SAN ANTONIO – It’s Mailbag Time!
We are approaching the 24-hour mark when Texas will face off with No. 11 Utah in this year’s Alamo Bowl in San Antonio. Let us take a look at some of the more pressing questions and concerns that come to mind as each team approaches the bowl game.
1. Will we see current NFL Draft prospects on the field on Tuesday for either team?
The short answer is yes. For the most part, there will be a handful of guys who will continue their NFL preparation by playing in their final bowl game on Tuesday. For Utah, junior defensive back Jaylon Johnson will sit out Tuesday night’s game, a choice he made due to the draft approaches.
As for the rest of the seniors, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham made it clear that if they are healthy, they’ll be on the field. On the other sideline, Collin Johnson, Devin Duvernay, and OL Zach Shackelford should all be full go’s against Utah. The trend for both teams seems to be that if they can walk, they’ll be out there.
*Shackelford and Duvernay were named to the All-Big 12 First Team
*Jaylon Johnson was named to the All-Pac 12 First Team
2. Will the offensive play calling look any different without Tim Beck?
While the offensive play-calling duties of many teams are put in the hands of the offensive coordinator, the play-calling duties have and will remain Tom Herman’s responsibility. Tim Beck occasionally helped out with play-calling, and there have been rumors over the last two years of Beck stepping into the play-calling position due to offensive struggles. But the playsheet has always been in Herman’s hand. That won’t change Tuesday. Expect Texas to come out with a similar game plan as they have all season against the tougher defensive teams.
3. What does Texas have to do to win this game?
While the offense has been scorching, the Longhorns will be faced with the task of having to put up a handful of points against the 4th best scoring defense in the nation. On the offensive side of the ball, Texas cannot abandon the run game. Despite all of Ehlinger’s talents and the strong receiving core, this Utah defense is not a team that he can throw for 450 yards and 5 touchdowns against. This game is going to be won in the trenches. If the Longhorns can get their running game flowing, that should open up more time and space for Ehlinger to make big plays. However, it’s all going to start with the ground game.
4. What is the one thing that Utah has to do on defense to slow down this dangerous Longhorn offense?
Let’s be real, there is not much change that needs to be made by this Utah defense. They’ve given up fewer yards than any other team in the country and rank in the top 5 of virtually every defensive statistical category. That being said, the triple-headed monster of Sam Ehlinger, Collin Johnson, and Devin Duvernay is strong enough to give any defense trouble. While the Utes expect those three guys to make an impact, they will have to avoid giving up the big play. Keep this Texas offense off the field, but make them grind for each yard and each point. If Utah can prevent Texas from advancing the ball 25-30+ yards on plays, it is going to be a long night for the Longhorns.
5. Which team has more to prove on Tuesday?
There is so much that each one of these great programs has on the line Tuesday. Utah had one of the best seasons in their recent history and would love to cap it off with a bowl win, while Texas…well, they need a bowl win. While Utah has fought extremely hard to get to this point and a loss to Texas would almost erase all the good from this season, the Longhorns are the team with more to prove on Tuesday. They have been a disaster on defense, inconsistent on offense at times, and the narrative of their season has been a joke amongst the media. Tuesday is time for Herman’s guys to shine and prove to the rest of the country that the Texas Longhorns football program does not settle for 5-loss seasons. The Horns will be playing in front of a primarily home crowd, in their last game with the current seniors, and with a Todd Orlando-less sideline for the first time in a few years. Expect the guys in orange to come out firing.
Texas and Utah will kick off at 6:30 PM on Tuesday in San Antonio, where the Longhorns will get a final chance to prove themselves against one of the better teams in the nation.