The college football season is still young, but the Texas Longhorns are facing their second daunting task in only three weeks when the California Golden Bears come into DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium Saturday night.
As we all know, the first challenge didn’t end to well for the Horns, with Texas getting flat-out embarrassed against a No. 11 Notre Dame team in South Bend. In last week’s 42-28 victory over the Rice Owls, Texas unquestionably displayed some positive signs of progress, but just as convincing were the areas of concern – Rice converted 14-of-21 third-down attempts, accrued 462 yards of total offense, and controlled the clocked for greater than 44 minutes. However, it’s worth noting that the time of possession for that matchup can be a misconstrued statistic, as Texas offense scored in a hurry, while the special teams and defense both put points on the board, as well.
But Cal is not Rice, and the noted areas of concern, if not greatly improved upon tonight, will all-but-surely result in a 1-2 start for Charlie Strong and the Longhorns. A potent California offense is headlined by a projected first-round NFL selection in junior quarterback Jared Goff, with a slew of explosive receivers at his disposal. Throughout Cal’s 2-0 start, six receivers have already hauled in at least four passes, including four receptions for 170 yards and a touchdown by Trevor Davis, and eight catches for 103 yards and three touchdowns by Kenny Lawler.
Although Texas’ secondary has no shortage of talent, it’s a young, unproven secondary that will likely be bested in trying to stop a Cal offense that ranks third in the NCAA with 396 ypg. through the air (570 total ypg). Of course, numbers never tell the complete story, and that holds true with a Cal team that simply hasn’t seen a true test yet this season, knocking off Grambling State and San Diego State, but unless the Texas front line that’s failed to generate pressure – only three sacks this season – can make Goff’s life uncomfortable in the pocket, the Longhorns secondary will be in for a long evening.
If the Longhorns, who have dominated this series historically (5-0), plan on continuing their success, it will likely have to win a shootout. Newly-named starting quarterback Jerrod Heard displayed his ability to generate big plays with a 32-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Armanti Foreman and a 69-yard touchdown bomb to freshman John Burt. But he’ll undeniably have to receive some considerable help from his defense and the special teams unit to make the life of a Texas offense still transitioning into a new system much easier.
In every facet of the game – offense, defense, and special teams – Texas has the playmakers to come out on top against Cal, but it would take some tremendous contributions from each unit to do so. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Texas pull the upset, but with so many unanswered question facing off against one of the most formidable quarterbacks and offenses in the country, I think Cal will simply be too much for the young Longhorns.
Prediction: Cal: 37, Texas: 24
How to watch, listen and stream
TV: FOX, Saturday, Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m. ET
Radio: Texas — KTXX FM 104.9 (Austin), among other participating Longhorn Radio Network affiliates, Satellite Radio — Sirius Ch. 117, XM Ch. 202, and Sirius/XM Internet Ch. 969; XM Ch. 550 en Español
Online Streaming: FOX Sports GO (video), TexasSports.com (audio)
Weather: High of 96 degrees / Low of 70 degrees / Precipitation 10%
Bovada Betting Odds: California (-6.5)