Texas Longhorns won’t look past Missouri toward other late season tests
Special contributor to SportsDayDFW.com
The No. 21 Longhorns enter their final stretch of the season with a strong opportunity to prove that, once and for all, they’re back.
A 10-win season is in the cards if they win out. And a BCS bowl bid is possible as well, if a few things work in Texas’ favor.
But nobody was willing to discuss that this week, not with a road trip to Missouri (4-5, 2-4) looming.
“We all need to realize that six wins isn’t where we stop,” said senior safety Blake Gideon. “Even though we’re at an advantageous point in ranking and all that right now, that can all go away if we don’t take care of business.”
The Tigers sport a losing record and sit seventh in the Big 12 Conference, but they’ve been competitive in nearly all of their games.
Mizzou’s first loss of the year came at Arizona State in overtime. The Tigers lost by 10 at Oklahoma, by three at Baylor, by seven at Kansas State . Two weeks ago, they traveled to College Station and beat Texas A&M.
“They’re an excellent running team,” said Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. “They are what I would consider advanced level. They’re really good at what they’re doing.”
Texas (6-2, 3-2) has never had too much trouble with Mizzou — the Longhorns have won 15 of the last 16 — but will have to tweak a few things to win in Columbia: mainly, establish an aerial attack.
The past two games have been displays in a dominating rushing attack. Kansas gave up 441 on the ground; Texas Tech allowed 439. Missouri ranks No. 60 in the nation in stopping the run, so you’d figure the Longhorns and quarterback David Ash will have to make a few big plays down field.
“We might have to be a bit more balanced,” said running back Fozzy Whittaker. “There are times we’ll have to check out of our play, maybe with some play-action plays.”
Big 12 Q&A
Question: Texas has a pretty daunting schedule to close out the season. What’s the likely record in the Longhorns’ final four games of the season?
Trey Scott: There’s a chance the Longhorns will be favored for the remainder of the season. So there’s a chance they can go 4-0, but it’s not going to be easy. Three games are on the road, and the lone home game is against a Kansas State team that just took Oklahoma State to the wire. The season ends on the road against Texas A&M and Baylor, both of whom beat Texas last season. I’ll say 3-1.
Question: Rank these scenarios with most likely to least likely: A&M loses its final three games, A&M wins its final three games, A&M goes 2-1 to end the season, A&M goes 1-2 to end the season.
David Harris: The most likely would be to see the team finish 1-2 with a win against Kansas and losses to Kansas State and Texas. It’s feasible to believe that the Aggies could split with the Wildcats and Longhorns and finish 2-1. However, this team isn’t going to win out. And they’re not going to lose to Kansas.
Question: A season that looked so promising after beating Oklahoma suddenly looks like one that may not end in bowl eligibility. Which of Tech’s final three games presents the best chance for the Red Raiders to qualify for a bowl?
Michael Graham: To your surprise perhaps, I think Texas Tech has a good chance to knock off No. 2 Oklahoma State just like it did against Oklahoma three long weeks ago.
Texas Tech flat out doesn’t have a run defense, but the Cowboys don’t really have a way to exploit the Red Raiders’ most glaring weakness.
Oklahoma State built itself into a power by taking the old Texas Tech approach. But that approach is fundamentally flawed. Sure, you can have a better record than 5-4, as Texas Tech does right now, but you can’t win a championship. Oklahoma State has a one-dimensional offense and a defense that lags significantly behind the offense. Someone will expose them, even if it’s in the national championship game.
If Texas Tech can force some three-and-outs by allowing Oklahoma State to make its own mistakes, break up some passes, tackle for short gains or even get an extraordinarily rare forced turnover, the Red Raiders can stay in the game thanks to the Cowboys weaker defense.
Texas Tech also has chances at Missouri and against Baylor at Cowboys Stadium to earn its sixth win. Those games will be challenges though. Mizzou’s James Franklin and Baylor’s Robert Griffin are mobile quarterbacks and Texas Tech has not ever contained a dual-threat.
I like Tech’s chances at Mizzou because the Tigers have been sporadic all season and the Red Raiders also have a great record of success against Baylor, though the past three meetings have been absolute battles.
There’s a sixth win in these last three games.