Texas isn’t back but pre-Briles Baylor is!
That’s probably harsh, I’ve been saying all along that Matt Rhule would likely take his lumps in year one while working to achieve the macro-level culture change and roster reconstruction necessary to win “his way.” I did think that they’d handle Liberty without difficulty but looking back it looked much like many other FCS shocks I’ve seen over the years.
Liberty’s QB was pretty talented and had both the mobility and the arm to make the most of their spread spacing. From there, as I’ve long noted, EVERYONE has talented skill players. It’s like when you get to the NCAA tournament and find out that Creighton has good guard play. Yeah, your school/league/division doesn’t have a monopoly on all the 4.8 or better guys in the country with good hands and the ability to learn to run routes just as the major college programs don’t have a monopoly on all the solid athletes in the world that are 6-4 and under and know how to pass, dribble, and shoot.
Last year similarly opened with TCU struggling to control a South Dakota State team that boasted a solid, mobile QB throwing to a pair of likely future pros in Jake Wieneke and Dallas Goedert. Or you could check out how Eastern Washington took down Washington State. TCU and Wazzu went on to finish 6-6 and 8-5 respectively, they weren’t brilliant teams, but getting caught in a shootout with an FCS team that has a QB and some troublesome skill guys isn’t quite the auspice of doom it can appear to be.
Not to say that Baylor is fine and won’t have real growing pains this year, but while I initially laughed this off as confirmation that Rhule’s Bears are in a bad spot, looking back I think it’d be a mistake not to acknowledge that Stephen Calvert and Antonio Gandy-Golden (as well as some of their other wideouts) were actually a pretty dangerous group.
Also of note in that game was Baylor using one of my five most interesting breakout players, Blake Lynch, as their boundary cornerback in that game to try and match up with Gandy-Golden’s size and prevent them from getting beat over the top.
The league’s frontrunners, OU, OSU, and K-State all rolled this weekend against overmatched competition. OSU had the toughest draw by far with the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes but Chad President was not ready to handle an aggressive “load the box” strategy that dared him to beat a safety tandem that plays good coverage with outside throws.
My initial assumption when they announced that Ramon Richards was moving to safety was that he’d play SS so Flowers could slide over into the Daytawion Lowe/Jordan Sterns spot that he was well qualified to fill and eventually that’s exactly what happened. That’s a very good tandem that should cause problems for opponents. Glenn Spencer always coaches up that D to be able to force opponents to beat them throwing the ball outside the hash marks, from there he may or may not have CBs that can own that challenge or not. We still don’t know for sure.
Texas of course floundered about and played terrible defense yet again vs a spread-option system with explosive ballcarriers. I believe they’ll pare down the defense some and eventually play good football, not facing dual-threat QBs as much in future games will probably also help. Their offense was better than much of the post-game commentary is suggesting, I think a lot of the reactions are the results of two factors:
- People didn’t appreciate how much of an adjustment it would be to go from a run-centric spread to a more passing-oriented attack. Texas’ passing game components didn’t practice the dropback game much at all last season, they specialized in running the ball downhill with D’Onta Foreman.
- Texas lost a game they were favored to win by 18 points, so even though they scored 41 (21 on D/ST, 20 on O) despite atrocious FG kicking, all analysis will zero in on “why Texas lost.”
The offense wasn’t great and they insisted on playing 11 personnel packages that don’t match the roster’s strengths, but it wasn’t quite the disaster it’s been made out to be. Getting down 21-7 in a heartbeat early was another reason for the offensive struggles and failure to establish the run.
I didn’t see any of TCU but it’s surely a good sign that they mauled their overmatched week 1 opponent. Good teams maul bad teams.
I was surprised that West Virginia lost, Josh Jackson was a bit further along than I expected and the Holgorsen-Spavital combo got into some schematic troubles trying to balance the run and pass. They needed to run the ball much more but were struggling to do so, I suspect maybe their FB/TEs on the roster were good at blocking in the QB run game (which is easier) but are a bit overmatched trying to handle DEs but I’d have to watch closer to be sure.
Texas and West Virginia are both looking at the problem this year of how to maintain the ability to run the ball when they want to from spread sets that lack either a good blocking TE or a dual-threat QB.