we sat down with(err..emailed) Matt from BevoSports and took a look at the state of our respective programs and the impending "little tee, little ewe" vs A&M LoneStar State Showdown.
Matt's Questions: My Answers
1. No doubt Coach Fran is having a tough year, what are your thoughts on his performance so far this season? Are you ready to start looking for a new coach?
Tough year? no. Tough November? you bet.
It's too early to legitimately and accurately evaluate this season. On the one hand, the physical condition of the program has vastly improved. The level of talent on both sides of the ball and currently being recruited is the best in years, the controversial decision to hire Darnell proved to be a good one, and Fran is finally winning on the road (undefeated so far this season). On the other hand, Fran continues to squander opportunities and choke in the big games.
Personally, I think Fran has done too well for his own good this season. Aggieland went from having very low expectations to dillusions of grandeur in a very short time this season. What has got him in the hot seat again is his inane in-game decision making, the majority of Aggies feel that neither Nebraska nor Oklahoma beat us, rather Fran's inept playcalling gave the games away.
If the Ags can win in Austin and win convincingly in our bowl game, "CanFran" will revert back to "FranistheMan". Otherwise, with the hellish schedule next year, Fran could likely be gone by December 2007.
2. The Aggies' schedule was noticeably soft at the beginning of the year. Do you think this played a part in your loss to Texas Tech? Would you like to play a tougher non-conference schedule to help prepare you better for the regular season?
The loss to Tech can be blamed on multiple things, but a weak non-conf isn't one of them. Unless you're putting New Mexico State or Hawaii on your schedule, no non-conferenc team will prepare your secondary for Texas Tech's offense. If there is any one thing that can be blamed for the loss to Tech, it could be that we scheduled them as our first conference game of the season. Gimmick offenses are always strong early in the season, but as the season goes on and the tape stacks up, the offense falls because teams are able to pick apart the hidden system (i.e. Tech's current season). Combine that with a relatively young secondary prone to giving up the big play, and you get an offensive shootout where the winner is the one who has the ball last.
I would certainly like to play a tougher non-conference schedule, but not for reasons of "preparation". Nobody schedules big programs for preparation purposes anymore, they schedule them because of the way BCS depends on the polls -> hence the way polls depend on "big" non-conference games to reshuffle their pre-season polls.
I'm all for playing DI-AA Citadel again, as long as there's also a Top 20 team on the schedule with them.
3. The Aggies' 3 losses this season have only been by a combined 6 points, all at home. What will it take for the Aggies to get over the hump next year and start winning those close battles?
The "hump" the Aggies need to get over is their inability to consistently beat the elite teams of the Big XII. Granted, those losses were certainly close as you pointed out, but so were our wins this season (except citadel, ula-la, and la tech). Every conference game this season was decided in the final 5 minutes of regulation or overtime.
It's kind of a double-edged sword, we can say we're "a play away" from being undefeated, but it's also true that we're "a play away" fighting for bowl eligibility again.
4. Colt looks like he will be 100% for the game against A&M. What will Texas A&M have to do on defense to try and stop the texas offense, who is averaging an impressive 39.5 points per game?
The 39.45 ppg doesn't worry me. With the glaring and embarassing exception of Army, the A&M Defense has held every opponent to less than their average ppg. Colt & Co. need to get their licks in before halftime, before Darnell and the Crew make adjustments and stifle the offense a la the OU & Nebraska games. The Aggies could be playing the #1 ranked offense or the #117 offense, it doesn't matter, the game will be decided by the play of the Aggie offense, not the defense, just as every game this season has.
5. Finally, let's get down to predictions. What do you see happening in the game? What do you think the final outcome will be?
I don't want to sound like a huge homer, but the outcome of the game is solely in the hands of Stephen McGee. If his shoulder has healed and he's relearned how to make his reads under pressure, then this will be the game of the year.
keys to the game:
- Turnover Margin
it doesn't take a genius to come up with that one, but everyone knows this game is gonna be close, and close games are about turnovers.
- Stephen McGee's Arm
if the Aggies can't throw effectively, it won't matter how big Jorvorskie Lane is or how fast Mike Goodson is when Texas loads the box.
- Feed Jorvorskie
the J-Train needs to touch the ball 15+ times. Instead of trying to stay one-step ahead of Chizik, by using Lane as a decoy or for trick plays, Fran needs to let Jorvorskie do what he does best: wear down both the defense and the clock.
- Secondary Suck
although much has been made of Texas' poor secondary play, A&M's still has a tendency to get caught with its pants down for 70yds and a TD. Colt McCoy -> Limas Sweed in single converage = ohsh*t
Final prediction: A&M by less than a FG. Pandemonium ensues. and I will be found staggering around Red River & 6th slurring the War Hymn.
My Questions: Matt's Answers
1. What, if anything, can explain the meteoric descent of the Longhorn secondary throughout the course of the 2006 season? The loss of crucial pass-rushing defensive linemen? More pass oriented opponents? Statistical anomaly? The act of a vengeful, yet righteous God?
You know, it is hard to really pinpoint any one thing that has caused our secondary to play so poorly. Sometimes they look great, and other times they look like they did against Kansas St. I guess you just can't under-estimate the value that Cedric Griffin and Michael Huff brought to our secondary last year.
One big thing I noticed with our secondary, is that their aggressiveness on trying to hit hard costs them a lot. They don't necessarily play tight coverage, they expect you to catch the ball and then hit you so hard you either drop the ball or fumble it. They also bite quite a bit on play-action and half-back passes, because they want to make the big hit. All-in-all I think they have the talent, just need to be more disciplined.
2. Although Texas still has 2 (possibly 3) games to prepare for, let's look ahead to the post-regular season melee of coaching changes: How real is the possibility of losing both Davis (to an SEC/ACC head coaching job) and Chizik ("you're fired") at the end of the season?
Well up until the last few games, I really figured Chizik to be one of the most highly sought after head coaches, but who knows now. He will probably get a job somewhere else, and maybe that will give Akina more responsibility and help out our defense.
As far as losing Greg Davis, I am not opposed to that at all. He has been good at times, but overall I have pretty disappointed with his playcalling, especially in important situations. He looked good with Vince, but that was because it was Vince. I wouldn't mind getting a fresh look into our offense and maybe turn up the notch a little. I am tired of seeing wide receiver screens all day.
3. Forgive the obviously loaded question, but: is the Texas run defense's stats/ranking a product of it's formidable level of play or a result of weak secondary coupled with the number of pass-heavy offenses (Texas Tech, Baylor, Missouri, Nebraska) the Longhorns have faced this season?
Some of it probably has to do with who they have played, but I truly believe that Texas has one of the best front sevens in the nation. Their front 4 is loaded, and has depth to bring in new players on almost every other set of downs. Their linebackers are as fast as they have ever been, and that makes it hard for them to be blocked. A&M does have the big Javorski Lane, but I still think it will be hard for them to run consistently on this defense.
4. Which Longhorn do you foresee having the biggest impact on the outcome of the game: Tim Crowder, Selvin Young, Aaron Ross, Michael Griffin, or other?
I am going to have to go with Colt McCoy. All indications are that he will be 100% for the game. He has had some time off, but I expect him to step back in rhythm pretty easily. I see him having a big game and going for possibly 4 touchdowns. I think Texas has the weapons on offense to exploit the A&M secondary.
5. How do you see the game playing out? The DKR special (over at half), or down to the wire? Could the Longhorn faithful mentally handle the soul crushing effect of a loss to K-State and its first loss to "Aggy" of the millenium in the time span of a mere two weeks?
I think this is going to be a close tough battle, similar to last years' game. The Aggies know they can upset our Big 12 Title hopes and will come to this game with 100% effort. I think A&M will probably jump out to an early lead, but I see Texas taking over the game in the second half and winning by a touchdown or so, say 34-27. And as long as we don't have to kick many field goals and all of that, we should be ok.
It would be tough to handle this loss to "Aggy," not necessarily because it would be the first loss to "Aggy" this millenium, but mainly because it would mean we have thrown our shot at a BCS bowl down the drain. I can't imagine how sad of an off-season that would be, so I try not to even think it is a possibility.