Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, October 7, 2011 at 9:27 AM
It's kinda funny how things work out. Saturday's Texas-Oklahoma game, set for an early noon ET telecast on ABC, matches up a "new look" Texas offense against a school that already has experience being humiliated by that very same offense schematic.
Current Texas offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin was calling plays on the sidelines for Boise State back in January of 2007 when the boys in blue sprung a huge upset of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. They didn't match up physically...so Boise used every trick in the book...then wrote up a new book that had even more tricks in it.
Watching the Boise State offense that night was like watching the Marx Brothers star in a Bugs Bunny cartoon that had a Disney ending.
Since Texas spent 2010 enduring a horror movie of their own on a week-by-week basis, they hired Harsin away from Boise to revolutionize what had become a predictable offense. And, once the Horns finally benched an interception prone quarterback who failed to show any signs of development during a full season of Nightmare on Horn Street, Harsin's approach paid immediate dividends.
Texas benched Garrett Gilbert (who, by the way, left the program this week so he could transfer to another university and pursue his dreams of throwing interceptions in the NFL), at halftime of the BYU game in Week Two.
Texas 14, BYU 3 in a half (28-6 full game equivalent)
Texas 49, UCLA 20
Texas 37, Iowa State 14
Sure, that's not exactly a murderer's row. But, both UCLA and Iowa State beat Texas in Austin last year...so victories of 29 and 23 points ON THE ROAD show very dramatic improvement. Most importantly, you're seeing offensive production without turnovers. Harsin brought in a complicated offense where each key player has multiple roles...but things are running incredibly smoothly. Much smoother than in the safe, predictable offense that was supposed to be so risk-free.
Let's run some of the yardage numbers so you can see that the scores weren't a fluke.
Texas won the second half of the BYU game by about 200-60 based on the drive charts at ESPN's website. BYU has been badly overrated by the media this year. But, that was the OFFENSE rather than the defense causing the false hype. Gaining 200 yards on a half on BYU's defense is a good showing. And, that's certainly a dominant differential that speaks well of the Texas defense too.
Texas outgained UCLA 488 to 317...making a run at 500 yards in a road game for youngsters seeing their first college action in hostile territory. Note the impressive balance. Texas rushed for 284 yards, and passed for 204 more on just 20 attempts. Oh, Texas was 16 of 20 for an 80% completion rate. That's one reason there was no shedding of tears this week when Gilbert announced he was leaving.
Texas outgained Iowa State 400 to 380...winning the turnover battle 3-0. Note that this Iowa State team knocked off Iowa of the Big Ten on the same field...and won on the road against Connecticut. This isn't your typical Cyclone doormat side. Texas probably wasn't as impressive as the final score made it sound. But, the creative play-calling and execution led to a few breakout plays that made the highlight reels.
Apparently the Boise State offense isn't that hard to learn! You just need smart athletes who know where they're supposed to be...and then aren't afraid to execute under fire.
Well...to the degree that UCLA and Iowa State represent fire that is. Oklahoma certainly brings a whole new level of challenge for a Texas team in transition.
Oklahoma has more size than UCLA and Iowa State in terms of defensive impact players.
Oklahoma brings A LOT more speed on defense than anyone Texas has seen since last season.
Oklahoma brings a contempt for Texas that UCLA and Iowa State just can't conjure up.
Oklahoma knows they have to win impressively to impress pollsters because LSU and Alabama keep winning impressively...and the SEC has earned the right to win all voting "tie breakers" because of their stellar success in BCS championship games.
Oh...and the program as a whole at least is still embarrassed about what happened back in January of 2007, even if the players on the field are different. That will be expressed in no uncertain terms to this group all week long by the coaches and administration.
As fans of college football, we're VERY interested in seeing how Texas-Oklahoma plays out. It could be that Texas is just going to be an 8-4 type gimmick team that puts on a good show every week but can't match up physically with national powers. Boise State could catch powers napping. They didn't truly compete on a regular basis with powers until they upgraded their size and strength. Texas still plays smaller than it should at this point in time. Or...maybe Texas does have what it takes on both sides of the ball to return to the BCS picture.
Vince Young was Superman at quarterback...Colt McCoy was Spiderman, weaving a web of passes up and down the field. Mack Brown and many other players got too much of the credit for what those two college QB studs were doing. That became clear once somebody else had to play the position! Now, an offensive mastermind is pulling the strings...and things could get very interesting indeed for a program that still recruits athletes and may be finding its swagger again.
As handicappers, we may or may not be playing this game. There's a huge schedule on Saturday...and you don't want to force anything in an early kickoff that might set the wrong tone for the day. If there's a big edge here to be exploited, Texas-Oklahoma will be part of our slate. If not, we'll look at other big games like:
Florida at LSU on CBS
Miami at Virginia Tech on ABC
Iowa at Penn State on ESPN2
Air Force at Notre Dame on NBC
Auburn at Arkansas on ESPN
Georgia at Tennessee on ESPN2
Ohio State at Nebraska on ABC
Note that we'll preview Georgia at Tennessee for you Saturday in the NOTEBOOK because the SEC East race has suddenly gotten very interesting (while Ohio State at Nebraska lost all of its luster with two ugly losses by those teams last week). And...even if Saturday's much anticipated FIRST SATURDAY SLAM from JIM HURLEY isn't in one of those games...you can expect that list to play a big role in our weekly TV Triple Crown that's become so popular.
You can purchase BIG JUICY WINNERS right here at the website with your credit card. We'll build some bankroll Friday Night with Boise State-Fresno State on ESPN. You already know how great Saturday is shaping up. Sunday's NFL schedule is loaded with several very prominent teams suddenly playing must-win games (like the Jets, Steelers, Eagles, and Falcons to name a few). Don't miss our NFL SITUATION CINCH PLAY where a live dog will embarrass a false favorite. Monday Night's Chicago-Detroit game has become very interesting because at least one of those preseason playoff contenders from the NFC North probably won't make the playoffs.
Oh, we'll be making money in baseball too! There are a pair of Game Fives Friday Night in the National League divisional round. The ALCS and NLCS are scheduled to get underway this weekend unless weather mucks things up.
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