Texas Longhorns football will be fighting for its first bowl win since 2012, but the BON writers predict a very difficult match-up for Tom Herman’s squad in the Texas Bowl tonight against the Missouri Tigers.
Three out of four of our writers picked the Tigers to win, and two of those predictions have Missouri winning by double digits.
With a significant amount of injuries, suspensions, and early NFL departures plaguing the ‘Horns, there is some cause for concern that Texas could struggle.
We aren’t solely pessimistic, however, as the roundtable also discusses how the Texas Bowl can provide a great opportunity for unexpected players to thrive. And if Texas’ defense can limit Missouri QB Drew Lock, the ‘Horns could very well get the dub.
Before we talk Missouri, the Longhorns recently had a very successful signing day, and currently hold the No. 3 recruiting class in the nation. Which signee are you most excited for and why?
Anthony Rizzo: Caden Sterns. The brother of former Oklahoma State safety Caleb Sterns has the potential to be a ballhawking safety for the ‘Horns. I’m excited to see Sterns and the rest the 2018 defensive back signees bring the real DBU back.
Gerald: Not the sexiest pick, but offensive tackle Rafiti Ghirmai is a top-tier player at a huge area of need for Texas. Getting a player that can play both guard and tackle can help Texas fill depth needs early, as well as push the more tenured players to get better. Junior Angilau would be my first-pick, but the possibility of missing two years with him gives me pause with the immediate needs at offensive line.
Wes Crochet: I'm going with Keontay Ingram. He has a chance to be an electric running back at Texas.
Wesley Watts: I’m most excited about BJ Foster. His versatility and athleticism should make him an instant contributor for the 2018 ‘Horns. Casey Thompson is a close second. Out of all the QBs on the roster, I think he fits what Herman wants to do most.
Would a win over Missouri in the Texas Bowl significantly change the narrative of the season in your mind? Why or why not?
Anthony: Not significantly, but it would be a good momentum building win heading into next season. The seniors have yet to win a bowl game and it’d be nice to send them off on a positive note.
Gerald: A win in the bowl gives a lot more validity to the talks of trusting the process and being patient with results. I would also love to see the seniors on this roster, who came to Texas while it was down, go out with a bowl win and the feeling like their choice to come and try to rebuild this program made a difference.
Wes: Significantly? No. Though it would absolutely be a positive note to end on. Don't get me wrong, Texas needs this win for sure.
Wesley: I don’t know if it would significantly change it. I thought this team could’ve won 10 games. But it would give me hope for the future and not make the season feel like such a failure.
Texas will have at least eight unavailable players for the bowl game due to suspensions, injury, and players skipping the game to prepare for the NFL draft. Who is the most important player that will not be suiting up for the 'Horns and why?
Anthony: Malik Jefferson (if he doesn’t play). Missouri’s up-tempo and high scoring offense can give teams fits. Jefferson brings a different edge when he plays. His absence will be missed on third down blitzes and his ability to cover so much ground with his speed.
Gerald: Malik Jefferson felt like the linchpin of this defense all season. Need a big stop in the run game? Malik fills a hole. Need a stop on a third down? Malik hurries the qb and comes up with a sack. There is no way to understate the importance of a sideline-to-sideline linebacker like Malik Jefferson.
Wes: DeShon Elliott comes to mind first. He was essentially a safety blanket for the backside of the defense most of the season.
Wesley: Connor Williams. I think you can blame the offensive line for this years failure and it all started going downhill when he got hurt. He was Texas’ best player bar none.
What unlikely player is going to step up in the absence of the Texas stars not playing in the game?
Anthony: Jason Hall. Without DeShon Elliott, Hall will be the next man up at the safety position. He’s been known for his hard hitting ability and has been solid in coverage this season, too. We’ll see a couple of blitzes dialed up for Hall in this game.
Gerald: Gary Johnson flashed some huge plays and a ton of upside at several times throughout the season, and will be called on to fill in some of Malik Jefferson's spots on defense. The former No. 1 junior college linebacker is a playmaker, and will be called upon during several big spots against the Tigers.
Wes: I'm going with Brandon Jones. This could be a game where he really steps up as a leader with DeShon out.
Wesley: I’m going to go with a unit, rather than one guy. Texas is losing their two best players on defense. But yet I think they’ll put on a good show against a potent Mizzou attack.
It looks like Shane Buechele will get the start in the Texas Bowl. Is this the right move? Why or why not?
Anthony: It’s fine with me. Herman wants to reward Buechele for his hard work and performance in practice. I respect the decision. A good bowl game performance from Buechele would create some more buzz about the QB1 competition heading into the offseason.
Gerald: If the line can hold up, I think Buechele gives the Texas offense a better chance to keep up with the Missouri passing attack. He throws a better ball than Ehlinger at this point, and Missouri lights up the scoreboard. If the line struggles, expect Buechele to struggle.
Wes: I'm not sure there is a right move at the moment, though I get this move. Ehlinger has been careless with the football and it’s cost this team.
Wesley: I think Sam is the QB for the future. But Shane is the better QB now. So the decision comes down to do you want to develop Sam or try to win? I’d rather Sam take his licks and continue his development with a bowl start. The coaches obviously think differently.
From what you know about Missouri, how do you feel about how Texas matches up with the Tigers?
Anthony: Not very well, but with as good as the Texas defense has been against high-scoring offenses, it’s better than it looks. The secondary will be tested without Elliott and Drew Lock is one of the better quarterbacks from the SEC so it’ll be a challenge. The ‘Horns will have to put up some points on offense which has not been easy this season.
Gerald: With all of the injuries and early-departures on defense, the Tigers' passing attack worries me. The Tigers love to air the ball out, and with Holton Hill, DeShon Elliott and Malik Jefferson all out, the defense is going to struggle to keep up.
Wes: Missouri's offense could be too much to handle for a defense that will be without multiple key players. For Texas to win, this will have to be a low-scoring affair.
Wesley: Losing Elliot and potentially Malik hurts. Bad. But as I previously stated I think they have a good shot. As it has all year I think it’s going to come down to whether the O can put up enough points. I don’t think they will.
Who is going to be the MVP of the Texas bowl?
Anthony: Collin Johnson. Johnson is going to have to make some big-time plays in this game with whoever is throwing to him at quarterback. Against a below average Missouri secondary (allowing 261.8 passing yards per game), the opportunity will be there for Johnson to have a huge game.
Gerald: Whichever team wins, the quarterback is the MVP. If Texas wins, I think Shane Buechele has a big game and reminds fans of why he was the guy a year ago. If Missouri wins, Drew Lock puts up big numbers against a deflated Texas defense.
Wes: I tend to think it will be a Missouri offensive player. Quarterback Drew Lock has as good a chance as anyone.
Wesley: Drew Lock will make a few key plays to win the game for Mizzou and secure MVP.
What's your score prediction for the game?
Anthony: Texas 27, Missouri 24.
Gerald: 35-21 Missouri
Wes: 31-24, Missouri
Wesley: 20-7 Mizzou. I’d love to be proven wrong though.
BONUS: Best Christmas present you ever got?
Anthony: As many jerseys that I got as a kid for Christmas, getting a Tom Brady and Dwayne Wade jersey was my all-time favorite gift.
Gerald: Super Nintendo and Legend of Zelda. Still play both to this day.
Wes: A football signed by the late Darrell K. Royal.
Wesley: My wife agreeing to marry me last year the week before Christmas was pretty dope. I know it was before actual Christmas Day but it out the icing on the cake for the whole holiday season.