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BON Roundtable: No. 9 Texas faces challenge against TCU to remain undefeated

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After a disappointing performance, Texas will host a TCU team that’s had its number in recent years. What must the Horns do to avoid an upset and remain perfect?

NCAA Football: Texas at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Last Saturday, the Texas Longhorns escaped with an improbable road win over Texas Tech, and the game film certainly provides plenty of opportunity for improvement going forward.

The Burnt Orange Nation staff got together to discuss what adjustments Texas needs to make to remain perfect against a TCU program that’s won five of its previous six meetings with the Horns.

Texas squandered a double-digit lead, and then erased one to escape Lubbock with an OT win. Does blowing a 10-point lead or producing 22 quick points to win say more about this Texas team?

Cody Daniel — To me it’s the 22 unanswered points. Texas still produced 38 points before its second-half drought, so it isn’t as if the offense was just horrible; Texas Tech just features an offense that forces you to keep pace. But 22 unanswered points in such short order should provide some confidence for this team going forward that they can still come out on top if faced with a similar situation.

Cameron Parker — The 22 unanswered points shows this offense can pretty much score at will, but the 10-point blown lead shows this team still has a lot of work to do. Texas shouldn’t be blowing doubl-digits leads to the Texas Tech’s or the TCU’s or the Iowa State’s of the Big 12

Anthony Rizzo — A bit of both. In large part to some special teams mistakes, I think scoring 15 points with 3:13 remaining says a whole lot more than blowing an early double-digit lead. The fact that this offense has shown they can strike on big plays and convert at a high rate is encouraging. They just have to be more consistent so they don’t put themselves in that position again. Situational coaching has a lot to do with that — when to stick with the run and control LOS vs. when to air it out more.

Daniel Seahorn — In this case I’ll say the 22 points unanswered given the circumstances. The second half of the game was anything but pretty for the Texas offense, and once Tech hit the long touchdown run they could have easily waved the white flag. Instead they mounted a furious rally in the final minutes in regulation and finished it off in overtime. I have to give them credit here, but they should have never been in that position.

Despite the disappointing second half, Texas is now in the driver’s seat in the Big 12 with Oklahoma losing. What early adjustments does Texas need to make to remain the conference favorite?

Cody — The offensive line has been a mess at times, and at some point, Texas’ inability to create consistent pressure on the quarterback could be the difference in a win or loss. I think the latter will be easier to adjust given the talent along the line. And, of course, Texas simply can’t miss nearly 30 tackles and expect to enjoy what could become a special season.

Cameron — Herb Hand needs to fix the woes on the offensive line and the Horns defense has to learn how to make a tackle. Texas has avoided the injury bug so far with the exception of Smith/Whittington, which is also key to a conference title run.

Anthony — The way defensive coordinator Chris Ash prepares and adapts his defense for the different Big 12 offenses they’ll face will go a long way for how much success this team has. I’m quite confident in Sam Ehlinger and offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich to get the job done by outscoring teams, but they must control the LOS and avoid costly penalties for that to happen. Need strong offensive line play all-around.

Seahorn — Get the offensive line and the run game clicking. The Texas offense is at its best when they are able to have some balance to their offensive attack, and for that to happen the play of the offensive line needs to improve going forward.

By his standards, Sam Ehlinger had a lackluster day against Texas Tech, yet still finished with six total touchdowns. Overall, his numbers are great, so why isn’t Ehlinger getting much Heisman hype early on?

Cody — I think the lack of dominant on Texas’ part as a whole hurts him. Statistically, Ehlinger has been arguably the best gunslinger in the nation in recent years, yet Texas’ best season with Ehlinger at the helm still featured four losses; an effort followed by an 8-5 mark last season. If Ehlinger does continue to perform at this rate and Texas, in turn, continues winning, he should be very much in the conversation for an invite in December.

Cameron — It feels like Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields were already booked for the Heisman ceremony before the season started and it still feels that way even though Fields hasn’t taken a snap yet. But if Ehlinger continues to put numbers like he did against UTEP and Tech and the Horns remain undefeated, his stock will rise.

Anthony — That hype will come when, or I should say if, Texas establishes themselves as an elite team on a week-to-week basis. These next two games against TCU and Oklahoma are monumental for Ehlinger’s Heisman hopes.

Seahorn — Ehlinger isn’t a household name like Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields and that is mainly because of Texas’ struggles on the field. If the Longhorns continue to win and do what they are capable of offensively then the hype for Ehlinger will follow.

Texas is 1-5 in its last six meetings with TCU, yet enters Saturday’s matchup as a double-digit favorite. Which players or position groups must win their matchups for Texas to avoid their own early-season letdown and yet another defeat to Gary Patterson’s program?

Cody — The trenches on each side are must-wins, and the Longhorns secondary must be able to win its fair share of matchups. It’s probably safe to assume Texas is going to put up plenty of points, but the D-line and secondary need to be able to apply pressure and prevent big chunks of yards through the air to ensure TCU does’t keep pace. That all said, I think the key matchup here is the coaching matchup — TCU has schemed and coached its way to seemingly countless wins against more talented teams, including Texas. That can’t happen on Saturday.

Cameron — The biggest matchup to me is the Texas O-line vs the TCU D-line. Iowa State thrashed the Horned Frogs on the ground last week and if Texas can own the trenches, keep Ehlinger from being sacked, and have success running the ball, they’ll be able to win.

Anthony — It certainly starts with winning the battle in the trenches on both sides of the ball. First and foremost by giving Ehlinger time in the pocket, but also by stopping the run on defense, especially on designed quarterback runs from Duggan. TCU showed they were vulnerable against Iowa State’s run defense last week, averaging 2.3 yards on 43 carries. Tight end Artayvious Lynn and slot receiver Taye Barber are dangerous and must be kept on watch at all times — they can give Texas’ linebackers lots of problems in coverage.

Seahorn — The offensive line and the secondary. The offensive line needs to be able to protect Ehlinger and establish the threat of the run early and the secondary needs to make Duggan earn everything and not give up the big play.

Following Matthew Downing’s struggles, Max Duggan completed 16-of-19 attempts for 241 yards and three touchdowns in the second half. Should we expect another shootout in Austin on Saturday?

Cody — Unless the Texas defense looks drastically different in just one week, I’d say that’s likely to be the case. Not quite like what we saw in Lubbock, but if forced to choose, I’d take the over (63).

Cameron — I wouldn’t expect Texas to score 50 or 60-plus points again but I think a 37-27 score like last year is very likely.

Anthony — TCU’s passing game looked improved with wide receivers coach and former offensive coordinator Doug Meachem back on staff, so expect another test for the Longhorns secondary. It won’t quite be a UT-TTU shootout style of game, but I’d expect high-quality quarterback play on both sides.

Seahorn — I think we will see better defensive efforts than we saw last week, but I still expect see some crooked numbers put up on the scoreboard by both teams on Saturday.

Prediction time: Does Texas avoid a letdown as the heavy favorite and remain perfect?

Cody — I expect a better defensive performance because, well, Texas’ defense can’t really get much worse than it did last week. And while I don’t expect 63 points offensively, I think we’ll see improved consistency on offense. Texas won’t look elite this week, either, but they’ll look just good enough to win a close game, 41-34.

Cameron — I know the standings show Texas is 2-0, but let’s face it, Texas should be 1-1. Until I see that Texas has really turned the corner, I’ll stay on the side of caution. TCU wins 38-34.

Anthony — Texas is seeking its first 3-0 start since 2012, the longest drought in the Big 12 besides Kansas. Patterson owns Herman, but with Ehlinger on Texas’ side, I don’t see how this team doesn’t win a revenge game against Duggan and the Horned Frogs. This should be a close one. Jake Smith ends up being the ultimate difference maker... Texas 45, TCU 37.

Seahorn — I had an unsettling feeling predicting the Tech win last week and I can’t seem to shake that feeling for this matchup. I feel like Texas is the better team on paper this year, but Gary Patterson always seems to have his team ready to play when Texas is on the schedule. I am predicting a tight win for the Frogs 38-34.