1. So... BYU. That's a tough one. Trust me. I know how it feels to lose to BYU. Ole Miss did that during our 2-10 season two years ago. It... I'm not supposed to talk about it. Anyway, talk about the read option. It obviously worked pretty well against the Longhorns. What went wrong? Video suggests drastic overcommitment from linebackers and defensive ends alike. Is that accurate? Will things be fixed by the new defensive coordinator?
I think the proper Texan response to watching the BYU disaster is either "tougher than a three-dollar steak" or "tougher than a kick in the boys by a steel-toed size 14 Tony Lama." For a more detailed breakdown of our...breakdown, the inimitable Scipio Tex has a post that should have Bo Wallace and Ole Miss fans absolutely salivating - unless of course 'salivating' is not considered genteel in the South. In that case, it should have y'all doing a touch of anticipatory mandibular moistening in preparation for a repast of dubious DL play and lost linebackers with a side of sub-par safety.
The short version on the read option and play against the run in general against BYU:
- The DL spent a good chunk of the time stunting or freelancing their way out of the play before simply wearing down and getting their asses drove,
- The LBs had as much success reading their keys as a 90-year old woman with cataracts and dementia has in finding hers, and
- The safeties put on the kind of cowardly matador act that would have earned Papa Hemingway's unending scorn
These issues cropped up quite a bit in 2012 as well, and hopes that they had been rectified swiftly evaporated into the thin Provo air. It's a similarly thin hope that Greg Robinson can come charging off his California couch and get them fixed in less than a week's time. The hope is that he can simplify some things, get back to basics, give a couple of guys a kick in the ass (LB Peter Jinkens played FAR below his abilities, for one) and hope that the offense can win a few for us as he works to get the D at least executing on fundamentals.
2. Last season, Texas beat Ole Miss 66-31. Neither team lost much, yet many Texas fans have been talking about how Ole Miss is sure to win. What gives? It can't just be the read option, can it? What are the other concerns, and are they valid?
Some of that sentiment is typical post-loss doomsaying. Some of that is absolutely valid post-loss doomsaying when looking at an utterly confused defense and an offense that may be without its two most important dudes on Saturday. Most Texas fans are aware that Hugh Freeze has the Ole Miss O operating at a high level, and we're coming to understand the potency of offenses that have fluency and experience in spread/read option attacks as our own offense works to overcome the inevitable hitches that come from our third major (ha!) offensive philosophy shift since 2009.
I don't know how many Texas fans are aware that Ole Miss was actually playing some strong stunting/shifting run D in the back half of 2012 (as their #14 ranking in True Rushing Yards per Carry on Adjustedstats.com indicates), but I'm sure knowing that wouldn't do anything to improve the collective Longhorn mood.
The biggest concerns are the overall mindset/motivation of the team (reports vary as of this hour), the caliber of QB play Texas can expect on Saturday (extremely valid, discussed below), and whether the defense can climb out of a smoking ruin and execute on the basics (also quite valid).
3. If Case McCoy starts, what should Ole Miss fans look for? Is there a drastic difference between McCoy and Ash? Any chance Tyrone Swoopes plays? That freshman looked wonderful on film.
Some fans will tell you to look for the Derp first, followed by the Herp, but my take is that McCoy will roll with the more traditional Herp out of the gate, then mix in some Derp and transition to full-on Herp-A-Derp by the mid second quarter or thereabouts.
In all seriousness, Case will probably have a stretch or two where he looks sharp hitting short and intermediate stuff to Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis. The drastic difference between McCoy and Ash comes in the areas of the game labeled "every single other aspect of quarterbacking besides short/intermediate stuff". Ole Miss will swiftly pack the middle and force the kind of deep and/or outside the numbers throws that only three people on Earth think that McCoy can successfully complete - Mack, Brad McCoy and Case himself. Mix in a couple of INTs on those throws with some self-sacking Derpitude and you've got some unhappy folks in DKR.
It sounds like Swoopes has been getting a ton of practice reps this week, and he's quite likely to get called to the rescue by a desperate Mack. Swoopes probably does represent Texas' best chance at a win if he's able to generate a real ground game and hit a couple of random deep balls. Unfortunately, his progress was hindered by a badly pulled hammy over the summer workouts which cost him a lot of valuable reps and may not be 100% healed. It's nearly impossible to know where Swoopes is at and what he could do in his first game action, but it's a good bet that he'll be running a Kate Moss-skinny version of the playbook if he's in there.
4. Briefly talk about the offensive and defensive lines. The offensive line was able to grind out a billion rushing yards against Ole Miss. Has anything changed (hopefully)?
The OL looked great against an undersized Ole Miss front last year, and I wish I could say it's been onward and upward since then. Unfortunately, it's been more sideways and shit-tastic. An ass-kicking at altitude against 24-year old Pacific Islanders is somewhat understandable, but not being able to generate vertical push against the Atomic Aggies of New Mexico State until the fourth quarter was galling. There may be a re-shuffle underway with super-athletic JUCO Desmond Harrison at LT, kicking Donald Hawkins to RG and underachieving senior Mason Walters to the bench, but we'll probably see a few OL combos on Saturday. Texas' best chance to win is with physical domination up front on par with last year's meeting, but such showings have been so few and far between since last September that few Texas fans are holding their breath for a repeat. Pass protection had been much more their forte, but that was similarly disastrous against BYU. I'll be keeping a close eye on Robert Nkemdiche - last Thanksgiving saw another stud freshman in TCU's DeVonte Fields thrash Texas in front of the home crowd, and it's hard to say that our overall level of OL play has taken a step forward since then.
The DL does boast a pair of genuine high-quality ends in Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed - the other big key to a Texas victory would be those guys dropping Wallace and forcing a couple of errant throws. Their downfall this season has been showing zero awareness of how to play the Read Option - they have invariably crashed down on the back and left the QB free to run wild. "Wild" against NMSU was six yards, but "wild" against Stormin' Mormon Taysom Hill was a whole 'nother deal. That may be one of the simple coaching points that Greg Robinson can get rectified in short order, but confusion may still be the order of the day. The three-tackle rotation of Malcom Brown, Chris Whaley and Hassan Ridgeway is long on potential and upfield penetration and short on just about everything else - including sheer numbers against up-tempo attacks. Better deployment could also result in some quick gains under Robinson, but these guys have to consistently execute the dirty work in a way we have yet to see from them.
5. What's your prediction on the game? Give a score prediction and how it gets there.
Hoo boy. This is a tough one - Texas still does enjoy some significant physical advantages, and I'm probably the world's worst at trying to handicap a team's mental/emotional zeitgeist. I think the McSwoopes combo at QB manages some good stretches and the defense at least plays some smarter and more fundamental ball. Despite that, I'm afraid that the OL underachieves again and there are just too many systemic issues on the D to get corrected in a week by a 61-year old who the players may or may not buy into. Texas shows pride and fights hard but falls 31-27, with Donte (I know I'll call him Sidney ten times on Saturday) Moncrief and Wallace doing most of the damage.