September 21, 2008

Irby, McCoy, the pass rush ... all in the College Football Fix

In this week's College Football Fix - formerly the Monday Morning Quarterback until I realized that was a patent ripoff of Peter King's NFL recap - we break down the week ahead for Texas, the Big 12 and the rest of college football as only we can.

3 THINGS …

… THAT WERE OUTSTANDING:

1. Colt McCoy

2. Jordan Shipley

3. Pass rush - Seven sacks among 10 TFLs and nine QB hurries.

… THAT GOT BETTER:

1. Run defense - I know Rice doesn't run, but 24 carries for 17 yards and .7 ypc is a good day's work. No Rice runner averaged more than 2.8 ypc.

2. QB running game - 155 of UT's 259 yards on the ground were from McCoy and John Chiles.

3. Kickoffs and kick returns - Justin Tucker a.k.a. "Touchback Tucker" had four touchbacks in nine kicks, and Rice averaged 17.4 ypr. (Texas had been allowing 23.4 yards per return.)

…THAT NEED WORK:

1. RB running game
- Is Cody Johnson now the guy at tailback until Foswhitt Whittaker can get healthy? Time is running out to have an identity at tailback heading into Big 12 play.

2. Penalties - Texas had eight against Rice and is averaging eight per game (102nd nationally of 119 teams)

3. Faster starts on defense - Like Florida Atlantic and UTEP, Rice went right down the field on its first possession.

… THAT GOT WORSE:

1. Finding a tight end
- Blaine Irby is having season-ending surgery. With Josh Marshall hurt (scapula), Texas now turns to Greg Smith, Peter Ullman, Britt Mitchell, Ahmard Howard or possibly someone else at tight end.

2. Turnovers - Texas suffered its first fumble of the season (two of them), and lost the turnover battle 2-0. UT's turnover margin is now EVEN (three takeaways and three giveaways this season).

3. Vondrell McGee's production/confidence - Eight carries for 28 yards against Rice (3.5 ypc) will either cause some doubt or light a fire.


UT'S NEXT OPPONENT - ARKANSAS
(2:30 p.m. Saturday on ABC at DKR) - Folks, there is a reason the Razorbacks wanted to reschedule next year's game against Texas in Fayetteville to 2014. The Hogs, who are already struggling with Bobby Petrino's new offense with a senior quarterback (Casey Dick) will be starting all over again at QB next season. Even they know it's going to take a while before calling the Hogs will come in celebration and not desperation.


BIG 12 POWER RANKINGS

1. OKLAHOMA (3-0)

This Saturday
: home against TCU (4-0)

Bottom line: If the Sooners are as good as we think they are, they should beat a good TCU team - with a very good Gary Patterson defense (giving up just 7.8 ppg) - by at least 21 points in Norman.

Chip's pick: OU 35, TCU 14

2. MISSOURI (4-0)

This Saturday
: A bye before playing at Nebraska on Oct. 4

Bottom line: Missouri fans tried to tell me before the season Mizzou would have a tough time in Lincoln because the Tigers haven't won there since 1978 - an 0-15 span in which MU has lost by an average of 26 ppg. To that I say, ha. The Tigers will roll in the land of corn. By the way, Chase Daniel completed a Big 12 record 20 straight passes in a 42-21 victory over Buffalo, and Jeremy Maclin had 14 catches for 168 yards. Nice.

3. TEXAS (3-0)

This Saturday
: home against Arkansas (2-1)

Bottom line: The Hook Ems are catching Arkansas at just the right time - in total disarray. The first decent team the Hogs played, they got rolled by Bama in Fayetteville 49-14. (Remember, Arkansas had to pull off some miracles to beat the Leathernecks of Western Illinois in Week 1 and Louisiana-Monroe in Week 2.) QB Casey Dick looked like a freshman while throwing three picks, one returned for a TD, and the Hogs' defense made Bama RB Glen Coffee look like a Heisman candidate on 10 carries for 162 yards and two TDs, including an 87-yard scoring sprint in the first quarter.

Chip's pick: Will come later in the week (but take a wild guess).

4. OKLAHOMA STATE (3-0)

This Saturday
: at home against Troy (2-1)

Bottom line: I've been one of the few to rank Oklahoma State above Kansas in the Big 12, and we'll start to find out this week if I'm right. Troy played Ohio State tough last weekend and will pose a decent test for Oklahoma State, which has some of the best offensive skill talent in the Big 12.

Chip's pick: Oklahoma St. 31, Troy 21

5. KANSAS (3-1)

This Saturday
: a bye before playing at Iowa State on Oct. 4

Bottom line : KU had a tough time shaking Sam Houston State in a 38-14 victory until the fourth quarter. OU-turned-Bearkat QB Rhett Bomar helped KU by serving up three interceptions. Todd Reesing of Lake Travis continues to be incredible. He threw for 356 yards and two TDs while rushing for another and became KU's all-time leader in total touchdowns (53).

6. TEXAS TECH (4-0)

This Saturday
: a bye before playing at Kansas State (2-1)

The bottom line: Graham Harrell, Michael Crabtree and Shannon Woods were all incredible … against UMass.

7. COLORADO (3-0)

This Saturday
: at Florida State (2-1)

The bottom line: Colorado's defense was slow to the edge against West Virginia, but CU made it tough to run between the tackles. The Buffs' offense is just OK. But they scrap and fight and have heart. A victory at Florida State would be 10 times more impressive than that win over the Mountaineers and clueless coach Bill Stewart. In the end, the Seminoles' defense is too much for CU.

Chip's pick: Florida State 21, Colorado 20

8. NEBRASKA (3-0)

This Saturday
: home against Virginia Tech (3-1)

Bottom line: I've been saying for weeks this game sets up perfectly for first-year coach Bo Pelini because Nebraska's pass defense is suspect, but the Hokies' pass offense is even more suspect (114th of 118 teams). The Hokies pulled the upset at North Carolina last weekend and struggle to focus this week as Joe Ganz leads a big win for the Big Red.

Chip's pick: Nebraska 27, Virginia Tech 24

9. BAYLOR (2-2)

This Saturday
: a bye before playing at home against OU on Oct. 4

Bottom line: I said last week Baylor would make the UConn game interesting, and the Bears nearly pulled the upset on the road as a 14-point underdog. Robert Griffin continues to amaze as a true freshman. He is ninth nationally in pass efficiency and has yet to throw an interception this season (compared to seven TD passes) while completing 60.3 percent of his passes. And he's averaging 84 yards per game rushing.

10. IOWA ST. (2-2)

This Saturday
: a bye before playing at home vs. Kansas on Oct. 4

Bottom line: I said it wouldn't surprise me if Iowa State went to UNLV and pulled the upset, and the Cyclones nearly did - losing 34-31 in OT. ISU has found its quarterback in Austen Arnaud, and Arnaud has found his favorite WR in R.J. Sumrall, who caught a TD pass with three seconds left in regulation to force OT against the Rebels.

11. KANSAS ST. (2-1)

This Saturday
: home against Louisiana-Lafayette (1-2)

Bottom line: Josh Freeman may be 10th nationally in pass efficiency, but he had two huge, costly interceptions at Louisville in a 38-29 loss last week. K-State's problems aren't on offense, however. They are on defense, where a bunch of JUCO transfers looked slow and disconnected against Louisville.

Chip's pick: Kansas St. 41, Louisiana-Lafayette 28

12. TEXAS A&M (1-2)

This Saturday
: at home against Army (0-3)

Bottom line: If Jerrod Johnson isn't the quarterback of the future in College Station, Mike Sherman's tenure will make the Dennis Franchione Era look like a picnic. Stephen McGee hasn't looked like a fearless leader since 2006. Besides, this team is a wreck, ranked 102nd in rushing offense, 105th in rushing defense and is giving up nearly four sacks per game (115th of 118 teams). They need a mobile QB who can create something off schedule - since that could become the basis of Sherman's brain-locked, pro-style offense. Good news, Army is one of the worst teams in football.

Chip's pick: Texas A&M 27, Army 13

COAST TO COAST/B>

(THE TOP FIVE)

1. USC - The Trojans are tough in the all the right places.

2. Oklahoma - The Sooners may be suspect in the secondary, but they know how to hide it.

3. LSU - If Jarrett Lee settles in as QB, the Tigers will be scary

4. Missouri - Chase Daniel is playing the best of any quarterback in the country right now - except for maybe Colt McCoy.

5. Georgia - Back-to-back wins at South Carolina and Arizona State keep them ahead of Florida - for now.

THE PICKS

USC at Oregon State - The Trojans begin the easiest road schedule in the Pac-10 (at Oregon State, at Washington State, at Arizona, at Stanford and at the Rose Bowl for UCLA).

Chip's pick: USC 55, Oregon State 17

Fresno State at UCLA: The Bulldogs are steaming mad after losing to Wisconsin, and UCLA has been outscored 90-10 in losses to BYU and Arizona.

Chip's pick: Fresno State 31, UCLA 14

Alabama at Georgia - Nick Saban has the Tide rolling, but Mark Richt has had this game circled since Saban got there.

Chip's pick: Georgia 27, Alabama 24

Mississippi at Florida - This game will be closer than it should be. Houston Nutt will turn it into a crusade, and Urban Meyer will struggle to get his team's attention.

Chip's pick: Florida 28, Ole Miss 27

Tennessee at Auburn - I'm thinking the Vols give Phil Fulmer one last big win before they completely give up on him. I'm calling for the upset. UPSET SPECIAL No. 1.

Chip's pick: Tennessee 24, Auburn 20

Mississippi State at LSU - Jarrett Lee gets to work in front of the home crowd. He overcomes some early nerves, and the Tigers pull away.

Chip's pick: LSU 31, Mississippi State 14

Wisconsin at Michigan - Why does it seem like Rich Rodriguez will pull off one big win this season? Plus, the Badgers are looking ahead to Ohio State on Oct. 4. UPSET SPECIAL No. 2.

Chip's pick: Michigan 24, Wisconsin 23

Illinois at Penn State - After feasting on Coastal Carolina, Oregon State, Syracuse and Temple, Penn State gets its first decent test … and fails. UPSET SPECIAL No. 3.

Chip's pick: Illinois 38, Penn State 35

ONE FINAL THOUGHT

The Big 12 quarterbacks are legit. Ten of the top 21 quarterbacks nationally in pass efficiency are from the Big 12 in the following order: No. 2 Sam Bradford, No. 3 Colt McCoy, No. 4 Chase Daniel, No. 8 Zac Robinson, No. 9 Robert Griffin, No. 10 Josh Freeman, No. 18 Jerrod Johnson, No. 19 Joe Ganz, No. 20 Todd Reesing, No. 21 Graham Harrell. For all the preseason hype, these guys are living up to it.

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