Here was the run game table from Texas’ glorious Sugar Bowl victory over Georgia:
This was a huge narrative win for Texas. They beat the team that was supposed to be in the playoffs over Notre Dame. They beat the team that Oklahoma couldn’t beat a year ago. They beat an SEC power that Texas A&M hasn’t beaten this century. They beat the spread (Georgia +13!!!!).
The main value of this game for Texas is that they’re going to face a playoff caliber program, indeed one that they’d be likely to face if they made the playoffs in upcoming seasons, that isn’t Oklahoma. The Sooners are a great annual test and Texas’ road to the playoffs goes through OU, but it’s valuable to get a feel for where you’re at relative to a program like Georgia. After all, beating an SEC power is not a hurdle that the Sooners have yet cleared.
Building out an elite offense is often a pretty misunderstood exercise. On defense you don’t really get to pick where the ball is going save for by having truly transcendent defenders that the offense has to avoid or else by dedicating numbers and leverage to take something away. The offense can take a good deal more initiative in determining where the focal point of a given play will be.
Everywhere around the country, defensive coordinators are having to make tough decisions about what to look for in personnel, particularly at linebacker. The results of those decisions look increasingly different than they did 5-10 years ago and the ongoing trend towards smaller, faster, and more coverage-savvy defenders is only going to intensify in the coming years now that the strongest programs in the country are embracing the spread passing attack.
One of the fascinating things about college football is how much a team can change year over year. Strong programs are generally known for something whether it’s a particular type of personnel grouping, concepts, or style of play. However, the way teams attack others and the week-to-week tactics tend to change a lot as the new “senior” class takes over and defines the identity of the team.
The 2018 postseason is going to prove very instructive to Tom Herman and his staff about where exactly this Texas program is and how close they are to realizing their goals of winning championships. First they drew the full force and focus of the Oklahoma Sooners, who have now won four-straight Big 12 titles and taught Texas something about the difference between the regular season and the postseason. Next they’ll draw Georgia, who is either the best and most physical team in the country or a very close facsimile depending on who you ask.
Very interesting things to be observed here on rewatch:
It was an inspired performance by the Sooners, who managed a stronger defensive effort than they’d shown in some previous game, and who mostly protected the ball despite Texas regularly forcing Kyler Murray into uncomfortable situations.
The Big 12 is really happy to see the Red River Rematch. Oklahoma is surely pleased as well since a playoff résumé of “we beat every team we’ve played this season” looks like a lock to put them in. Texas is happy to be here at this point. They haven’t played in too many Big 12 championship games and none this decade unless you count the “ice fog” de-facto title game against Baylor in 2013. The fact that they have to play Kyler Murray again, this time on turf, is more an unfortunate challenge than a real complaint.