The final game of Tom Herman’s second season as the Texas Longhorn head coach takes place in New Orleans against a tough Georgia Bulldogs team. The IT Staff looks at what Texas needs to do in order to have a shot at a New Years Six bowl victory.
1. How does Texas complete its first 10-win season since 2009?
Justin Wells – By playing its most complete game in the Herman era. Texas must control the ball, limit turnovers, and stop the run. Georgia will rely on the rushing attack of Swift and Holyfield, and Todd Orlando must scheme to stop it. Sam needs to be Sam, Ingram needs more than four carries, and LJH/Collin have to make plays on the ball. It can happen, but a lot must transpire for this Sugar Bowl triumph.
Eric Nahlin – Hope Georgia comes out a little flat and eclipse their intensity/physicality level. Stop UGA from running the ball effectively. In nickel I believe this is doable. Throw the ball around early and often. The same plan that worked well versus OU in October.
Ian Boyd – They have to stop the run, which will be tougher in this game than in any previous contest, and then they need to move Fromm off his first read and his spot on third down, which may be easier than some of their other big challenges this year. On offense they just need to keep up the Sam Ehlinger to LJ Humphrey and Collin Johnson show, but they may need to have more answers for hitting other receivers as Georgia has smart and rangy safeties that will likely try to rob patterns by the big two.
Joe Cook – Holding up against the run, and playing an efficient offensive game. Texas wants to run the football, but I don’t know how effective that will be in this matchup. Texas likes to swing the ball to the receivers in the screen game, which has been effective this season. If they follow the same formula they used to ice the TCU game, an upset might just happen.
Scipio Tex – Georgia seems poorly understood by casual fans who seem to discuss them like they’re LSU or something. They have an excellent offense from both a productivity standpoint and on a per play basis. That they choose stylistically to run clock and shorten the game limits their gross output and scoring. If they ran no-huddle and played in the Big 12, they’d put up 50+ points on the reg. Here’s what matters: they’re averaging over 6 yards per carry (at over 250 per game without the aid of a running QB) and over 9 yards per passing attempt. From a S&P+ perspective, they’re #3 in the country, just behind Oklahoma and Alabama. That all written, the game is over before it begins if Texas can’t stop the run on predictable downs, in goal line and on 3rd and short. Fromm has put up excellent efficiency numbers, but that’s largely a byproduct of play action, great looks and a lot of predictable coverages in addition to him being pretty good. If Texas can’t stop the run, we’ll need all of the Sugar the venue can offer to wash down the taste of four quarters of bitter medicine.
2. Notables on offense and defense for the Longhorns
Justin Wells – LJH and Collin Johnson. They must win 1-on-1 battles to open up the run game for Watson and Ingram. Defense – Chris Nelson. The senior DT must occupy the middle and create havoc to help the linebackers get free in the open field.
Eric Nahlin – Ehlinger. They’re going to need him accurate and involved in the run game. He has to have a good game. On defense, Omenihu needs to have the type of game that has a buzz around him heading into the Senior Bowl. Don’t think that isn’t on his mind.
Ian Boyd – Calvin Anderson needs to come in heavy and ready to hold off the big and powerful DEs and OLBs that line up for Georgia or Texas won’t be able to do what they need to do in the passing game to win. On defense this is a huge final game for Gary Johnson who is going to have to grapple with some mauling guards and tackles, bring down the best backs he’s seen all year, and then have some juice for getting after Jake Fromm. No small wonder that the coaches want to involve Joseph Ossai this game for that latter purpose.
Joe Cook – Anthony Wheeler has to have his best game as a Longhorn. He performed well in his first career bowl game last year before his targeting ejection. If he doesn’t play well, Texas won’t have much of a chance.
Scipio Tex – The entire Longhorn defense has to play the run as a unit. That means sane run fits and playing optimal personnel. The good news is that Nelson, Omenihu and Roach are built for this down and dirty type of contest. Hager needs sparing minutes unless we identify a Dawg OL quickness deficit early. I’d go Graham in some 4 DL looks when needed. Wheeler obviously needs to show up and has to show some solidity against their bread n butter stuff. On offense, the Horns have to bring their most Big Twelviest game possible. There’s an opportunity to go against type early, eschew balance and get after it. Throw aggressively early and often to our primary playmakers, tinker with wild formations, run Sam, attack Georgia’s recognition of sets and formations they don’t much see from Vanderbilt and Florida. If we think we’re going to ball control this thing, get used to 3rd and 9 unless Georgia comes out bored, flat and hung over.
3. Score prediction
Justin Wells – Georgia 45, Texas 41
Eric Nahlin – Texas 31, Georgia 27
Ian Boyd – Texas 27, Georgia 24
Joe Cook – Georgia 41, Texas 21
Scipio Tex – Georgia 31, Texas 21
4. What would your perception of Texas at 9-5 be compared to 10-4?
Justin Wells – Texas has shown its trajectory is up, so the difference in 9-5 and 10-4 isn’t much, but would probably help with recruiting, notably the 2020 class.
Eric Nahlin – The win total wouldn’t change my perception, but beating Georgia would reinforce the belief that Herman has this team up for big games. It would show recruits that UT can hang with top-tier teams both athletically and physically. It’s tough to negative sell UT being in the Big 12 if they beat UGA.
Ian Boyd – No different, really. This is a fun exhibition and a big chance for Texas to measure up to a nationally elite program from outside of the Big 12 that they’d likely face again should they make the playoffs in future seasons. It’s just that though, a measuring stick and an exhibition. 10 wins looks better than nine obviously but it’s way more valuable to face a playoff caliber opponent and risk the fifth loss.
Joe Cook – I believe that if Texas wins either of its last two games, it makes 2018 a great Texas season. If they end up dropping both, it is a good season that was on the cusp of being great.
Scipio Tex – To me? It’s pretty irrelevant. Maybe it will mean something to hoopleheads, some recruits, national media and ESS E SEE navel gazers.
5. Championship pick
Justin Wells – Alabama and Clemson trade punches, but Tua is tua much for the Tigers. Bama wins, 30-23.
Eric Nahlin – Alabama over Clemson, as Bama pulls away late. Lawrence will play much better in the same game next year.
Ian Boyd – Bama
Joe Cook – Clemson. I think they can handle the Tide.
Scipio Tex – Alabama over Clemson