The more meaningful portion of the schedule is upon us, as the Texas Longhorns (2-1) begin their Big 12 slate by hosting the Texas Tech Red Raiders (3-0).
The Longhorns will be looking for their fourth-straight win over the Red Raiders, while Matt Wells’ club is eying a win that could provide some real momentum going forward.
The BON staff got together to discuss expectations, what Texas needs to do to avoid an upset, and more.
With the non-conference schedule now in the rearview, have your expectations for this season changed? Why or why not?
Curry Shoff — I came into the season claiming Texas was a dark horse playoff team. I am not giving up this early.
Daniel Seahorn — They haven’t, but that’s because I had my expectations tempered coming into the year given what Texas was returning at some key positions. I thought the Arkansas game would be a little more competitive, but I had a feeling they would experience some adversity early on.
Gerald Goodridge — I came into the season optimistically expecting 9-3 and while I think that if Texas matures quickly that is still in the cards, I think 8-4 is probably a more realistic expectation. Texas just hasn’t shown me anything yet that gives me confidence that they can win at the point of attack on either side of the ball and that will definitely cost them on multiple occasions this year.
Cody Daniel — Yes and no. The 58-0 win over Rice was a nice rebound, but until we see Texas show improvement against a quality opponent, it’s hard to forget about how bad the Arkansas game was and all the weaknesses it exposed that quickly. On the other hand, the rest of the Big 12 has looked underwhelming, to say the least, so I don’t think Texas needs to be great to win games.
In what amounted to a half of football against Rice, Casey Thompson looked the part, completing 15-of-18 attempts (83.3%) for 164 yards and 2 TD with 1 INT. What was your takeaway from his performance?
Curry — I can’t take away much, because Texas would look good against Westlake High as well, but it was good to see a dominating performance from this offense. Thompson’s one interception wasn’t too concerning and I liked that he stayed in the pocket and tried to make the downfield throw even though the hit was coming. His touchdown pass to Worthy was perfect placement as well. He seemed to have a strong command of the offense most of the night. Dare I say the word: ‘moxie’?
Seahorn — Solid performance all around and managed the offense well. I hope the offensive staff figures out a way to protect him better behind that offensive line because at some point, he’ll be asked to beat teams from the pocket when defenses tire of him tucking and running. They can win games with Thompson, but the staff needs to continue to evolve as the season progresses and continue to build his confidence.
Gerald — It’s hard to really take anything away because it was Rice, but he seemed like he was in command of the offense and understands how it matches up against the defense. Especially after hearing Bijan Robinson’s quote about him calling the long touchdown run, I have a bit more confidence in Thompson’s ability to translate the classroom to the field.
Cody — He was confident, poised and accurate in the pocket, and decisive with both his throws and knowing when to tuck and run. Even though it was his first start, Thompson just seemed to be prepared and in command of the offense, so if he can build upon his first start and continue growing with real game experience, Texas should have its answer at QB.
It was against Rice, but we saw Texas explode for 427 yards and 6 TD on the ground on Saturday. Given the talent in the RB room and the current QB situation, did the Rice game help Texas establish some of its identity offensively?
Curry— I think we saw what Texas is aiming to do, but nothing gets established against Rice.
Seahorn — Outside zone seemingly disappeared against Arkansas only to reappear against Rice and reaffirm that it needs to be a staple in the offensive game plan going forward. The offensive line and the stable of backs are showing they can gut defenses with creases in the run game, so I hope they continue to build off that and add wrinkles like play action and RPOs off of it.
Gerald— I think we got to see what Sark wants the ground game to look like under perfect circumstances. Even though a year ago a wide receiver won the Heisman, Sark likes to get the running backs heavily involved in the offense. My hope is that the offensive line felt what it is to dominate an opponent at the point of attack and can use that to propel itself to the next level and beyond as the year carries on.
Cody — In a perfect world, Sark would like to dictate the flow of the game with an aggressive, effective rushing attack. But I’m not sure we’ll truly see this team’s identity until the offensive line proves it can block well enough, either from Bijan and the backs to get free, or for Casey Thompson to have time to actually work in the pocket.
What have you see from Texas Tech that could cause problems for Texas on Saturday?
Curry — I haven’t seen anything from Texas Tech that should cause problems — Texas Tech is not a good team — but this school has a deep hatred for Texas and we will feel it Saturday.
Seahorn — They have a quarterback that can sling it around a good bit with a running back that can also tote it. The Texas defense will need to be up to the challenge of covering each level of the defense and we will need to see a much better game plan from PK than we saw in Fayetteville. On top of that, the defensive front seven is fairly experienced and they’ll be looking to cause chaos with an offensive line who has struggled in pass protection.
Gerald — I don’t know if the Texas secondary has truly been tested and Erik Ezukanma is the real deal. If he goes off, it could get bad for Texas quickly.
Cody — Erik Ezukanma is a problem, but I’m mostly worried about the trenches — can the Texas offensive line hold its own, and even assert itself, and can the defensive line swarm Tahj Brooks and get some pressure on Tyler Shough?
The Longhorns will win if...
Curry — Texas establishes the run early and doesn’t turn the ball over.
Seahorn — They continue to pound the rock effectively and protect 11 in pass protection. If that happens, you likely limit your turnovers and are able to add a lot of pressure on Tech to have to be extremely efficient.
Gerald Goodridge — The offensive and defensive lines win at the point of attack and allow the systems to run as-designed.
Cody Daniel — Texas can contain Erik Ezukanma, prevent Tahj Brooks from running through massive lanes, and the offensive line can get the better of Tech in the trenches.
Prediction: Does Texas kick off Big 12 play with a fourth-straight win over the Red Raiders?
Curry Shoff — Texas wins easily and we start the Casey Thompson for Heisman campaign.
Daniel Seahorn — I think Texas wins, but it will be a bit of a knife fight.
Gerald Goodridge — Against my better judgement, I think Texas wins 38-35.
Cody Daniel — Texas wins and covers the spread, 34-23.