For the first time since 2009, the No. 20 Texas Longhorns will meet an old Big 12 foe, the Colorado Buffaloes. This time around, the two will share the field at the Alamodome in San Antonio with the winner set to enter the offseason as Alamo Bowl champions.
The Burnt Orange Nation staff got together to discuss what a shorthanded Longhorns squad will need to do to be the one celebrating on Tuesday night and more.
Several Texas’ starters have elected to opt out and enter the draft, including Jack linebacker Joseph Ossai, safeties Caden Sterns and Chris Brown, and receiver Brennan Eagles. With those roles now open for the Alamo Bowl, who are you expecting to make an impact in their place?
Anthony — With true freshman Jake Majors and Andrej Karic starting on the offensive line, I’d expect Texas to attempt to establish the run and spread the ball around more like they did against Kansas State. The offensive gameplan should heavily involve No. 4-5-6-7 — let your top playmakers make plays for Sam in space.
Cameron — On the offensive side I’ll say a name that I don’t think anyone has been thinking of: Bijan Robinson. Oh wait - everyone is thinking that? Bijan is kind of a no-brainer here but I think we’re just scratching the surface of what he’s capable of and I hope we see more against Colorado. Defensively, I look for Alfred Collins to have himself a game with the Horns missing a handful of starters.
Kyle — Replacing Ossai’s production (and the way opposing offenses gameplan away from him) is not as simple as like-for-like replacement. Leitao and Bush may be listed on the two-deep, but this will be an effort from the entirety of the D-Line. Throw in TQ opting out as well, and I expect Ojomo and Collins to really shine next to Coburn. Colorado’s focus on the ground game should also be a good chance for BJ Foster and Jerrin Thompson to play downhill. On the offensive side, I expect heavy use of the running backs and hope we can see early season Joshua Moore make an appearance (~73% of his production came in the first three games) in his team’s time of need.
Cody — I’m interested in how Jerrin Thompson can build on his first start vs. KSU and potentially put himself in the driver’s seat to start alongside BJ Foster next season. KSU isn’t the most ideal measuring stick, but Thompson snagged one pick and nearly came away with another to provide credibility to Tom Herman’s praise of him as a ballhawk. Him developing would be a huge plus for Texas entering the offseason.
Pac-12 offensive Player of the Year, Jarek Broussard, is a strength of the Buffs offense, totaling 813 rushing yards in only five games. Texas has had success slowing top-tier running backs this season, but with many starters missing, how can the Chris Ash adjust his game plan to ensure another solid showing against the run?
Anthony — Ash’s defenses tend to be at their best when facing run-first offenses, as we saw against West Virginia and Iowa State, so this matchup suits the Texas defense rather well. If they can limit Broussard on the ground, the pressure will be on Colorado’s quarterback Sam Noyer to play a great game. And he’s yet to throw for more than 260 yards in a game this season. The Buffs young receiving corp features two players from DeSoto — they’ll want to make a statement going up against Texas’ cornerbacks.
Cameron — It’s going to be tricky for Ash and Oscar Giles who will be without Joseph Ossai and Ta’Quon Graham but I’m excited to see more playing time for freshman Alfred Collins. The Buffaloes love to use a jumbo formation with an extra offensive lineman and two tight-ends to clear out the way for Broussard.
Kyle — Like I mentioned before, Texas should be letting their safeties play downhill and trusting their corners on islands (CU still has a Shenault, but he ain’t quite Laviska) against a very...let’s say “inconsistent QB” in Sam Noyer. The easy parallel might be Breece or Chuba, but as a man of culture I’m thinking more about West Virginia’s Leddie Brown / Jarret Doege gameplan. Although that was one of Doege’s best statistical games of the season, the D turned in a masterclass bend-don’t-break performance. Now if Texas can just avoid replicating that woeful WVU offensive performance...
Cody — Slowing Broussard will be easier said than done, especially with so many key pieces out, but I mostly expect the game plan to mirror Ash’s plan vs. OSU, West Virginia, and Iowa State — overwhelm the run and force the quarterback to beat you. With Texas’ veteran corners, I’d expect Ash to stack the box pretty often and trust his corners to make plays when Colorado is forced to pass.
Colorado enters at 4-1 and saw 12 Buffaloes earn All-Conference honors, including Broussard and quarterback Sam Noyer. What will be the keys to an overall disappointing Texas season capping with yet another bowl win?
Anthony — A familiar Pac 12 foe, Utah, averaged 6.0 yards per play against the Buffs defense in the snow. If an offense of that caliber sustained that kind of success, there’s no reason the Longhorns shouldn’t be scoring points on almost every drive. But the bigger key will be to finish drives by scoring touchdowns — something Texas has struggled with in close games. Hanging 40+ points on this Buffs defense would be an ideal performance.
Kyle — CU’s best defender (and probably player in general), Nate Landman, has an unbelievably “rugged Colorado oil guy” name...but unfortunately for the Buffs he will not be playing as he suffered a season ending lower-leg injury in their loss to Utah. I’m hoping Texas’ new look O-Line has had enough reps over the past few weeks to set the tone in both phases of the game. If Texas can get both running backs going again (remember that Roschon Johnson, the less talked about of the two backs against Kansas State, ran 14 times and averaged 10 per!) and allow Sam to spread it around fast and often, I feel like the offense can pay back a season’s worth of letting Chris Ash’s squad carry the team. With Landman out, Texas needs only to keep an eye on Carson Wells, who has lived in opponent’s backfields through 5 games (over 2.5 TFL per game). Watch how the Longhorn lines on both sides of the ball play early to get an indicator for how strong your accompanying beverage should be.
Cody — Aside from preventing Broussard from running wild, I think the most important thing is for Texas to establish itself at the LOS. No Ossai or Graham means much less chaos and control up front, and not having Chris Brown in run support is less than ideal. And it could go without saying that an offensive line that already struggled to protect Ehlinger this season can’t allow him to be overwhelmed all evening. If the defensive line can set the tone and the offensive line can create running lanes and time for Ehlinger, Texas wins.
This may very well prove to be Sam Ehlinger’s last game as a Longhorn. If that is the case, what legacy will he leave behind?
Anthony — His seven game-winning drives says it all. This a quarterback that shouldn’t have been in the same familiar position every Saturday...yet he was. At the helm leading the offense of the state’s flagship university — usually doing so while up against a deficit or the clock — pulling off his best Clark Kent Superman act. While he didn’t check off all the boxes as a quarterback, you can’t teach the competitiveness and character he brought to the position. I’ll forever remember Ehlinger as a quarterback that gave this program a chance to win on any given Saturday. He’s a Longhorn legend in my books.
Cameron — I think in 10 years we’ll look back on Sam being one of the best quarterbacks in Texas history. Sometimes we look upon his flaws and take him for granted but what he’s done for this program - both on and off the field - has been incredible and the program would be in worse shape without him.
Kyle — Texas has been playing football for roughly 130 years. Back of the napkin math says at a conservative average of 3 QBs on the team at any given time, let’s call it roughly 400 QBs in school history. Without question, Sam Ehlinger is better than about 395 of them. Where you want to rank him among the final handful might have as much to do with how you feel about things off the field issues and how much you value completion percentage, rivalry wins, and 4th quarter consistency. That’s fine. There are 40-50 years to shuffle and re-shuffle your UT QB Rushmore — but one thing you won’t ever do is leave Sam out of that conversation. In what has been possibly the single worst decade in Texas Longhorn football history, Sam has been an ever-present and a dependable warhorse for the university. There is a thought of “did we waste Sam” but I shudder more thinking of “how bad could it have been without him.” Possibly an anachronism for the modern spread offense, he is nonetheless a Longhorn Legend.
Cody — Sam’s legacy will probably always be hindered a bit because Texas never truly became elite again and that status is what makes VY and Colt so beloved, but Texas not fulfilling its potential in recent years is hardly on his shoulders — he often willed Texas to wins. He was the catalyst of four straight winning seasons, possibly four straight bowl wins. And his personal numbers speak for themselves. It wasn’t the storybook ending many hoped for, but Ehlinger is clearly one of the greatest quarterbacks, and even players, to wear burnt orange and white and he’s represented the program excellently.
Prediction: Does Texas improve to 4-0 in bowl games under Tom Herman with a second straight Alamo Bowl win?
Anthony — Without a doubt. Beating up on inferior opponents after weeks of preparation in bowl games has become a theme under Tom Herman at Texas. And there’s no way Ehlinger goes out on a losing note. Texas 41, Colorado 24.
Cameron — Yes. I think Colorado’s 4-1 record is a bit of a mirage having not faced Oregon (Conference Champion) and USC (Conference Runner-Up). Herman and the Horns win their second straight Alamo Bowl and somehow get my hopes up for next year. Texas 38, Colorado 27
Kyle — Colorado is already playing with house money. Most expected them to be about the 10th best Pac-12 team and somewhere in the 80-100th best team in the country. While they have no major opt outs like Texas, this is still a team that is punching above their weight from a talent perspective. Even though Tom hasn’t had quite the runway he usually does to conjure up Bowl Magic, Texas would have to beat themselves for this one to get closer than 2 scores. Texas wins AND covers 35-20.
Cody — If Texas had all of its best players available, I don’t think this game would even be relatively close. Instead, I think we’ll see a game that comes down to the final quarter with Ehlinger willing Texas to another close win, possibly closing his Longhorn career on another high note. 31-21 Texas.