Dallas Colleges: UCLA Bruins
While the soon-to-be-former Big East is entering its last season as a BCS school, before the four-team college football playoff takes into effect in the 2014-15 season, aggressive scheduling is one way to keep the league on the national radar.
The slates will provide several opportunities for big national upsets in the coming years, so here's a look at some of the notable future opponents for SMU.
SMU: The Mustangs have quite the in-state home-and-home lineup. They canceled this season's home game with Baylor, and while it is unknown if the 2013 game will be made up or bought-out completely, the schools still have a home-and-home scheduled through 2019. The Battlle for the Iron Skillet with TCU will continue through 2017, with the Horned Frogs playing host this season. SMU will go to Texas A&M this year and host the Aggies in 2014, closing out a four-year home-and-home. They begin this season with a Friday night home contest against Texas Tech.
It was billed as a potentially high-scoring, exciting Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl. Baylor got the memo. UCLA didn't. The Bears dominated, making an early statement for the Big 12 in the battle with the Pac-12 for the title of "second best conference."
UCLA was gifted a TD at the end they didn't actually score. The final score should have been 49-19.
It was over when: It was 35-10 at halftime, so there wasn't much tension at any point. Baylor dominated in every way from gun-to-gun, on both sides of the ball. That the Bears' offense was explosive wasn't a surprise. That the Bears' defense crushed UCLA, well, that was.
Turning point: UCLA wanted to blitz and pressure Baylor's offense. It seemed like a good idea. But in the second quarter, on third-and-9 from the Baylor 45, the Bruins blitzed Bears QB Nick Florence, and he connected on a 55-yard TD pass to Tevin Reese. It was a beautiful pass and catch. It made the score 21-zip, and it firmly established the direction of this game.
Baylor game ball goes to: Coordinator Phil Bennett and the Baylor defense. There was this guy who kept calling Baylor's defense "horrible" and "terrible" and "awful." He doesn't feel very smart at this moment. Of course, that was the take on Baylor's defense just about all season from everyone. Still, just as Baylor transformed after a 3-4 start, the defense posted its best game in its final outing of 2012.
UCLA game ball goes to: Let's hear it for the special teams! Bruins kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn was 2-for-2 on field goals, and punter Jeff Locke was his usual outstanding self. Shaquelle Evans had a 43-yard punt return, and Steven Manfro had a 51-yard kick return.
Unsung hero: Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk, who announced his Heisman Trophy candidacy before the game, had a nice performance with 16 carries for 138 yards. But backup running back Glasco Martin had 98 yards and three TDs.
Stat of the game: UCLA was 1-of-17 on third down. That's just horrible. The Bruins were also 3-of-8 on fourth down. Credit to Baylor. Discredit to UCLA.
Stat of the game II: Baylor outrushed UCLA 306 yards to 33. One word: dominant.
What it means: This was the first of three bowl games putting Big 12 and Pac-12 teams. Those conferences are competing for the mythical title of Second Best Conference. This was a decisive win for the Big 12, as a team that went 7-5 overall and 4-5 in Big 12 play whipped a Pac-12 team that went 9-4 overall and 6-3 in conference play. While it's probably silly to read too much into one bowl game, which can be fluid and surprising, the pressure certainly is now on Oregon State in the Valero Alamo Bowl against Texas and Oregon in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl against Kansas State.
1. Johnathan Franklin versus Lache Seastrunk: Baylor's defense is bad, but it's better against the run than the pass. When we type "better," we mean less terrible. The Bears give up 189 yards rushing per game -- 4.74 yards per rush -- which ranks 89th in the nation. Franklin, who averages 6.3 yards per carry, needs 300 yards to hit the 2,000-yard mark this season. He probably won't get that, but he could cross the two bills mark. Meanwhile, Seastrunk's emergence in the final portion of the season was a key to the Bears' late surge. If he outrushes Franklin, the Bears probably are going to win.
2. Attack on defense: One of the great secrets this season was that Baylor QB Nick Florence was darned near as good as Robert Griffin III was during his Heisman Trophy campaign in 2011. He's a good runner and scrambler and was sacked only 1.42 times per game. He also only threw two interceptions over the final five games, both coming in the upset win over Kansas State. The Bruins ranked seventh in the nation with 3.31 sacks per game, and outside linebacker Anthony Barr is one of the nation's dominant pass-rushers. The first step is pressuring Florence. The second is hoping that pressure causes him to misfire. Against a spectacular offense that scores quickly, UCLA should be willing to take some chances to potentially create big plays.
3. Turnovers: It's a good bet that whoever wins the turnover battle wins the game, because with two prolific offenses scoring a lot of points, every possession is critical. Baylor's season turned around when it started protecting the football -- it won the turnover battle 13-3 over the final five games. UCLA committed six of its 25 turnovers in one game, its horrid 43-17 loss at California.
Who to watch: Baylor has been ridiculously good on offense all season, but it got even better over the homestretch when running back Lache Seastrunk, an Oregon transfer, asserted himself, eclipsing 100 yards rushing in four of his final five games (and the fifth was a 91 yards, three TD performance at Oklahoma). He's already popped off about winning the Heisman in 2013. With a good running game, life gets even easier for the high-flying pass-catch tandem of QB Nick Florence and receiver Terrance Williams. On the other side of the ball, UCLA QB Brett Hundley and running back Johnathan Franklin will be charged with keeping up. Franklin should eclipse 200 yards in this game.
What to watch: As noted, Baylor ranks among the nation's leaders in just about every offensive category. But on the other side of the ball, Baylor is among the nation's worst. The Bears rank 119th in the nation in total defense and 115th in scoring defense. They are really, really bad on defense. Think Colorado bad. UCLA is good on offense and solid-to-mediocre on defense. The question, really, is does the Bruins good-to-solid on both sides of the ball outperform the lopsided Bears, who entirely rely on their ludicrous speed offense to outscore foes.
Why to watch: Isn't it obvious? Do you recall the Baylor-Washington Alamo Bowl from a year ago? This could be a scoring fest. Both teams are talented on offense and like to play fast and both seemed to peak over the latter half of the season. Baylor's chances improved when UCLA safety Tevin McDonald was suspended for breaking team rules. It could come down to turnovers, as wasted possessions could prove critical. It's difficult to look at this matchup and not anticipate a highly-entertaining game.
Prediction: While losing McDonald is a significant blow to the pass defense, UCLA has enough talent on defense to slow the Bears down and perhaps to make any turnovers or miscues critical. The Bruins should get at handful of stops. The question is will it be enough for Franklin and Hundley? We expect this one to go deep into the fourth quarter. UCLA 42, Baylor 40.
Ted Miller: It's not just that the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl matches top-five teams. And it's not just Oregon's and Kansas State's star power, with Wildcats QB Collin Klein, a Heisman Trophy finalist, and All American LB Arthur Brown on one side, and Ducks All-American RB Kenjon Barner and QB Marcus Mariota, a future Heisman finalist, on the other. Nor is it just the two coaches, old school Bill Snyder and new old school Chip Kelly, who many feel is headed to the NFL after this game.
Nor is it only that Pac-12 vs. Big 12 bragging rights hang heavily in the balance.
It's that you've got to love a game that has karmic significance.
Oregon and Kansas State were supposed to play this year. They had a home-and-home game contract. But then Oregon had a chance to play LSU to open the 2011 season and, well, then folks go all interpretive. Oregon fans see Kansas State as the Fraidy Cats, who took an opportunity to run away from a series instead of re-working it. Kansas State folks see logistical complications that forced their hand and, heck, it was the Ducks that first asked for an adjustment anyway.
Oregon is more than a touchdown favorite. You look at the two rosters, and it's not difficult to see a Ducks victory. And yet … who does karma favor?
Will the trash talk -- who me? -- between the fan bases come back to haunt Oregon? Will the Wildcats be vindicated? Let's just say the winner will provide more than the usual raspberries toward the other after the game.
And that is great fun.
David Ubben: I don’t know how you boys do it on the West Coast, but here in Big 12 country, we love offense. I didn’t put West Virginia 70, Baylor 63 on my best games of the year on accident. The last time Baylor got together with a Pac-12 team, I seem to remember all kinds of awesome stuff happening.
When Baylor and UCLA tangle in the Holiday Bowl, we can expect some similar fireworks, and some of them will even come courtesy of a player Pac-12 folks are surely familiar with: Lache Seastrunk. Baylor committed to him as its featured back down the stretch and he looked the part of the Big 12’s best back over the last month of the season, rushing for 693 yards and five touchdowns in his last five games. Everybody knows about Nick Florence (the nation’s leader in total offense) and Terrance Williams (the nation’s leading receiver), but this game may very well be about Seastrunk breaking out on a national scale. I’d like to see that. With apologies to offensive lineman Cyril Richardson, Seastrunk’s probably going to beat out receiver Tevin Reese as the best returning piece of this powerful offense.
Baylor doesn’t have a Heisman winner like RG3 who joined Terrance Ganaway in running away with that memorable Alamo Bowl win over Washington, but Seastrunk says he’s going to win it in 2013. I’m not going to be the one who says he can’t. UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin and Brett Hundley will be pretty fantastic foes for the Bears, but I can’t wait to see this showcase of offense.
Kevin Gemmell: Yes, David, we love our offense too. In fact, so much so that one of the most prominent offenses in football is named after the West Coast (which several Pac-12 teams run). But we can also play defense. And that is going to be the difference when Oregon State and Texas square off in the Valero Alamo Bowl.
The "Who's Going to Play Quarterback Bowl" finally has its starters -- Cody Vaz for the Beavers and David Ash for the Longhorns. But despite the fact that Oregon State has one of the most explosive wide receiver duos in the country in Markus Wheaton and Brandin Cooks -- I believe it's going to be the defense that carries the day for the Beavers. We know that Ash has had his troubles. And a struggling quarterback against an Oregon State secondary that ranks sixth nationally in interceptions doesn't bode well. Cornerback Jordan Poyer leads the way with seven picks this year -- that's second nationally.
Only two teams allowed more tackles for a loss this year than Texas and Oregon State is allowing opponents to convert third downs at just 29 percent. Say bonjour to Scott Crichton and Michael Doctor.
Yes, these two other games will be very offensive-centric. And that's going to make for a heck of a lot of holiday fun. This game will likely lack the offensive sizzle of the other two. There are no Heisman Trophy finalists (or players declaring they are going to win the Heisman next year). And that's OK, because there are those of us on the West Coast who still enjoy and appreciate a little bit of defense. And Oregon State's is nasty.
Overview: Jordan Adams scored 18 points and Shabazz Muhammad added 16 to lead UCLA to a 65-63, come-from-behind victory over Texas Saturday at Reliant Stadium. The Bruins improved to 6-3 while Texas fell to 5-4.
Texas appeared to have seized the momentum when a jumper by Ridley and a 3-pointer by Julien Lewis ignited an 8-2 run that left the Longhorns up 59-51. UCLA, however, battled back and eventually forced a tie on back-to-back three-point plays by Adams. With 1:15 remaining, it was 61-61.
Texas point guard Jevan Felix turned it over on the Longhorns' ensuing possession, and Muhammad was fouled in the act of shooting on the other end. Muhammad made one of two free throws to put UCLA ahead 62-61.
Texas missed a short jumper moments later and the Bruins again capitalized, this time on a fast-break lay-up that gave Ben Howland's team a 64-61 cushion with 22 ticks remaining.
Jonathan Holmes scored on a tough shot off the glass with 6.3 seconds left to pull the Longhorns within a point, 64-63. Adams then split a pair of free throws to make it 65-63 with 5.7 left. Texas couldn't have botched the final play any worse, as the 6-foot-7 Holmes dribbled up the court and fired an ill-advised 3-pointer at the buzzer that never hit the rim.
Turning point: Along with forcing a tie, Adams' second "and-one" lay-up with 1:15 remaining gave UCLA a huge boost of confidence and energy while putting Texas on its heels. The the Longhorns played tight the rest of the game.
Player of the game: Adams continues to outshine his more highly-touted freshmen teammates, Muhammad and Kyle Anderson. Adams scored 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting. He also pulled down seven rebounds. Adams entered the game averaging a team-high 17.8 points
For Texas, you could go with one of two freshmen: Cameron Ridley or Felix. Ridley, the eighth-ranked prospect in the Class of 2012 by ESPN.com, fished with a season-high 14 points. He did a great job of using his 6-foot-9, 270-pound frame to absorb contact and muscle up for tough baskets down low. Felix, the point guard who has been running the team in Myck Kabongo’s absence, scored 13 points and dished out four assists.
Key stat: Texas shot just 37.1 percent from the field.
Other observations: Staging a game in a huge football arena isn’t a very good idea. Especially in December, and especially in Texas, where fans simply don’t turn their attention to the sport until after bowl season. No matter what the attendance figures say, there weren’t more than 2,000 fans inside Reliant Stadium Saturday. ... Texas' streak of 14 straight NCAA tournament appearances under Rick Barnes appears in serious jeopardy.
Up next: Texas hosts Texas State on Dec. 15. UCLA hosts Prairie View A&M the same day.
LOS ANGELES -- Nick Vander Tuig allowed one run in six innings to lift UCLA to a 4-1 victory over TCU Saturday to win the NCAA Super Regional and advance to the College World Series.
Vander Tuig (10-3) gave way to David Berg after walking the leadoff hitter in the seventh. Berg retired the side in order and finished off the Horned Frogs in the eighth and ninth to earn his first save. Preston Morrison (9-2) took the loss for the Horned Frogs (40-22).
The Bruins (47-14) advanced to the CWS for the fourth time in the school's history and first time since 2010.
UCLA has won nine straight games, including five consecutive postseason games, and 16 of its last 17 games.
Trevor Brown tripled with one out in the second and scored on Pat Valaika's sacrifice fly to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead. UCLA made it 2-0 on a well-executed squeeze bunt by Tyler Heineman that scored Kevin Kramer.
Brance Rivera's solo homer in the third cut the UCLA lead to 2-1. The Horned Frogs have homered in 11 consecutive games.
The Bruins added runs in the sixth and seventh innings to build a 4-1 lead.
Berg moved into a tie for second place for single season NCAA Division I appearances (47) for a pitcher when he entered the game in the eighth inning.
The record is 51 appearances.
UCLA won Friday night's opener 6-2 when Cody Regis' three-run double ignited a five-run sixth inning. Adam Plutko pitched seven strong innings and got the win for UCLA.
You know: The conference that can count!
But the Pac-12, which has, yes, 12 teams, and the Big 12, which has 10 teams (though it's often hard to keep up with which ones), play each other in three bowl games this holiday season.
Joy to the world.
So it seemed like a good time for the Pac-12 and Big 12 bloggers -- Ted Miller and David Ubben -- to say howdy and discuss all the coming fun.
Ted Miller: Ah, David, the bowl season. Pure bliss. Unless you’re the Pac-12, which is expected to get a whipping from your conference over the holidays. We have three Pac-12-Big 12 bowl games with the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl between Stanford and Oklahoma State, the Valero Alamo with Baylor and Washington, and the Bridgepoint Education Holiday matching California and Texas. And the Big 12 is favored in all three!
Poor ole West Coast teams. What are we to do? It’s almost like the Big 12 is the SEC or something. Speaking of which, how are things with your Cowboys? Are they over not getting a shot at LSU for the national title? Are they excited about getting a shot at Andrew Luck and Stanford? We might as well start with that outstanding matchup in Glendale.
David Ubben: You know, I was actually a little surprised. I stuck around Stillwater for the BCS bowl selection show announcement, and the players took the news pretty well. They found out an hour before, but there wasn't a ton of down-in-the-dumpiness from the Pokes. When you've never been to this point before, it's a bit difficult to develop a sense of entitlement. If Oklahoma had OSU's record and was passed over by Alabama and sent to the Fiesta Bowl for the 17th time in the past six years, you might have had a different reaction.
But Oklahoma State's first trip to the BCS and first Big 12 title aren't being overlooked. These players are looking forward to this game. There's no doubt about that.
I know the Big 12 seems like the SEC, but I have a confession, Ted. I wasn't supposed to tell anybody, but I can't hold it in anymore. When the Big 12 began back in 1996 ... wow, I'm really going to do this ... then-SEC commissioner Roy Kramer graciously allowed the league to keep two of his teams. The league made a similar arrangement with the Big Eight a century ago, and the Southwest Conference around the same time. Missouri and Texas A&M are really wolves in sheep's clothing: SEC teams just pretending to be in other leagues. So, that might explain the Big 12's recent dominance.
These should all be fun games, though. I ranked two of the matchups among the top three in my bowl rankings.
As for the big one, they say you learn more by losing than by winning. Stanford got its first BCS win. How do you think that experience plays into this year's game? I hate to ruin the surprise, but Oklahoma State's a bit better than the Virginia Tech team Stanford beat last season. OSU's loss to Iowa State this season is bad, but it's nothing like the Hokies' loss to James Madison last season.
But that's 2010. The difference this year is the season-ending knee injury to middle linebacker Shayne Skov, who was an All-American candidate, a slight step back on the offensive line and a lack of top-flight receivers. But if Oklahoma State fans are looking for something to worry about it is this: Stanford's running game.
The Pokes are bad against the run, and they haven't faced a team that is as physical and creative in the running game as Stanford. As much as folks talk about Luck's passing, it's his run checks that often ruin a defense's evening.
The Fiesta Bowl matchup looks like a great one, perhaps the best of the bowl season. But I’m excited to see Mr. Excitement Robert Griffin III in the Alamo Bowl against Washington. Of course, I’m not sure that the Huskies, their fans and embattled Huskies defensive coordinator Nick Holt are as thrilled. First, tell us about what Washington should be most worried about with Griffin. Then tell us about Baylor in general. Such as: Can the Bears stop anyone?
David Ubben: Nope. Not really.
Oklahoma State's defense unfairly gets a bad rap. Baylor's bad rap is earned. This is the same team that won five consecutive games late in the season -- but became the first team ever to win four consecutive in a single season while giving up 30 points in each.
The man is a nightmare. Top to bottom, he's the most accurate passer in a quarterback-driven league. Then, you add in his athleticism, which he doesn't even really need to be extremely productive. It sets him apart, though, and forces defenses to account for it, and it buys him time in the pocket. How many guys break a 20-plus yard run before hitting a receiver for a game-winning 39-yard score to beat a team like Oklahoma for the first time?
How do you think Washington will try to slow him down? What has to happen for them to have some success?
Ted Miller: This game matches the 99th (Washington) and 109th (Baylor) scoring defenses. It has a 78-point over-under, the biggest of any bowl game. The offenses are going to score plenty, at least that's the conventional wisdom.
How does Washington stop RGIII? His name is Chris Polk. He's a running back. Baylor gives up 199 yards rushing per game. Polk right, left and up the middle is a good way to contain Griffin. The Huskies' best hope is to reduce Griffin's touches with ball control. It also needs to convert touchdowns, not field goals, in the redzone. The Huskies are pretty good at that, scoring 36 TDs in 45 visits to the red zone.
The Huskies also have a pretty good quarterback in Keith Price, who set a school record with 29 touchdown passes this year. He and a solid crew of receivers have prevented teams from ganging up against Polk. But Polk is the guy who burns the clock.
Should be a fun game. As should, by the way, the Holiday Bowl. David, Cal fans are still mad at Texas coach Mack Brown and his politicking the Longhorns into the Rose Bowl in 2004. Every team wants to win its bowl game, but the Old Blues really want to beat Brown.
Of course, neither team is what it was in 2004. Cal has an excuse. It's not a college football superpower. Sure you've been asked this before, but give me the CliffsNotes version of why the Longhorns have fallen so hard since playing for the national title in 2009.
David Ubben: Cal fans are still mad? Really? I'd suggest they get over themselves. What's anybody on that Cal team ever done anyway? It's not like the best player in the NFL missed out on a chance to play in the Rose Bowl. Now, if that were the case, we might have a problem. But honestly, I don't think Tim Tebow cares all that much about the Rose Bowl.
As for Texas' struggles?
The easy answer is quarterback play. Texas relied on Colt McCoy and Jordan Shipley more than anyone realized. When they were gone, Texas couldn't run the ball, and quarterback Garrett Gilbert never made it happen. Two seasons later, the Longhorns still don't have a quarterback.
The other big answer last season was turnover margin. Gilbert threw 17 interceptions and the Longhorns were minus-12 in turnovers, which ranked 115th nationally.
They were still only 90th this year, and without solid quarterback play in a Big 12 dominated by passers, they scored five, 13 and 17 points in three of their five losses. Texas keeps people from moving the ball and runs the ball better this year, but without a solid passing game and a defense that changes games, it's tough to rack up wins in the Big 12.
It's been awhile since Cal was in the mix for the BCS, even as USC has fallen. Oregon answered the call and rose, but what has prevented Cal from winning the Pac-10 and Super Pac-10 since the Trojans' swoon?
Ted Miller: You mention quarterback play. Cal fans ... any thoughts? You mention Aaron Rodgers. Cal fans? Oh, well, that's not very nice during this festive time of the year.
Cal has become a solid defensive team, but it's lost its offensive mojo, and that can be traced to a drop in quarterback play since Rodgers departed. The latest Bears quarterback, Zach Maynard, started fairly well, stumbled, but then seemed to catch on late in the season. It's reasonable to believe the team that gets better quarterback play -- mistake-free quarterback play -- is going to win this game.
Nice to cover a conference where quarterback play matters, eh David?
Speaking of quarterback play and winning, let's wind it up. Our specific predictions aren't coming on these games until after Christmas. But we can handicap the Big 12-Pac-12 side of things. We have a three-game series this bowl seasons.
I say the Pac-12, underdogs in all three games, goes 1-2. What say you?
David Ubben: And to think, before the season, all I heard was the Pac-12 had surpassed the Big 12 in quarterback play. Did somebody petition the NCAA for another year of eligibility for Jake Locker and/or clone Matt Barkley? You West Coast folk are geniuses; I figured you'd find a way. We can't all be Stanford alums ...
Clearing out all the tumbleweeds here in middle America, I'll go out on a limb for the Big 12 in this one. Every matchup is a good one, and I don't think Cal has seen a defense like Texas' and Washington hasn't seen an offense like Baylor's. People forget that, yeah, RG3 is outstanding, but the Bears also have the league's leading receiver and leading rusher.
Stanford-OSU is a toss-up, but I'll go with a perfect sweep for the Big 12. The Cowboys haven't played poorly on the big stage yet, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt in this one, and they clean up for the Big 12 against what was almost its new conference this fall.
Oh, what could have been. Ubben and Miller on the same blog? Divided ultimately by a little thing we call the Rockies.
HornsNation writer Carter Strickland has profiled two familiar last names for Texas fans -- McCoy and Shipley. But we're not talking Colt or Jordan. Instead, the Longhorns' faithful will be seeing a healthy dose of their younger brothers -- Case McCoy and Jaxson Shipley -- vs. UCLA on Saturday.
Here's a snippet:
For Texas, not many shadows are larger than those hanging over Case McCoy and Jaxon Shipley.
Case is the brother of Colt, who owns a litany of Texas and NCAA records, and whose Longhorns career was ended by injury just a few plays into the 2009 BCS Championship Game -- at the Rose Bowl, no less.
Jaxon is the brother of the Texas wide receiver who couldn't be stopped by Alabama, or anyone. Jordan Shipley had 10 catches, 122 yards and two touchdowns as Jaxon watched from the Rose Bowl stands with his father, Bob. That was also the last day of Jordan's career in burnt orange and white.
Now it is Case and Jaxon's turn. The stakes are not as high. UCLA is not Alabama, and the third week of the season is not make-or-break. But the shadows are still large.
"We both have big shoes to fill,'' Shipley said. "For me, I am just trying to go out there and have fun and not worry about the pressure, not get caught up in the pressure side of things and live up to what your brother did. You can get caught up in that."
For more of HornsNation writer Carter Strickland's feature on these two familiar last names for Texas fans, click here.
Reality grabbed the No. 21 Texas Longhorns by the face mask last weekend and now their season is very much on the line.
Dreams of a return trip to the national championship game would seem all but dashed and a loss to the No. 8 Oklahoma Sooners would put any shot at the Big 12 South title in serious jeopardy.
How can Texas (3-1, 1-0 in Big 12) regroup and surprise the Sooners (4-0, 0-0) in the 105th edition of the Red River Rivalry on Saturday afternoon at the Cotton Bowl?
Here's five ways:
1. No turnovers:The oldest adage in football remains the truest and Texas knows it. The Longhorns have given away the football 10 times and fumblitis has been a serious issue. Six giveaways have come via fumble in four games, including three fumbles among four first-half turnovers last week against UCLA that buried the Horns in a hole that only grew deeper. Up next is another challenge. The active OU defense has surrendered points and has looked vulnerable, but it's also been opportunistic with six interceptions and six fumbles.
2. Explosive offensive line:It's time for Kyle Hix and company to show they can take it to an opponent. Texas came into the season wanting to establish a ground game to complement first-year starting quarterback Garrett Gilbert, but it just hasn't worked out. The Longhorns have used four different tailbacks and now speedy D.J. Monroe seems to be next in line to get the majority of the carries. He'll need the help of an underachieving offensive line if he's going to get the job done.
3. Speed merchant: If the Longhorns can't run the football, then they're going to need big plays to come from somewhere to get a sputtering offense in the end zone. Unfortunately for Texas, exciting freshman receiver Mike Davis, who leads Texas receivers with 16 catches and two TDs, is questionable with a left knee injury. Somebody has to step up, so why not the fastest guy on the field Marquise Goodwin? Goodwin has 14 catches on the season, none for more than 32 yards, and he has yet to hit paydirt. That must change.
4. Sack attack:Texas leads the Big 12 in sacks with 14. Two players, defensive ends Eddie Jones (four sacks) and Sam Acho (three) both rank among the top five sack artists in the conference and freshman Jackson Jeffcoat isn't far behind with 2.5. The OU offensive line hasn't been immune to the pass rush in four non-conference games. Quarterback Landry Jones has been dumped eight times. By comparison, Texas has given up five sacks in four games.
5. Secondary showdown: Why is the pass rush so important for Texas? His name is Ryan Broyles and he is lethal. His 41 receptions lead the nation and his 120.5 yards per game ranks fourth in the nation. Along with a strong pass rush, Texas will need a superior effort from its heralded secondary. Cornerbacks Curtis Brown, Chykie Brown and Aaron Williams, plus safeties Blake Gideon, Christian Scott and Kenny Vaccaro will have to be on their toes. But, they can't get lulled by Broyles or they'll get burned by tailback DeMarco Murray (16 catches) or Kenny Stills (13 catches).
Reverting back to the Colt McCoy offense and chucking the ball around isn't the answer to what woes the No. 21 Texas Longhorns, coach Mack Brown said Monday.
"We were probably as much like last year on offense Saturday as we've been all year. In fact, [Texas] Tech and last week [a 34-12 loss to UCLA] were like that," Brown said. "We got behind in the second half. We weren't stopping them defensively, so we threw the ball a whole lot. So, that's not it."
So what is it? The Texas offense can't run the football with any consistency. It has gained 194 yards on 66 carries in its last two games. D.J. Monroe became the fourth running back used by Texas this season. The passing game has potential with young talent, and while sophomore quarterback Garrett Gilbert completed 30-of-45 passes for 264 yards, only one got in the end zone and one was picked off.
On two critical fourth downs, the Horns couldn't convert on either, and they coughed up four turnovers, three fumbles, in the first half.
"When you get beat 34-12, you've got a lot of concerns and not just with offensive play-calling. We've got a lot of things we've got to fix. We didn't play well. When you call plays that do not work, that's on the play-caller. He's got a hard job. If you call defenses that don't work, that's on the defensive play-caller and that's a hard job as well. There's not much that we can point to Saturday that was good consistently."
Which is why the Horns plummeted from No. 7 in the country to No. 21.
Particulary disturbing to Brown on the defensive side was UCLA's 264 rushing yards out of the zone-read, an attack the Horns are plenty accustomed to facing. The Bruins needed just 27 passing yards in the blowout for a box score that more resembled an old-school, Wing-T Texas high school powerhouse on a Friday night.
"They lined up and blocked us and we missed about 18 tackles and as many mistakes when we lined up. UCLA was more ready to play than we were," Brown said. "They ran the zone-read option, which we ran around here for a long time and we had a responsibility to take the quarterback and didn't take him. Norm Chow is one of the best offensive coaches in the country and Rick's [Neuheisel] done a tremendous job at UCLA, but I was disappointed that we didn't really give them a fight that was worthy of UCLA coming to Texas."
Brown doesn't have long to get his team up to speed for Saturday's Red River Rivalry against No. 8 Oklahoma
Texas will host the Terrapins on Sept. 2, 2017, and travel to Maryland on Sept. 1, 2018.
The Longhorns also set four other non-conference games and adjusted the years on two others to finalize its non-conference schedule through 2017.
UT has added games with New Mexico on Sept. 8, 2012, New Mexico State on Aug. 31, 2013, North Texas on Aug. 30, 2014 and Rice on Sept. 12, 2015. In order to accommodate some scheduling issues, the Horns moved their game with UCF from 2011 to 2017 and UTEP from 2012 to 2016.
A look at UT's non-conference schedule through 2018 (the non-conference schedule decreases to three games next season as the Big 12 contracts to 10 teams):
9/17 at UCLA
9/8 NEW MEXICO
9/15 at Mississippi
8/31 NEW MEXICO STATE
9/7 at BYU
8/30 NORTH TEXAS
9/13 at Arkansas
9/5 at Notre Dame
9/3 NOTRE DAME
9/17 at CAL
9/16 at USC
9/1 at Maryland
OMAHA, Neb. -- After his team had beaten Texas' arms in the Austin Super Regional, TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle said he wasn't worried about the pitchers the Horned Frogs would face in the College World Series.
UCLA starter Gerrit Cole challenged that notion Monday night with an eight-inning, 13-strikeout performance.
"He's one of the best in the country," Cole said. "And he showed that tonight. I mean, he threw all pitches for strikes and kept us off balance all night. ... We didn't barrel up as many balls as we could. I thought we battled a bunch of counts both early and late. But, you know, he had all of his pitches working for him."
UCLA coach John Savage said Cole was "as solid as you can be" Monday. He even managed to best Trevor Bauer's great start Saturday.
Bauer had 11 strikeouts while only giving up six hits and three runs. Cole outperformed the first two numbers while matching Bauer's three runs allowed.
"[The pitching staff] competes against each other," Savage said. "That's what our pitching staff has done all year."
Savage had a long talk on the mound in the eighth inning after Cole walked TCU catcher Bryan Holaday.
"I was about to take him out with two outs in the eighth and he said, 'Coach, trust me. I trust you. I think I can get this guy,'" Savage said. "And the next pitch, the inning was over."
On that pitch, Holaday was tagged out at second on a fielder's choice.
Cole said that despite his strong start (one hit in his first six innings pitched), he was expecting TCU to climb back in.
"TCU is a good offense," Cole said. "You look at their numbers, you're pretty impressed. It was just a matter of time, I guess, before they put [in] a few good hacks."
Cole, who turned down a possible fortune from the MLB draft to go to UCLA, said walking off the mound in the eighth inning in Omaha made it all worthwhile.
"That defines my goal coming into college," Cole said. "To come to Rosenblatt in the final year, playing in the College World Series, even if you go 0-2, you can't really ask for anything more."
The UCLA starter finally showed some vulnerability in the seventh inning of the Bruins' 6-3 win over TCU on Monday. After six innings of one-hit, shutout baseball, Cole gave up three singles to load the bases in the top of the seventh before TCU shortstop Taylor Featherston drove in three runs on a triple.
Cole gave the Frogs three runs, and the crowd, which had been subdued all night, was given something to cheer about.
But it was a mirage.
Cole turned around to strike out the final batter in the seventh before striking out the first two in the top of the eighth, just to be sure his point was clear. He pitched an eight-inning, five-hit, 13-strikeout gem that left TCU's formidable offense flummoxed.
He took away TCU's chance to play its way into the College World Series finals with its three powerhouse starters alone.
One of those powerhouses looked anything but on Monday night.
Right-hander Kyle Winkler gave up a run in each of the first two innings before losing control in the third, giving up two home runs (a two-run shot from Cody Regis and a solo homer from Jeff Gelalich) over three batters. Winkler was pulled after just 2 2/3 innings, having given up six hits and five earned runs in his limited work.
After Featherston's big hit in the seventh, the Frogs were unable to put anything significant together. Cole's two eighth-inning K's took the life out of the TCU offense, while UCLA center fielder Beau Amaral drained TCU with a ground-rule double that became a run after a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning. Bruins closer Dan Klein entered in the ninth and did enough to secure the win.
Amaral led all Bruins with three hits to go along with two runs, a walk and an RBI. Regis added two RBIs from his home run, and third baseman Dean Espy added a hit and a run. TCU first baseman Matt Curry was the only Frog with a multi-hit game (2-for-4, one run). Featherston finished with his three-RBI hit, and left fielder Jason Coats added a hit and a run.
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