Suddenly, that big L to Arkansas and their wompin’ sticks doesn’t look so bad.
After starting the season in the top 20, dropping out of the rankings after getting truly hog-mollied by what is now (somehow) a Top Ten Arkansas team, the Longhorns are sitting just outside the AP rankings as they head to Fort Worth for what could well be the final time, hoping to make that 7-2 record against the Horned Frogs in Big 12 play a little less embarrassing. They open as a 3 1⁄2 point favorite, as well they should, after TCU got smoked by the Ponies last weekend.
There were a lot of questions about the Texas offense just over a week ago: Steve Sarkisian named Hudson Card the starter in preseason but the freshman quickly lost his QB1 designation to junior Casey Thompson, who has looked exceptional since taking over. Thompson has an absolutely absurd QBR of 207.15 through four games, completing almost 78% of his passes for 565 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s only been asked to pass 54 total times, partially due to scheme, partially due to not having to do a whole lot in three of the four games his team has played. He can be dangerous in the ground game, averaging 5.0 net yards per attempt, but Thompson isn’t a true dual threat and doesn’t have to be.
That’s because he has Bijan Robinson.
The second year player has been as good as advertised in 2021, making his case as the best back in the Big 12 and one of the top two or three at his position in all of college football. Robinson is averaging over six yards a pop and has scored five times, and went for 137 on the ground in the Horns’ destruction of Texas Tech last weekend — on just 18 carries. Roschon Johnson is no slouch either, averaging over eight yards and a carry, as the Horns have four players running for 6.9 or more yards per attempt.
After what SMU did to TCU on the ground? That has to make you want to throw up a little.
Sophomore Jordan Whittington, another highly touted prospect, leads UT with 18 receptions, and both he and Xavier Worthy have 245 total yards on the year. Worthy has also found the end zone four times to lead the team. Robinson is a target in the passing game, and averages nearly 20 yards a reception when he’s targeted.
Everything is fine.
The Longhorns average over 260 yards per game on the ground and over seven yards per play, and are scoring in the mid-40s. Now, that’s inflated by playing the corpse of Texas Tech, on whom they dropped 70, but still.
If you want a weakness? The offensive line has allowed nine sacks and looked very vulnerable against a really good Arkansas front, but... well... you know.
It’s hard to get a great read on the Texas D at this point. They gave up 35 to Henry Colombi and Texas Tech, but a lot of that was in garbage time. But they are allowing 24 points per game against mostly meh competition, and teams have run for nearly 175 yards per game against them at a five yard per carry clip. You can certainly eat up the yardage against this unit, as they give up more than 400 yards per game.
Doesn’t it feel like DeMarvion Overshown and BJ Foster have been in Austin forever? Overshown leads the team with 34 tackles from the linebacker position, and has two TFLs and half a sack to boot. Ovie Oghoufo has a pair of sacks, one of five players with at least one through the first four games. Fort Worth native Luke Brockermeyer — brother of Alabama freshmen offensive linemen Tommy and James — has been really good as well, with 24 tackles, three TFLs, and half a sack himself. He also has one of the team’s three interceptions on the season, as the Longhorns haven’t been great to this point at turning teams over.
Pete Kwiatkowski came over from Washington, bringing a 4-2-5 defense, so this will be a fun chess match between the OG in that system and one of the most successful disciples of it. Kwiatkowski’s UW teams were always great on the defensive side of the ball, and, well, you can see what the Huskies have been since.
Other guys to watch: veteran D’Shawn Jamison returns at CB alongside Josh Thompson, with Oregon transfer, and former WR, Brenden Schooler moving to safety. The secondary is experienced but still vulnerable, and there should be opportunities for Max Duggan to make plays, if they call the ones that he’s good at, at least.
I have no idea what to make of Texas.
Everyone got so excited about them when they beat Louisiana, and dumped on them when they got rolled by Arkansas. But, now we know Louisiana is maybe not as good as we thought they are and the Razorbacks are a hell of a lot better than we expected.
This team can score in bunches — just ask the Red Raiders — and could (maybe should?) approach or eclipse what the Ponies did in the run game against TCU... unless the Horned Frogs have a serious come to Jesus moment with their effort and intensity. I expect them to lean heavily on the run, and we could see a fun “anything you can do I can do better” competition between Robinson and Zach Evans, if Doug Meacham and Jerry Kill #LetZekeEat. Thompson isn’t the best passer the Frogs will see all year, but he’s more than capable, and is in a system that will let him pick his spots and exploits his strengths while minimizing his weaknesses.
Must be nice.
Hopefully, TCU is a little more motivated for this one, and they often are for the Horns: the Frogs are just 2-7 in games the week before they play Texas since joining the Big 12, including losing the last five such games. And now, 2-8 as we head into the first conference game of the season. Of course, TCU is 7-2 against the Longhorns in the same span, and if you told me we would lose to SMU and beat the conference team? I will take that everytime.
That being said, what I saw Saturday gives me no shred of hope. While the Frog fan in me thinks we will win, the realist doesn’t feel so great about it.
Texas Longhorns 41, TCU Horned Frogs 27