Though we are still a little bitter about what happened this summer, it’s important to remember that there are some good Texas fans out there. No, seriously! There are! I promise!
To prove my point, I reached out to one of my favorite Longhorns, Gerald Goodridge of Burnt Orange Nation and the Longhorn Pod. He was gracious enough to answer some questions for us ahead of the Big 12 opener for TCU, who looks to make it 8-2 against the Horns since joining the Big 12.
Frogs O’ War: Now that the dust has settled somewhat, how are Texas fans feeling about the move to the SEC?
Gerald Goodridge: I honestly think Texas fans feel the same way that they have since the beginning. The Arkansas game gave a lot of people pause, with Texas looking so outclassed by a team that we thought at the time was at-best in the bottom middle of the SEC. Because there’s so much uncertainty about the timeline, there’s not a whole lot of talk about the move right now because fans can focus on the season and what Texas can prove in the seasons between then and now.
Frogs O’ War: College Football is a cruel mistress, especially if you’re the head coach of a blue blood. Take me of the fan journey through the Steve Sarkisian experience, as the Longhorns beat a ranked team to open the season, get pummeled into submission by Arkansas, find out Arkansas is actually good, then humiliate Texas Tech. What do people think of Sark a month in?
Gerald Goodridge: Cautious optimism is the name of the game at this point. In hindsight, the Louisiana game was a bit of a false flag because of what they did to Iowa State a year ago. There was a TON of anxiety after the loss at Arkansas again, because it seemed to prove that Texas was not SEC ready - especially with them playing TAMU coming up rapidly following. With Arkansas coming out and dominating a game despite the injury at quarterback, it seems like a breath of relief that Arkansas could compete for the division - so maybe Texas doesn’t suck after all. Everybody expected them to roll Rice, but back-to-back offensive explosions have led many, me included, to hope that the playing down to opponents is the biggest change that Sark brought to the table. To actually answer your question, I think fans are excited to see if the change sticks and if the culture truly has changed and signs seem to be pointing up.
Frogs O’ War: A quick QB change seems to have sparked the offense. What does Casey Thompson bring to the table?
Gerald Goodridge: It’s crazy because in terms of physical gifts, the move from Hudson Card to Casey Thompson is a bit of a step back (editor’s note: did you do that on purpose, Gerald?), but the mental management and leadership seems to be a step up. The things that make Hudson Card an incredible quarterback and competitor, namely the trust in his arm and his desire to make a play, are not what you need in this offense at this point. The offense is really built around efficiency, limiting turnovers and knowing the matchups and assignments, which is what Thompson brings in spades. There’s been a lot written about his film study and the advantages he has to do that as a graduate student, so his ability to be a “student of the game” really is what makes him the right move for the offense.
Frogs O’ War: So, Bijan Robinson.
Gerald Goodridge: Yeah, Bijan Robinson. Much better writers have written a ton about him but, much like his counterpart Zach Evans in Fort Worth seems to be living up to and on the verge of exceeding the billing - which is insane to think about. Sark has been open about his desire to get him as many touches as he can and get him into space. You saw it against Texas Tech, but even in a familiar look that teams were prepared for, putting him in any sort of space means that he’s likely going to go for at least 10 yards. Especially with rain in the forecast for Saturday, I think this is a game that’s going to be won on the lines and a battle between the former No. 1 and No. 2 running back in the 2020 class.
Frogs O’ War: Texas is running a new defensive scheme, and TCU fans might recognize it as the same base D that made GP famous. What has Pete Kwiatkowski been able to do with the talent that’s been collected in Austin over the years?
Gerald Goodridge: The defensive front really is the biggest thing that PK came in and made his focus to get up to speed quickly. Most of the players that are contributing at the rush edge position are transfers and that has really paid dividends. In spite of what happened three times against Texas Tech, the focus has been to keep players in front of them and limit the big plays. You saw it with how they schemed against Erik Ezukanma - giving him a more than healthy cushion and limiting his ability to beat you on the long ball. He inherited a ton of talent on the back end of the defense, so putting them in position to make sound open field tackles and limit the gash plays has been the focus.
Frogs O’ War: We know the big names on offense and defense, but can you give TCU folks a name or two on both sides of the ball we might not be as familiar with but should probably know before Saturday?
Gerald Goodridge: Offensively, running back Keilan Robinson has been a wonder in the third quarter - providing a rested, speedy option to find angles against defenses who have already played a bunch of snaps. Also with injuries popping up at the receiver spot, look out for Kelvontay Dixon to get more playing time. Defensively, based on some of the blown defensive assignments Texas is seemingly going to increase the snaps for Jerrin Thompson at safety so look for him to play a role for Texas.
Frogs O’ War: Is there a particular play in these series that best sums up Texas vs TCU since the latter joined the Big 12?
Gerald Goodridge: This is probably recency bias, but the Keaontay Ingram fumble to essentially end the game last year feels so emblematic of this matchup as it currently exists. Texas gives up an inexplicable go-ahead touchdown, strikes fast and puts itself in a position to win the game - then through both an on-field mistake and a bad coaching decision they give it away. There are years where Texas should win the game and they find a way to embarrasses itself. There are years where it should be close and Texas finds a way to absolutely embarrass itself. There are years where TCU is way better than Texas and Texas finds a way to embarrass itself. There’s no other way to put it.
Frogs O’ War: What’s your score prediction for Saturday and how do we get there?
Gerald Goodridge: I hate score predictions because I am so bad at them and I also hate being wrong. But I think this is a game that is won by the ground game, meaning it’s a fairly close game with both Bijan Robinson and Zach Evans having a lot to say about it. If I have to make a prediction, I would say that it’s a 31-28 Texas win.
Frogs O’ War: Bonus Question: Is this the last time Texas plays football in Fort Worth?
Gerald Goodridge: Last time, probably not. This is definitely a matchup I would love to see renewed as a non-conference game in the future. As far as being a member of the Big 12, Texas and OU are saying all of the right things, but now with four new teams coming to the Big 12 before the Grant of Rights expires, I anticipate next year being the last year Texas and TCU play as conference opponents