Moving the goalposts

Moving the goalposts: Texas football takes on overmatched nerd school for annual 'bye' week

Moving the goalposts: Texas football takes on overmatched nerd school

Sam Ehlinger Texas Longhorns
Sam Ehrlinger and the Horns take on Rice September 14. Texas Football/Facebook

After losing by seven points to the No. 4 team in the country, Texas is gonna be just fine this season — as long as they stay out of those troublesome first and goal situations. Rewatching the Louisiana State game without the excitement, you can see that coaching gambles in the first half put the Longhorns in a 20-7 hole, when the score should’ve been 13-13.

Aside from the two turnovers on downs at the goal line, Texas played hurry-up with under two minutes in the half and ended up punting to LSU, with time for them to burrow across the goal line one more time. This is why NBA teams always play for the last shot of the half.

The Horns went all-in all game, which was gutsy, but a more conservative game plan would’ve served them better. I can’t believe I just typed that, as playing it safe has been an infuriating Horns trait since Liberty Lunch was still rocking.

“Trust your training” has been the Tom Herman mantra this year, except during the LSU game, when it was “let’s get lucky.” I like the call to blitz on third and 17 late in the fourth, because Joe Burrow plus time equals tragedy. The Brat Packer gets sacked, and we have field position for the winning drive. Instead, they scored. That's the breaks.

LSU coach Ed Orgeron, a sore winner, complained that his team's locker room had no air conditioning, a claim Count Del Conte vehemently denied. And it's not like the Horns were hardship-free. Some of the 37-inch TVs on the top of every locker were not operational at halftime!

Saturday night’s game against Rice — the annual full-contact “bye” — is a time for Texas to get back its confidence. Keaontay Ingram can read Chicken Soup for the Hands all he wants, but nothing will get his head right like 20 carries for a buck and a half and three TDs. Cue up “Redemption Song!”

The secondary, which played like “DBPU” against the Tigers, has given up an average of 400 yards passing per game, so they could sure use a shut-down night with a couple picks against a team that starts a frat boy drink as receiver, no knock on Jaeger Bull.

The Owls, whom Texas has beaten 13 straight times, are 32-point underdogs. They’ve got the same mascot as Hooters, so don’t be surprised if the game is so over in the second half that UT coaches forget where they are and wonder why the cheerleaders aren’t wearing nylons. It’s Casey Thompson time!

Because it’s on CBS Sports, a channel I don’t get, this is going to be the first Longhorns football game in years I haven’t watched. Rice played Army tough, losing 14-7 to the potato-peelers, who took No. 7 Michigan to overtime. It’s not inconceivable that Rice could shock the world — as Troy did to LSU last year.

The ESPN Power Index gives the Owls a 2.5 percent chance of winning, which is better odds than Chrissy Teigen apologizing to President Trump for her "filthy mouth." But who wants to kill a Saturday night watching Texas run up the score on an overmatched nerd school? This isn’t U.S. women’s soccer versus Thailand.

A close game wouldn’t be any fun either. A nail-biter against the Rice Owls is a soul-crushing loss. It’s a no-win situation. But great for padding your stats.

The nine-game conference schedule begins at home September 21 against Oklahoma State, a team that sees Texas on the schedule like Lynyrd Skynyrd sees “Free Bird” on a set list. They get up all the way for Texas, and have All-American wide receiver Tylan Wallace back to terrorize.

Perhaps underestimating the FMMG (full-grown mullet man Gundy), ESPN gives Texas a 64 percent chance of winning that one. UT will also be heavy favorites against West Virginia, Kansas, Kansas State, and Texas Tech, and slight favorites vs. TCU and Iowa State. But the power index gives us only a 29.2 percent to beat Oklahoma and gives Baylor a slight edge late in the season.

I can see only No. 6-ranked Oklahoma outscoring Texas. Then, in the Big 12 Championship game, the Horns meet the Sooners again and beat them down. Do unto them. If Texas, currently the highest-ranked one-loss team at No. 12, is able to beat TCU, Iowa State, and Baylor — all tough games — they’ll probably make the four-team playoffs. And get crushed by the Clemson Tide.

Could Texas run the table and win the national championship with a 14-1 record? It could happen. And Sixth Street could be named Best Family Friendly Entertainment District by a national magazine.