T.I.P.S. For Texas

How can the 1-3 Buffs stay with the 4-0, and 2nd-ranked Longhorns?

For inspiration, I went back to my preview for the 2007 game against #3 Oklahoma. The Buffs were in marginally better shape in 2007, coming into the game with a 2-2 record. Still, this was the game Colorado team which had gone 2-10 the season before, so there was little reason to believe that the Buffs would give the Sooners a game.

In the preview, entitled “Five Steps to an Upset!  Okay, would you believe five ways to keep it close”, I outlined five factors which would have to fall the Buffs’ way:

1) Control time of possession;

2) Special teams must have a great day;

3) Reverse the turnovers (the Buffs were a minus-six in turnovers through the first four games of 2007);

4) Control emotions early (Oklahoma had a first half scoring margin of 143-27); and

5) No long plays (The Sooners already had 12 plays of over 40 yards – in four games).

Not bad. The Buffs did as instructed, and pulled out an unlikely 27-24 upset. Any chance that lightning will strike twice, and that the Buffs will pull off a similar miracle in Austin?

Let’s find out:

T – Talent

Of course, the discussion about Texas talent begins and ends with quarterback Colt McCoy. The Longhorn senior has passed for over 10,000 yards in his career, and has 94 touchdowns to just 38 interceptions (compare junior Cody Hawkins – 5,952 passing yards, 46 touchdowns, 34 interceptios). In limited playing time this fall (McCoy played only one series in the second half against UTEP, for instance), McCoy has hit on 71%  of his pass attempts. If you are looking for something to pick on – McCoy has thrown at least one interception in each of the Longhorns’ four wins.

McCoy’s favorite receiver is Jordan Shipley. The senior receiver is third in the nation in receptions, averaging nine catches per game. Shipley’s receiving yard average, 109.0/game, is 13th-best in the country. The running game is still done by committee (insert Darrell Scott comment here – Longhorn fans still can’t believe Scott chose Colorado over Texas), but that doesn’t mean that the Longhorns have not been effective. Texas is averaging over 200 yards rushing per game, good enough for a #21 national ranking.

This is not to say that Texas has been forced into shootouts to win games. The Longhorns have the 2nd-best rushing defense in the nation, and are surrendering only 15 points/game overall – and it’s not as if the Longhorns are playing teams which can’t score. Texas Tech is amongst the victims (34-24), and the Red Raiders are ranked 11th in scoring. Also victimized was Louisiana-Monroe (26th in scoring, lost 59-20), and UTEP (which hung a 58 against #11 Houston this past weekend).

In their last game, a 64-7 laugher over UTEP, the only points by the opposition came on an interception returned for a touchdown.

There is a reason why the Longhorns are ranked 2nd in the nation … make that a number of reasons.

I – Intangibles

What do the Buffs have working for them?

Not much.

Okay, let’s try Longhorn overconfidence. Texas has had two weeks to prepare for the Buffs, but here’s guessing that the Longhorn players (and probably the coaches) were spending as much time watching the Oklahoma/Miami game as they did watching the Colorado/West Virginia game.

And why not? Texas methodically took apart the Buffs in Boulder last season. The Longhorns cruised to a 21-0 halftime lead, laughing their way to a 38-14 win. Since the two teams last met, Texas is 11-1, with the only blemish the last second loss to Texas Tech last fall. Colorado, meanwhile, has gone 3-8. Any reason for the Longhorn players to assume this game will be any different in a game played in Austin?

Want more? Let’s do the six degrees of Kevin Bacon analysis: The Buffs were thumped by Oklahoma State last November in Boulder, 30-17; Oklahoma State fell to Houston earlier this fall, 45-35; Houston got its hat handed to it by UTEP on Saturday, 58-41, and Texas had no issue with UTEP in their last outing, 64-7.

What does that figure out to?  Yuck – that 70-3 score from the 2005 Big 12 title game is looming ominously …

Perhaps the only other intangible the Buffs may have working for them is the injury factor. A month ago, the Heisman trophy race was largely centered on three quarterbacks: Colt McCoy from Texas; Sam Bradford from Oklahoma; and Tim Tebow from Florida. Since Labor Day, Bradford and Tebow have gone down to injury, and the Longhorns, with the blood feud game against Oklahoma coming up next, might come out with a conservative game plan. The Longhorns might keep the play-calling vanilla, keeping Colt healthy and keeping the Sooner coaches guessing.

P – Preparation / Schedule

As noted, the Longhorns have had two weeks off since pasting UTEP, 64-7. Colt McCoy allowed the Miners to tie the score at 7-7 in the first quarter, throwing an interception for a touchdown. The tie score lasted 12 seconds, as the Longhorns returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, going on to a 47-7 lead at halftime. Colt McCoy played only one series in the second half, so he should be well rested.

The advantage here for the Buffs, of course, is the game Texas must play next week against Oklahoma. The Sooners are 2-2, having fallen to BYU and Miami, but they have played only one half of one game with their leader, quarterback Sam Bradford. The Sooner quarterback is expected back for the Red River Rivalry, and you know that the Longhorn players are looking forward to that game much more than they are to the game against the Buffs. Think the players are drooling at the opportunity to give Oklahoma a third loss (the Sooners have Baylor this Saturday)? Much more enticing than giving the Buffs their fourth.

Colorado, meanwhile, returns home next week for its first home game in a month. There will be a gap of four weeks between the Wyoming game and the Kansas game, but with the memories of the 30-14 debacle last season in Lawrence still fresh, there is no reason for the Buffs to be “looking past” Texas.

If Colorado coaches want to use psychology on their players, go with these numbers: 13-10; 17-0.

What are these scores? They represent the halftime scores of Texas/Wyoming and Colorado/Wyoming. That’s right. Common opponent, and the Buffs had a better edge at halftime. There you go!! The math is simple!!

Okay, so that ‘s not much to go on.

The Buffs have more reason to be pumped for this game, but the Colorado players are certainly aware of the numbers … and the odds.

S – Statistics

Texas has national rankings Colorado fans can only dream about.

While the Buffs struggle to get out of triple digits in many statistical categories, the Longhorns are in the top ten nationally in many categories. Let’s start with scoring average, where Texas leads the nation with 49.50 points per game. Texas is 4th in the nation in total offense, coming in at 9th in passing offense (the Longhorns are a more pedestrian 21st in rushing offense).

Looking for help on the other side of the ball? Sorry. Texas is in the top 20 in scoring defense (19th), rushing defense (2nd), and total defense (11th). There is one area in which the Longhorns are in the bottom half of the rankings – pass defense (65th). Still, the Longhorns can be forgiven for the last number, as their opponents have been forced to throw the ball early and often, as the Longhorns have had an average halftime lead of 27-7 (and that includes a surprisingly close 13-10 halftime edge over Wyoming).

Special teams, maybe? Not really. Texas is 2nd in the nation in kickoff returns; 22nd in punt returns. Texas is down at 78th in net punting, but that figure can likely be attributed to a lack of practice …

As for the Buffs’ numbers. Well, as you might expect, they are grim. Colorado is ranked 100th or worse in no fewer than six statistical categories, including important categories of rushing offense (109th), rushing defense (111th), and total defense (102nd). The only category in which the Buffs sniff national recognition is passing offense (27th), but that is a result of the obverse of what is going on at Texas. The Longhorns are abnormally low in pass defense because teams are forced to pass to catch up. For Colorado, behind most of the time, the passing numbers are skewed higher because the Buffs are abandoning the run to try and score quickly.

A safe call would be that come Saturday, the Colorado passing numbers will be high, and the Texas defense pass numbers will be high, for the same reasons – the Longhorns have run up a big lead, and the Buffs have abandoned the running game.

All in all, there is no logical reason for Buff fans to believe that Colorado will upset the Longhorns …

but we were saying the same things two years ago before the Oklahoma game …

2 Replies to ““T.I.P.S.” for Texas – Hide the women and children!”

  1. “We all know what Mac says about running up scores and what he does are 2 different things.

    McCoy only played the first drive of the second half against UTEP.
    The next three drives were led by 2nd string true freshman Gilbert.
    The fifth drive was led by 3rd string junior QB Harris.
    The sixth and seventh drives were led by junior walk-on QB Walker, with both of those drives consisting strictly of 3rd string or walk-on players.

  2. “the Longhorns have run up a big lead, and the Buffs have abandoned the running game”

    how about staying with the running game? We are going to lose anyway and would be good real time practice; in addition to running out the clock a heck of a lot faster to prevent TX from running up the score past Toledo territory.
    We all know what Mac says about running up scores and what he does are 2 different things.
    Or better yet how bout we abandon the QB? Most teams would use the blowout as an opportunity to keep their first stringer healthy and allow a backup to gain valuable game time experience. I have a feeling we wont be seeing the 4.29 guys at WR anytime before we see a new QB. They are not going to get the timing down with cody during practice and that is critical with cody’s slow ball.

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