1. Texas pulled out a late win vs. Texas Tech last weekend after dropping a couple in a row. Is there a sense of a change in the momentum of the team heading into this weekend?
I wouldn’t say there feels like a change in momentum for myself. It feels like Texas is back to where they were before which is walking a tight rope between the team that showed up vs Oklahoma and the team that showed up vs Oklahoma State. If Texas can figure out their defense then I will feel like there is a change in momentum.
2. Duvernay, Humphrey, Heard have been really good this season, but they’ll be facing arguably the best secondary in the Big 12. How do you see that matchup shaking out?
Lil’Jordan Humphrey will get his most likely. He’s too tall for most small speedy corners and too fast for the big, lanky, and strong ones. If they decide to double him then Devin Duvernay will likely find a way to be open on the other side with his speed. Also watch out for the RB’s coming out of the backfield or TE Andrew Beck. Texas is increasingly using their presences very effectively.
3. Ehlinger has made huge strides as a passer this season. What’s been the most noticeable improvement in his game?
His understanding of the game and situational awareness. Given the fact that he’s finally gotten a solid pocket this year and isn’t running for his life every play, he’s been able to really show his understanding of the game. It seems to have slowed down for him quite a bit. This has allowed him to set his base correctly, read defenses, and deliver great balls. But what many fans were not expecting is his understanding of when to run, throw away, or try to fit a ball in the window. His timing has gotten better on that front, and that has helped him with that awareness. He’s had a 180 from turning the ball over at key moments to no turnovers since Maryland.
4. After coming out to a hot start, the Texas defense has seemingly regressed each of the last couple months. What’s been the primary factor in the Longhorns’ recent defensive struggles?
Texas’ linebacker play. In the 3-4 defense, it is the linebackers that are the stars of the show. This year Texas has two capable linebackers and absolutely no depth. Anthony Wheeler and (in the passing game) PJ Locke have proven to be huge liabilities. That and Kris Boyd has proven to be unreliable. With no solid play from the linebackers and stubborn play calling, the offense hasn’t been able to generate any pass rush. That has in turn hurt every facet of the defense. Watch for very ineffective and predictable delayed blitzes from the linebackers or safeties on third downs.
5. This matchup features two teams that tend to start slow, but really turn it up in the second half. With David Montgomery out for the first half, will the Longhorns be able to break tendency and jump out to an early lead?
That depends on Herman, who very much values setting tempo. Tempo doesn’t mean what it usually means in the Big 12 here. It means he wants 12 plays, 4-6 minute drives (which he has gotten most times this year) with occasionally taking what the defense gives him for big gains or quick touchdowns. The Longhorns are capable of doing it through the air. Will they? I can’t tell you. Texas’ gameplan and willingness to test defenses changes weekly.
6. Hakeem Butler is having an excellent season, and currently leads the country in yards per reception. What’s Texas’ recipe for slowing him down?
I don’t know Texas’ plan. My plan would be to have Kris Boyd/Davante Davis on him and Caden Sterns over top. Jam at line to disrupt the route and then bracket him. Make the rest of the WR corps make plays.
7. If Texas wins on Saturday, what we likely to be writing about on Sunday? Same for Iowa State.
Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Sam Ehlinger made plays. The running game did its job with 4 yards/carry. The defense did just enough to get turnovers and key stops. Texas now has a chance to get into the championship game with a WVU win vs OU. For Iowa State it would be Texas couldn’t stop Brock Purdy on the ground. That leads to them having to give him extra attention, which leaves Hakeem Butler alone on Kris Boyd (no bueno for Texas). The offense finally met a decent defense and it showed. Iowa State to Big 12 Championship on an OU win vs WVU.
8. Prediction time. Who do ya got?
Iowa State wins a close one 24-17. If that happens please beat OU in the championship game. That’d be great.