In this week's edition of the BON roundtable, our writers talk about expectations for the rest of the season, Texas' quarterback battle between Sam Ehlinger and Shane Buechele, and of course predictions for Saturday night's game against TCU.
Our full discussion is below.
What did you learn about this Texas team from the Baylor game and how does that change your expectations going forward?
Cody Daniel, co-editor: It's hard to take too much away from a fairly dominant win over a winless team, but we did see flashes of what Texas can be when things are rolling and its not hurting itself. At this point in the season, my expectations haven't changed too much, largely because per usual, injuries are making life more difficult than it should be in Austin.
Anthony Rizzo, contributor: It was Baylor but Texas was able to put together a complete game from start to finish. Buechele got the ball out quick and was very accurate. Both freshmen running backs looked elusive and ran well. It looks like the offense has found an identity going forward. My expectations remain at a 7-5 season.
Wes Crochet, contributor: Offensively, I learned that the staff does have the ability to actually mold the offense to fit the players it has (like Buechele at QB). Overall, Texas met the expectations, which was needed.
Gerald Goodridge, contributor: Previous Texas teams had a penchant for taking a game that should be a cakewalk and turning it into a nail biter. After TCU, Texas has three games on the schedule that - barring a disaster in Fort Worth - in which they will be considered the favorite. If the team continues to take the “1-0” mantra to heart, they legitimately have a shot at ending the regular season with seven wins.
Who would you rather see start at QB for the 'Horns this weekend and why?
Cody: Given the fact that TCU has struggled against mobile quarterbacks over the years and how an already struggling running game will be without Toneil Carter, I think Ehlinger is the better option due to his running ability. But of course, Buechele took most of the first team reps and will likely get the start.
Anthony: Shane Buechele. He finally looks fully healthy and is playing behind an offensive line that is better than it was his last start against Iowa State. I love Ehlinger and he is the future quarterback for this program, but the sophomore deserves another chance. Can’t let his career at Texas be tarnished by injuries. Buechele is much quicker with his decision making on the short throws and can throw the deep ball better than Ehlinger.
Wes: I still lean Ehlinger. I still see him as the more impactful leader of this team than Buechele.
Gerald: I want to see Buechele get the start. The Baylor game showed that if the offensive line can create a pocket and allow Buechele to get comfortable and make reads, he’s the better passer. If TCU’s pass rush is not allowing that to happen, Ehlinger’s wheels will be needed.
Toneil Carter received a team high 15 carries last weekend and is currently listed as a co-starter on this week's depth chart. Is Carter the guy going forward and why has he found the success that players like Chris Warren and Kyle Porter haven't?
(NOTE: Toneil Carter has since been ruled out for Saturday's game, but this question still applies to the running back situation going forward. )
Cody: I'm not ready to proclaim Carter as the long-term answer just yet, but at least as far this season is concerned, he and Daniel Young provide an ability to make defenders miss and pick up extra yardage that Warren and Porter haven't had this season.
Anthony: Yes, Carter should be the guy going forward. He is simply more elusive and better at making cuts than Warren and Porter are. Warren and Porter are downhill runners that don’t have the ability to make guys miss. Their power running style isn’t going to work when they’re getting hit at the line of scrimmage at times.
Wes: I wouldn't say Carter is "the guy" because I'd like to see a split between Carter and fellow freshman Daniel Young. They are "the guys." Both Carter and Young showed a quicker burst into the hole than Warren/Porter (though it was against a bad Baylor defense).
Gerald: Obviously now that he has a concussion, the conversion shifts, but prior to that he’s the guy I want to see get touches. It feels like Warren and Porter hesitate when there’s contact in the backfield, something that Carter has not shown in his limited touches.
Iowa State has success with its talented wide receiver corps against the Horned Frogs last weekend. How can the strengths of Texas' wide receivers exploit the TCU secondary?
Cody: Iowa State found success because of its big, physical wide receivers. I wouldn't be surprised if we see plenty of set where Collin Johnson (6'6), Dorian Leonard (6'5) and Lil'Jordan Humphrey (6'5) are all on the field at one time. From that point, Buechele just needs to put the ball in places only his receivers can get it.
Anthony: Exploit the size difference between Collin Johnson and TCU’s 5’10” corner, Ranthony Texada. Johnson has had multiple big games this season when the ball is thrown his way. This needs to be a game where he gets 10+ targets, he has all the tools to have a big game like Lazard did.
Wes: I hesitate to call the receivers a "strength," not because that position doesn't have talent — it does. I hesitate because the offense has been so inconsistent. The receivers can do damage if the offense can consistently get them the ball down the field. Whether or not that will happen is still the question.
Gerald: Size. 6-foot-5 Allen Lazard was dominant against the TCU secondary and allowed them to keep TCU off the field. If Texas’s big guys, Dorian Leonard, Collin Johnson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey to name a few, can get going, it could spell good things for Texas
What do you expect Todd Orlando's game plan to be in order to stop TCU's solid rushing attack and QB Kenny Hill?
Cody: I'd expect a lot of bodies in the box and multiple disguised blitzes. With Holton Hill and DeShon Elliott having emerged in the secondary, test them out on an island and overwhelm Hill and the ground game with multiple bodies and force TCU to beat you through the air.
Anthony: Dial lots of run blitzes throughout the game to hold TCU’s run game to a minimal. I’m not worried about Kenny Hill on the ground simply because our LB’s and edge rushers have been phenomenal containing quarterbacks this season. Malik Jefferson has held a huge responsibility for that.
Wes: Stopping the run has almost come natural for this Texas defense this season (it's been nice, very nice), I expect more of the same. And if the defense can rattle Kenny Hill, it'll absolutely give this Texas team a fighting chance to pull the upset.
Gerald: I expect the scheme to focus on making TCU one-dimensional and put the pressure all on Kenny Hill to beat you. In spite of his big performances, at times he has cracked under the pressure, like we saw against Iowa State.
How big will the absence of PJ Locke be for the Texas secondary?
Cody: If TCU were an explosive passing offense then I'd be more worried about it, but with the Horned Frogs strength being its ground game and intermediate passing attack, the Texas secondary should be fine.
Anthony: His absence won’t be missed too much. Locke has struggled in coverage at times this season, but he has been a good open field tackler. CB Antwuan Davis will have to prove himself early on. If not, the freshman CB Josh Thompson will get his chance as the Nickel guy.
Wes: Losing Locke isn't great, though Texas can manage. This answer would be different if Texas had lost Holton Hill or DeShon Elliott.
Gerald: Losing your defensive captain obviously will hurt from a leadership and emotional perspective. In spite of some blown coverages this year, Locke has been solid in the secondary so Antwuan Davis will have to step up in a major way.
Who is your impact Texas defensive player for this weekend and why?
Cody: Breckyn Hager. Now that he's finally seeing the field, Hager has been an absolute force against Oklahoma State and Baylor. If Texas is going to get pressure on Hill and overwhelm him, which it will need to do to have a chance to win, Hager can play a huge role in that happening.
Anthony: S Brandon Jones. Jones will be tested down the field at times against TCU’s talented receiving core. He has to limit the mistakes and have a big game like he did against Kansas State.
Wes: Breckyn Hager has been coming on stronger and stronger. I'll say he'll get into the backfield multiple times to make Kenny Hill uncomfortable.
Gerald: A guy that won’t show up on the box score, but if Poona Ford can create chaos in the center of the defense, it allows the rest of the front to play more free. Clogging up a few running lanes and pushing the center back a few yards on pass plays can really disrupt an offense’s flow.
What's your prediction for the game?
Cody: 17-16 Texas.
Anthony: 20-16 TCU. With TCU coming off their first loss of the season and having the College Football Playoff hopes on the line, they will be playing with an extra edge like Oklahoma was.
Wes: TCU 24, Texas 17
Gerald: I think a relatively low-scoring affair with TCU edging out a win 21-17