
Last Meeting: BYU 40, Texas 21 (2013)
Sunday will mark the one-year anniversary of the 40-21 beatdown BYU laid on Texas last season in Provo, that final score not reflecting just how thoroughly outclassed and generally hapless were the Horns. By the time the game mercifully came to an end, the game became an instant contender for the worst showing by a Texas football coaching staff in 30 years. Manny Diaz's defense literally lacked the capacity to stop a QB draw up the middle, while Major Applewhite decided that a 19-point deficit in the 4th quarter was no reason not to see if using David Ash like a battering ram might lead to a comeback for his overmatched offense, only to have it lead to a concussion for David Ash, from which he still has not recovered fully. Although only Manny Diaz lost his job on Monday after the game, the fail parade in Provo effectively sealed the fate of Mack Brown and the rest of his staff, as well.
Las Vegas Line: BYU (-1) over UT; Over/Under = 46 points.
The Longhorns opened as 4.5 point favorites over BYU, but that was before the rash of bad news that unfolded over the course of the week: Espinosa is lost for the year... Ash will not play... there are no offensive linemen left on the roster. Honestly, an even bigger line swing wouldn't have been surprising, and 5.5 points is substantial to begin with. Having not gathered much meaningful first-hand knowledge about BYU this year, there isn't a lot of value in my speculation, so I'll just end this by wondering aloud when the last time Texas was a home underdog in a non-conference game. Ohio State '06?
Enjoy your Football Saturday, and hook 'em!