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Houston Roundtable: Grading the first half of the season, MVPs, and the Cougs

Will the Longhorns have a problem in Houston?

Syndication: Austin American-Statesman Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK

The first half of the season is in the books and the Texas Longhorns are 5-1 with a quality win over Alabama and their only loss coming to a ranked Oklahoma on a neutral field. How would you grade the season thus far?

Daniel Seahorn (@DanielSeahorn) - B+. The only thing keeping it from an A was the last game we watched them play in Dallas. This team still can make a run down the backstretch of the schedule and set up a rematch in Arlington. They just have to take things a week at a time and not get ahead of themselves.

Gerald Goodridge (@ghgoodridge) - I think they’re solidly in the A- range. I’m trying to avoid recency bias based off of the last time we saw them, but I’ve been impressed. Unlike recent years, most of my issues with Texas thus far lie squarely on the coaches rather than the players executing. Yes, Ewers turned the ball over in Dallas, but more often than not he’s answered the call every time and the way he closed out the game against OU is emblematic of that. But the offense, more often than not has been able to move the ball when it needs to and put the team in a position to win. The defense, again outside of Oklahoma, has been one of the best in the country and can play at a championship level if the coaching staff has a coherent game plan going into the game.

Cameron Parker (@camerondparker) - A-. The Longhorns might have the best win in the country (at Alabama) and their only loss came to a ranked Oklahoma team on a neutral field. They can still reach the Big 12 Championship and the College Football Playoff. And the crazy thing is that this team should do both if they handle business the rest of the way. Going into the season I was expecting a 9-3/10-2 type year. With how the team has performed in the first half, either of those would be a disappointment.

The first half-season MVP is _________ and your biggest surprise is _________?

Daniel - I’m going to steal Gerald’s thunder and say Jonathon Brooks. When you are able to take over for two NFL backs and not skip a beat you are MVP-worthy on just about any team in the country. He has paced the rushing attack and is squarely on the radar for the Doak Walker Award.

As far as the biggest surprise, I’ll say Derek Williams at safety. Though he is a former five-star recruit, he didn’t enroll until the summer and he still had some veterans ahead of him on the depth chart. Slowly but surely we’ve seen him get more and more snaps and it’s looking like he is on pace to become a fixture in the Texas secondary by the end of the year.

Gerald - Here’s the thing, Daniel got his answer in first, but that’s not going to deter me from tooting my own horn and getting hyped for the man from Hallettsville. I’ve been calling him the next big thing since he committed to Stan Drayton and I’ve never been happier to be right. Six games in, he’s ahead of where Bijan Robinson was a year ago and will likely see that number continue to rise. On basically every occasion that Texas has needed to run the ball, Brooks has answered the call and taken the offense on his shoulders.

I know it’s strange to say that a guy with the pedigree of Anthony Hill is a surprise, but freshmen aren’t supposed to be that good. In critical situations, Texas has called on him to shadow one of the most elusive QBs in the country, wreaking havoc in the backfield, and even play the interior linebacker spot. That’s tough for a kid who can’t legally buy a beer.

Cameron - Since Gerald and Daniel took Brooks, I’ll say Quinn Ewers. There were concerns about his play last year and no one really knew what to expect out of him this season. Well, he has delivered and is a much better quarterback and leader than he was last year. You could bring up the three turnovers against Oklahoma, but I’d remind you that Texas doesn’t have a chance to win without his play down the stretch.

My biggest surprise has been A.D. Mitchell. I knew he made big plays for Georgia, but he’s been an absolute menace against opposing secondary and has a great connection with Ewers. Worthy gets a lot of love, and rightfully so, but Mitchell is poised for a massive second half of the season.

Texas was cheering on Houston last week during their last-second win over West Virginia due to its effect on the Big 12 Championship race. But now the Horns face the Cougars who feature a familiar face at QB in Donovan Smith and momentum on their side. Is this a potential trap game for Texas?

Daniel - It’s only a trap game if Texas allows it to be. Texas didn’t fare well against Smith the last time they saw him, but this game is not in Lubbock and he won’t have the Red Raider supporting cast he had around him. Him being a familiar face should assist in prepping for him this week and I think the Texas offense will be able to move the ball on the Cougar defense.

Gerald - If Texas gets trapped by this game, then I don’t know what to tell you. Sark has said all of the right things about knowing that they’re going to get everybody’s best shot and I think the team has responded to it. Especially coming off of a tough loss heading into the bye week, I think we might see the most focused Texas team we’ve seen this side of Tuscaloosa.

Cameron - It’s a test to see where this team's head is at coming off a bye week and a tough loss to the Sooners. If Texas is them, they should curb-stomp this Cougars team. I know they were the talk of the town last week but let’s not get things mixed up - the Longhorns are a three-touchdown favorite for a reason. If they sleepwalk into this game and it’s close in the 4th quarter, I’ll be concerned.

Does Texas win their first and only match-up against Houston as Big 12 members?

Daniel (5-1) - Texas is coming off the bye week and will be good and angry after how the last game resulted. I’m taking the Longhorns to get back in the win column.

Gerald (5-1) - I would be shocked if Texas doesn’t come out pissed off and ready to go on Saturday. I think we’re going to see a Jonathon Brooks game and Texas cruises in this one.

Cameron (4-2) - Texas 42, Houston 17