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October 7, 2009

College Football Fix: UT trying to open holes, Big 12 and more

Watched USC mow down Cal over the weekend, and the Trojans' offensive line is what Texas played with in 2005.

Watch Florida this week against LSU. Whether Tim Tebow plays or not, that O-line with the Pouncey Brothers (Mike and Maurkice at right and left guard) could protect John Brantley or The Golden Girls. Texas isn't there yet when it comes to the O-line, and I'm not sure it ever will be this season.

One of the young guys the coaches really wanted to break in this season - freshman OG Mason Walters - who reminds his teammates of a bigger version of Kasey Studdard, has a stress fracture in his foot that could be an ongoing issue.

PASS PROTECTORS ONLY?

I asked left tackle Adam Ulatoski and left guard Charlie Tanner if they thought Texas' offensive line was better at pass protection than run blocking and both seemed to take offense.

"We run the play that's called," Tanner said. "We have the ultimate faith in Coach (Greg) Davis, and it's all about the win."
Added Ulatoski, "We've done so much more passing than we have running the ball, people are going to assume we're better in pass protection."

MACK BROWN WANTS MORE

But even Mack Brown said Monday he thinks his offensive line is better in the passing game than the running game.

"I think we've made some progress (in run blocking)," Brown said. "We're still not where we need to be. I want to look Saturday night. I thought the bye week was really good. I thought practice (Monday) morning was good.

"We've probably been looking at too many runs, and I think we're settling down to who we want to be and who we think we are. Sometimes too much clogs the mind, and you can be tentative. But we feel like we've made some progress.

"Pass protection has been good. That's not been an issue. Pass protection has been as good here the last two years as it's ever been before. We've given up four sacks, according to the NCAA stats. The offensive coaches think it's three because of a run that was called a sack."

A BIG TEST

Texas will know exactly where it stands in run blocking when it faces Oklahoma. Say what you want about the Sooners, but they are giving up only 65.5 yards per game on the ground (No. 6 nationally).

Brown had some interesting comments when I asked him about why Texas used the Wild Horn in the red zone against UTEP.

"We're looking at Wild Horn, and we've told the kids if it's not good, we're not using it," Brown said. "So unless you can use it seven, eight times a game, why have it when you're taking your All-American quarterback out from under center to put someone in.

"So if it's not helping take away some of the quarterback runs from Colt, then don't mess with it. So if you guys want it, you better bust your tail, or we won't be long with it."

SEEKING AN IDENTITY

Mack said Texas is still looking for an identity in the running game.

"Everyone has a style," Brown said. "We don't think unless you know who you are and what guys you're going to feature that you can develop your offensive game plan.

"You need to be able to identify something you can do well in the running game. And then you need to get misdirection off of it, and get play-action off of it.

"Until you figure out what those are, it's hard to get the misdirection and the play-action off of it."

Mack said he'd like to have that identity figured out already. But circumstances don't always cooperate.

"You'd like to know during spring and two-a-days," Brown said. "But sometimes it changes because someone's out of shape or injuries. Now that everyone's getting healthy, you go back and look to see if you can be what you thought you'd be.

"We need to be able to do what we do really good better than the other teams. That sounds simplistic. But if you can out-execute other teams with what you do really good better than what they think they do really well to stop it, that's when you get good.

"Unless you can sit out there and say, 'These three running plays are going to be really good,' we're not where we need to be. With Ricky, Cedric and Vince, we knew what we did well. Right now, we've got a throwing emphasis, but we need to get as good in the running game as we are in the passing game."


UP NEXT UP FOR TEXAS

Opponent:
Colorado
When: Saturday, 6:15 p.m.
TV: ESPN (Erin Andrews will be in town - chicka-bow-now)

SCOUTING COLORADO: If Texas can't find an identity in the run game against Colorado, the Longhorns might not have a rushing identity by the OU game.

In a sentence, the Buffaloes can not stop the run. They gave up 305 yards on the ground to Toledo. Then gave up 257 yards to West Virginia, including 220 yards rushing to Noel Devine, who went for 77 yards on his first carry.

For the record, CU is 111th nationally in rush defense, giving up 201.5 yards per game on the ground and 4.9 yards per carry. The Buffs can not defend the edges. Not nearly enough team speed. Between the tackles is nice and soft, too, as CU is breaking in four new starters on the D-line.


BIG 12 RANKINGS

1. TEXAS (4-0, 1-0; Last week: 1)

Last week:
Beat UTEP 64-7
Next up: Colorado (Saturday, 6:15 p.m., ESPN)
Bottom line: Buffs' QB Cody Hawkins has been generous lately on the road, throwing three interceptions in each of CU's last two games outside Boulder (at Toledo and at West Virginia).


2. NEBRASKA (3-1, 0-0; Last week: 4)

Last week:
Off
Next up: At Missouri (Thursday, 8 p.m., ESPN)
Bottom line: DT Ndamukong Suh is playing himself into a top five pick in next April's NFL Draft according to a scout I talked to this week. Can he and the Big Red get enough pressure on Mizzou QB Blaine Gabbert to force his first interception of the season (11 TD passes, 0 INTs)?

Prediction: Nebraska 24, Mizzou 20


3. OKLAHOMA (2-2, 0-0; Last week: 2)

Last week:
Lost at Miami 21-20
Next up: Baylor (Saturday, 2:30 p.m., ABC)
Bottom line: Neither team may have the quarterback expected to take each to the promised land. OU is 24-0 at home when hosting Big 12 opponents since 2002.

Prediction: OU 44, Baylor 17


4. OKLAHOMA STATE (3-1, 0-0; Last week: 3)

Last week:
Off
Next up: At Texas A&M (Saturday, 11:30 a.m., FSN)
Bottom line: The Cowboys are making their first road trip of the year. In a 56-28 victory over A&M in Stillwater last season, OSU scored two defensive touchdowns and WR Dez Bryant posted four scores.

Prediction: Oklahoma State 38, Texas A&M 35


5. KANSAS (4-0, 0-0; Last week: 5)

Last week:
Off
Next up: Iowa State (Saturday, 11:30, Versus)
Bottom line: Kansas matched the third-biggest comeback in school history at Iowa State last year. After trailing 20-0 at halftime, the Jayhawks rallied for a 35-33 victory at Ames.

Prediction: KU 34, Iowa State 17


6. MISSOURI (4-0, 0-0; Last week: 7)

Last week:
Bye
Next up: Nebraska (Thursday, 8 p.m., ESPN)
Bottom line: Mizzou has outscored Nebraska 93-23 the last two years.

Prediction: Nebraska 24, Missouri 20


7. TEXAS TECH (3-2, 0-1; Last week: 6)

Last week:
Beat New Mexico 48-28
Next up: Kansas State (Saturday, 6 p.m., FSN)
Bottom line: OT Brandon Carter is back from a one-game suspension now that Tech is starting conference play. Tech has the nation's No. 2 passing offense. Kansas State has the nation's 90th-ranked passing offense. You do the math.

Prediction: Tech 35, Kansas State 10


8. TEXAS A&M (3-1, 0-0; Last week: 8)

Last week:
Lost to Arkansas 47-19
Next up: Oklahoma State (Saturday, 11:30 a.m., FSN)
Bottom line: The Aggies ran into some adversity (an 85-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Arkansas) and collapsed in the second quarter, getting outscored 23-0. But now the Ags are back at home.

Prediction: Oklahoma State 38, Texas A&M 35


9. BAYLOR (3-1, 0-0; Last week: 9)

Last week:
Beat Kent State 31-15
Next up: At Oklahoma (Saturday, 2:30, ABC)
Bottom line: Backup QB Nick Florence went 20 of 27 passing in BU's victory over Kent State. But it looks like senior QB Blake Szymanski could be back from a shoulder injury to play in Norman.

Prediction: OU 44, Baylor 17


10. KANSAS STATE (3-2, 1-0; Last week: 12)

Last week:
Beat Iowa State 24-23 (in Kansas City)
Next up: At Texas Tech (Saturday, 6 p.m., FSN)
Bottom line: Senior QB Grant Gregory led two fourth-quarter touchdown drives, and sophomore DB Emmanuel Lamur blocked an extra point in the closing seconds to secure a victory over Iowa State last week. More feel-good moments for 70-year-old Bill Snyder.

Prediction: Texas Tech 35, Kansas State 10


11. IOWA STATE (3-2, 0-1; Last week: 10)

Last week:
Lost to Kansas State 24-23 (in Kansas City)
Next up: at Kansas (Saturday, 11:30 a.m., Versus)
Bottom line: RB Alexander Robinson hurt his groin and saw his string of three straight 100-yard rushing games come to an end. ISU will need Robinson and more to take down KU.

Prediction: Kansas 34, Iowa State 17


12.COLORADO (1-3, 0-0; Last week: 11)

Last week:
Lost at West Virginia 35-24
Next up: At Texas (Saturday, 6:15 p.m., ESPN)
Bottom line: CU QB Cody Hawkins ranks last in the Big 12 in three categories (pass efficiency, pass completion percentage, yards per completion) and first in interceptions.



THE TOP TEN

1. ALABAMA -
The Tide doesn't have many trouble spots on the road this season, but this week at Ole Miss is one of them.

2. TEXAS - Longhorns seek an identity with its running game this week - the final dress rehearsal for the Sooners.

3. FLORIDA - QB John Brantley, a former Longhorn commitment, could be carrying the hopes of Gator Nation this week. Scary thought in Death Valley.

4. USC - The Trojans are off this week, giving them two weeks to prepare for Chuck Weis and the Fighting Irish.

5. LSU - These are the weeks Les Miles is at his best - as a home underdog. You heard it here first - LSU takes down Florida.

6. VIRGINIA TECH - The Hokies get Boston College, fresh from the Eagles victory over Florida State.

7. MIAMI (FLA.) - The Hurricanes catch a breather this week against Nate Newton's alma mater Florida A&M.

8. OHIO STATE - Undefeated Wisconsin comes to Columbus this week, but the Badgers don't have enough defense to stop the Buckeyes in the Shoe.

9. CINCINNATI - Brian Kelly and the Bearcats get a good test this week at undefeated South Florida.

10. TCU - The Horned Frogs' No. 1-ranked run defense (47 ypg) gets a work out from Air Force's No. 2-ranked rushing offense (291.8 ypg).


THE PICKS

Nebraska (-3) at Missouri

I would take the UNDER 53

Connecticut at Pittsburgh (-8)
UConn 21, Pitt 20

Alabama (-6.5) at Ole Miss
Bama 24, Ole Miss 21

Florida (-8) at LSU
LSU 27, Florida 24

Oregon (-6) at UCLA
UCLA 31, Oregon 28

BOTTOM LINE LOCK OF THE WEEK

Texas to cover 34 vs. Colorado



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