Chris Klieman seems to have unlocked the secret to winning with Bill Snyder’s roster. The Wildcats have a savvy QB who can run, a solid collection of blocking “ancillaries” at TE and FB, an OL comprised entirely of seniors, and just enough athleticism to take advantage of all these infrastructure pieces. Essentially it looks like one of Snyder's nine-win teams from the last decade.
Texas’ 37-27 defeat in Fort Worth to TCU was a complete catastrophe. It was the punctuation mark on what is quickly turning into a nightmare season for the Longhorns in which a wildly talented and deep roster paired with a favorable schedule and vulnerable Oklahoma has turned into a fiasco. The Longhorns have four losable games left on the schedule, including road trips to Iowa State and Baylor, with a shot at the Big 12 championship still in play.
Last year the TCU game came as the Big 12 opener and a big test of whether Tom Herman’s Longhorns were ready to take another step in realizing the latent potential of the program. Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs had delivered a number of stinging defeats to Texas over the decade since they joined the Big 12 and making a case as the No. 1 contender against Oklahoma in 2018 meant overcoming the Frogs. TCU predictably had a good plan in place for the Texas run game but were overcome by young quarterback Shawn Robinson committing something like a half dozen turnovers while Sam Ehlinger threw for 255 yards and scored three touchdowns in a 31-16 victory.
With multiple new starters facing a Kansas offense that has shown much greater competence and had a bye week to prepare under a hotshot young OC, Texas' defense was in a decisive game. This was a time for the Longhorns to settle in on defense and focus on playing good base defense while keying Pooka Williams. That was the common assumption throughout the week, bolstered by talking points from the Texas staff about simplifying and getting the players moving fast.
Lincoln Riley and his staff put on a very unwelcome exposé in the Cotton Bowl on some of the problems in Tom Herman’s Texas program. There are a few issues now that are more or less settled fact, many of which can only be patched up next offseason when more rigorous solutions can be applied. One such issue is the lack of bang for his buck that Herman is getting from his staff.
In one sense, Texas took Oklahoma pretty seriously in this contest. They didn't really run the base offense that had vaulted them up to a no. 4 ranking in the SP+ offensive ratings and had them looking like the best offense the 40 Acres had seen since 2008 or earlier. Instead, they tried to pick at the obvious Oklahoma weaknesses from unexpected looks and didn't seem to have much confidence in some of the sets that had served them so well in previous weeks.
For the second time in a row, Lincoln Riley successfully out-coached Tom Herman in this series and in particular caught him with his defensive staff's gameplan. Texas understandably went into this game intending to work over Oklahoma on the perimeter with the screen game early before circling back to the run game later. That didn't work out, for reasons we'll come back to later in this post, and the Longhorns were easily turned into a one-dimensional team that Oklahoma teed off against with pressures that resulted in 9 sacks over the course of the game.
Obviously Vegas thinks rather highly of Oklahoma given the -10.5 opening line. Vegas hasn’t had a great feel for this game in a while though, as you can see from the lines and outcomes of this game since the 63-21 thrashing in 2012 that led to the famous “When you write a piece like this” column from Scipio Tex regarding Mack Brown’s tenure.