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Valero Alamo Bowl roundtable

Will the Longhorns contain Michael Penix Jr.? Who steps up in place of Bijan and RoJo?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 26 Washington at Washington State Photo by Oliver McKenna/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

IT’S GAMEDAY. For the last time until August of 2023, the Texas Longhorns play a meaningful football game against the Washington Huskies. What is your biggest storyline heading into tonight’s game?

Daniel Seahorn (@DanielSeahorn) - The Texas secondary vs. the Washington passing attack is going to tell the story for me. Michael Penix Jr. led one of the best passing games in the country this year, so the Longhorns will need to be ready to go and up to the task against an offense that can hang crooked numbers.

Gerald Goodridge (@ghgoodridge) - The trenches. The Washington defense is averaging nearly three sacks a game (35 on the year), while Penix has been brought down just seven times all year. Part of that is a product of his ability to make defenders miss, but can Texas force him off-platform and into some bad choices while also keeping Quinn Ewers upright more often?

Cameron Parker (@camerondparker) - How the offense looks without Bijan and RoJo. We’re getting a sneak preview of the 2023 offense just without Isaiah Neyor. Can Sark just rely on the run game to get him out of tough spots like he did with Bijan and RoJo? Where is Ewers’ confidence level at? Who is that guy after Xavier Worthy and Jordan Whittington?

No Bijan Robinson. No Roschon Johnson. Is that too much to overcome for the Texas offense?

Daniel - A lot to overcome? Yes. Too much? I don’t think so. I am pretty excited to see Jonathan Brooks get a full load of touches given that he will likely be RB1 in 2023. I’ve been really encouraged by what I’ve seen of Brooks whenever he gets a chance to tote it and think he will have a nice day at the offense to help give the offense some balance. It will suck not having Bijan and RoJo out there, but this is getting Longhorn fans prepared for next season.

Gerald - As an early member of the JB2K fan club, I’m honestly excited to see what this kid can do with a full game of work. I’m not saying losing a Doak Walker award winner and another probable draft pick is ideal, but combine what we know about the remaining RBs and the upward trajectory of the OL, it’s the thing causing me the least heartburn offensively.

Cameron - Bijan made simple runs look effortless. He made hard runs look easy. That will be missed. Texas will also miss the effort, blocking, and get the **** out of my way running style from RoJo. But that’s why you have Keilan Robinson, Jonathan Brooks, and Jaydon Blue ready to go. My prediction is one of those guys eclipses 100 yards and I think it’ll be Brooks.

Michael Penix Jr. may be the best QB the Longhorns will face sans Bryce Young. The former Indiana transfer threw for 4,354 yards (2nd in the nation), 29 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, and finished with an 82.0 QBR (11th in the nation). Will PK and the Horns be able to contain Pennix?

Daniel - Washington will likely get theirs, but PK’s defense has shown good improvement this year and shown they can slow up good offenses. The TCU offense with Max Duggan at the helm was probably the most explosive group Texas saw and they showed they were up for the challenge. Here is hoping that effort can be duplicated for this matchup.

Gerald - I think the other side of that coin is that Texas is probably the best defense Washington has played all year. Washington feasts on chunk plays, averaging 7.0 yards per play and a whopping 8.7 yards per attempt. Outside of flat-out blown assignments, Texas really hasn’t been a victim to the explosive plays like they have in years past. Texas has been at its best defensively when they force teams into long drives and force them off the field in the red zone, sitting at No. 18 nationally in Red Zone scoring defense, while the Washington offense is No. 48 nationally in Red Zone conversions.

Cameron - Giving PK and his staff a month to prepare for Penix helps the Longhorns a lot. It’s a great test for the secondary and young DB’s but I still expect Pnnix to get his numbers. A couple of things stood out in both of Washington’s losses this season: they lost the turnover battle and were held under their season average for rushing yards. Penix still was able to throw the ball around like he was playing backyard football but turnovers and being unable to establish a ground attack hurt the Huskies. Giving up 85 combined points also didn’t help.

I think we all can agree Quinn Ewers has an up-and-down freshman campaign this season but can end the year on a high note against Washington. With Maalik Murphy’s improvement and the arrival of Arch Manning looming, is it critical for Ewers to play well tonight?

Daniel - I’d like to see a solid outing from Ewers, but I think the off-season is much more important to me, as we will learn a lot more about his development arc come the spring.

Gerald - There’s something to be said about going out on a high note so you can build in the offseason. If he comes out and has a good game, he’ll be walking a bit taller as they go into offseason conditioning for his first full cycle at a school. I’m honestly still convinced that a few days after the season we’re going to get word that Ewers needs surgery for the injury he suffered against Alabama or has some other undisclosed injury he’s been dealing with all year. But maybe I’m just a tinfoil hat guy.

Cameron - Texas fans want one thing: a deep ball completion to Xavier Worthy. Give it to us! A good outing for Ewers will do wonders for his confidence heading into the offseason and that’s what Texas needs.

Will the Longhorns win their 3rd straight Alamo Bowl?

Daniel - My gut is telling me to take the Huskies in this one with some key players for Texas not participating. I’m taking UW 31-27.

Gerald - Conventional wisdom says that we’re going to see a lot of points in this, since Washington has just two games that stayed below 60 all year. Vegas says Texas by 3.5, so I’ll say 35-31 Texas.

Cameron - This might be a homer pick but I think having a month to prepare for Washington favors the Longhorns and not the other way around. I think the 2nd half will be a mad dash of offense but Texas inevitably holds on and wins. Texas 45, Washington 35