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Roundtable: Can Texas limit Sonny Dykes and the explosive TCU offense?

Plus. the good and bad from last week’s win over Kansas State

NCAA Football: Texas at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Ugly or not, Texas secured their first road win of the year against Kansas State in a hold-your-breath 34-27 finish. Let’s start with the good. Why did Saturday’s win encourage you?

Cameron Parker (@camerondparker) - Because Texas did something they haven’t really been able to do over the past decade: win against a top-ranked team on the road. It takes baby steps to build a dominant powerhouse program like the Alabama’s and Ohio State’s, but it can’t be accomplished in one day. The defense stepped up, Quinn didn’t commit any turnovers, and Sark trusted his best player on the road to get it done.

Daniel Seahorn (@DanielSeahorn) - Even though it wasn’t perfect, Texas went on the road in a hostile environment against a team that has given them the blues in the past and found a way to knock off a ranked opponent. I call that improvement and it will give this team confidence as they prepare to host a top-five opponent in TCU in a couple of days. Steve Sarkisian and his staff have been trying to get this team over the hump when it comes to struggling on the road and the win in Manhattan is a step in the right direction.

Gerald Goodridge (@ghgoodridge) - I think we’ll know a bit more about what it actually means on Saturday, but I think there’s something to be said about the mental load that comes off when you’re looking at “here we go again” and you manage to avoid the loss. Hopefully, this allows them to relax their shoulders in the second half and play a bit more freely, even in the face of adversity.

Cody Daniel (@CodyDanielSBN) - Encouraging part is how easily Texas continues to build leads, and at some point, I’d think Sark and his staff can adjust better to avoid turning everything into a nail-biter. And of course, if all you showed me was the score, it’s hard not to feel good about a top-15 win on the road.

Now the bad - Texas scoring struggles in the second half continued against Kansas State, managing just 3 points against the Wildcats after halftime. Is this fixable?

Cameron - Sark admitted he was conservative on purpose because he didn’t want to turn the ball over in the 2nd half. I understand that but I also don’t understand the lack of creativity when we see it in the 1st half and the success that it has.

Daniel - It is fixable, but it is also a little concerning that we are in the final few weeks of the season and these problems are still persisting with this team. At this point in the year, the players have a lot of snaps under their belt and the coaches have a lot of data to work with, so it needs to be figured out what the offense struggles to put points on the board come the 2nd half of ball games after sprinting out to early leads.

Gerald - I think we’re seeing a combination of two things, part execution and part scheme. I don’t think it would be hard to convince anyone at this point that Sark is elite at game planning and scripting, but is getting out-adjusted at halftime. There are times when he goes back to the well a bit too much (think 4th Down toss play against Kansas State) and it gets sniffed out. That being said, in some of these second-half struggles, there are times when the plays are there and the players aren’t executing. We’ve seen Quinn Ewers overthrow Xavier Worthy on open touchdowns and Casey Cain’s route-running struggles were so bad that I couldn’t tell you the last time I noticed him on the field. The execution issue, in my opinion, is easier to fix and could be fixed as soon as this week.

Cody - I think it’s fixable, but I’m not sure it is this season. This is a trend under Sark and I think it will require an offseason to really evaluate their second-half struggles and how they can improve this issue as a whole, not for just one game.

Saturday’s win over Kansas State was Steve Sarkisian’s biggest win at Texas, but this week’s game against TCU is the biggest game of his tenure. Agree or disagree?

Cameron - Yes and yes.

Daniel - I’ll agree to that. There is a lot at stake in this game for the program both on and off the field. The visitor's list for recruits is absolutely loaded and Sarkisian and his staff have a chance to really provide a jolt in recruiting efforts on the field and put themselves in a great position to make a run to the Big 12 championship game in Dallas.

Gerald - I don’t think it's overstating it at all to say that this is the biggest game of his tenure thus far. There aren’t many to choose from, but the conference championship implications and the chance to upset the No. 4 team in the country, with College Gameday and a laundry list of recruits in town, makes this enormous. Texas has a lot of upward trajectories regardless, but you can take that trajectory and increase the speed to get to where we all want Texas to be.

Cody - Completely agree. I just wrote a few words about that — check it out.

Is TCU the 4th best team in the country?

Cameron - I would take Alabama and Tennessee over them. Are they the best team in the Big 12? Maybe, but I would say they have the best offense and the best wideout in Quentin Johnson.

Daniel - They are what their record says they are and right now they are undefeated against a conference that has been competitive from top to bottom this year. They may not have the most loaded roster from a talent standpoint, but they have found ways to win each week and have got a really productive year out of Max Duggan, who entered the season as their QB2. I wouldn’t have them any higher than four right now, but they are in the top four nonetheless IMO.

Gerald - Regardless of the national narrative, the Big 12 is the toughest football conference in the country and I will die on that hill. It’s been six seasons since a team made it through Big 12 play without losing a game and there hasn’t been a conference champion that made it through the regular season undefeated since 2009. TCU has a chance to do both. They’re one of the best teams in the country until someone walks on the field and proves that they’re not.

Cody - They’ve had a few too many close calls instead of the typical dominant wins you see from great teams for me to say they’re the fourth best, but they’re definitely up there. Hard to knock out an undefeated record.

Does Texas win the Gary Patterson revenge game against the Hypnotoads of TCU?

Cameron - Yes - Texas 38, TCU 24

Daniel - This is a tough one for me. I’ve been scratching my head trying to figure out why Texas opened a touchdown favorite given that the Longhorn offense struggles to play a complete game and the defense will have its hands full with TCU offense that can put up points. Part of me is wondering if Quentin Johnston's is ankle are going to limit his productivity, but even then the Horn Frogs have several playmakers at wideout.

I want to be the optimist this week. Taking the Longhorns in a tight one 34-31.

Gerald - I have a bad gut feeling about this game, but that may be the last 12 years of Texas football combined with a lifetime of being a Miami Dolphins fan. CFBGraphs has Texas by a field goal. Both FEI and SP+ have Texas by 4.8. Beta Rank has Texas by 7. My pops would always tell me when your feelings disagree with math, go with math. I’ll trust the Advanced Stats models and try to ignore my feelings. Texas 34-31.

Cody - I weirdly feel good about Texas’ chances in this one. They play much better at home, they’re coming off of a big win, and Sark says they’re locked in. Maybe we see an energetic showing similar to Alabama, and if so, give me Texas 34-31.